I’m picking up on Kari’s reply to my February 7 post, She mentions the Gospel story of Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman, or Syro-Phoenician, depending on which Gospel you are reading. I’ve been thinking about it, that even though it ends well with Jesus praising her great faith and healing her daughter, it bothers me that during the conversation, he said to her, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
So, I’m trying to imagine what Jesus may have been experiencing at the time. I’m guessing he was pretty tired, in need of a break in the action. Matthew speaks of him withdrawing to the region of Tyre and Sidon. I probably would be a little cranky if a student tracked me down on my vacation to have me explain something, so I can imagine Jesus, exhausted from preaching and healing, being a little testy.
What else was happening? Well, Jesus had just finished teaching that it is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles a person, but rather what comes out of one’s mouth. He even had a follow-up conversation with his disciples about this confrontation with the Pharisees and scribes. I’m wondering if he might have been using the encounter with the Canaanite woman as a test for his disciples.
Let me explain… first, the disciples ask Jesus to send her away. Is it possible that he made the remark about throwing food to dogs hoping that the disciples would challenge him on these harsh words coming out of his mouth? Kind of a quiz to follow the lesson he had just taught? If so, it would appear that the disciples didn’t see the connection.
Of course, there’s no way to really know for sure what Jesus was thinking. Perhaps the good news is that it does make us uncomfortable to read that Jesus spoke such words. If it didn’t make us squirm a bit, that would be a much scarier proposition.