“Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But [Jesus] did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15: 22-26)
The above verses include some of the most abrasive words in the New Testament. Did Jesus really call that woman a ‘dog’?!
Countless Christian commentators have tried to deal with this passage in the same way an explosives expert tries to defuse a bomb. Some point out that the word used for ‘dog’ refers to a domestic dog, and hence might be better translated as ‘puppy’. Even so, as another commenter I read pointed out, whether someone calls you a bitch or a little bitch, it’s still a bitch!
I’m not entirely sure what to do with this story from the fifteenth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel but I don’t think there’s any way of escaping the fact that the language is offensive. Was Jesus being deliberately offensive because He was annoyed with this nameless Canaanite woman, or was He testing her, or is there some other explanation? A few factors are worth considering:
Firstly, the encounter between Jesus and this woman takes place during Jesus’ third attempt to get away by Himself. In the previous chapter of Matthew’s gospel, we were told that, after hearing of the brutal killing of His friend, John the Baptist, Jesus “withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place” (Matthew 14:13). Of course, the withdrawal didn’t work as the crowd followed Jesus, and He ended up having to feed them all. Jesus then made a second attempt to get away, heading up a mountainside to be by Himself (Matthew 14:23) but then the disciples found themselves at sea (literally) and Jesus had to come to them on the water to rescue them (Matthew 14:25). This time Jesus heads for a location where nobody knows Him – to the region of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21).
All this might help to explain why Jesus was so reluctant to engage with the Canaanite woman who wanted His help. What it doesn’t explain is why Jesus was so rough with her. Having said that, if we look at the whole of Matthew, chapter 15, Jesus was offending a lot of people, and He really didn’t seem to be too concerned with political correctness. Indeed, the disciples were shocked at the blunt way Jesus called out their religious leaders for their hypocrisy, and they asked, “Did you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” (Matthew 15:12). Jesus only responded with “Leave them; they are blind guides” (Matthew 15:14).
Of course, we aren’t normally put off by Jesus’ harsh words to the religious elite any more than we are by His vitriol towards King Herod (Luke 13:32). Punching up is OK. It’s punching down that we have a problem with, and we assume that the Canaanite woman that we meet in this story is relatively powerless, both by virtue of her race and her gender. Yet we don’t really know how powerful or powerless this woman was. She was a local. For all we know, she may have been a local leader. Was she screaming at Jesus because she was desperate or was it because Jesus was in her town, and she felt entitled to whatever He had to offer? In truth, we know almost nothing about this woman apart from the assessment that Jesus makes of her when He does finally heal her daughter – that she was a woman of “great faith” (Matthew 15:28).
So much of life is like this. We look for clear signs from God and for straightforward words of guidance. The signs are so often confusing and the words ambiguous. We stumble along, hanging on to hope, but in the end, we do find (as the Canaanite woman did) that “all things work together for good for those who love the Lord” (Romans 8:28). Miracles happen. Clarity comes. Amen!
Our Sunday Eucharist
We had another wonderful Sunday Eucharist last weekend, despite things not working out as we had planned. We had a team of four lined up for Sunday – including Rob Gilland, myself, Father Mark and Joel. I’d forgotten though that Mark was in Spain! He tells me he did his best to connect nonetheless but the Internet wouldn’t cooperate. Joel had assured me that he’d have something for us but then had some sort of family crisis (which I believe has subsequently been resolved). Anyway … it was just me and Rob on the panel, but we were ably supported by a great online team.😊
The recording of our opening discussion and our Bible Banter is included below. You’ll get Rob and Dave’s potted history of the Reformation this week. I also share a surprising piece of trivia connecting one of the hymns of John Newtown – the great emancipator – with Confederate general, Stonewall Jackson! We do also look at the Bible readings.😉
This coming Sunday I look forward to having Sam and David join me on the panel, with Father Ola sharing with us his pre-recorded wisdom on Romans 11. Join us from around 11.45 via thesundayeucharist.com or via Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn. or Streamyard.
Let me work your corner
Once again, a big thank you to every one who supports Fighting Fathers Ministries through prayer and through monthly financial contributions. If you’re not contributing financially and you can afford to, it would be greatly appreciated if you could go to Patreon.com and sign up to either:
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- Saturday, August 19th – Boxing from 3.00 pm @Legends Gym
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- Monday, August 21st – Boxing from 7.00 pm @Legends Gym
- Wednesday, August 23rd – Boxing from 7.00 pm @Legends Gym
- Friday, August 25th to Sunday, August 27th – @Binacrombi. Please join me
As you may have picked up, I was rather traumatised as I concluded my newsletter last week as I was still reeling from once again having had our boxing club evicted from our training premises. Since then I’ve been reminded many times of the wisdom of Joseph (whom we focus on in this week’s Torah reading) who said to his brothers who betrayed him, “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20). The future for our boxing club is looking increasingly bright.😊
We trained this week at Legend’s Gym in Kensington and it was a great experience. They have a wonderful team of people there and the culture was relaxed and open. I’m looking forward to a few more session there over the next week and I’m hoping that a few more from our team will join me. The other exciting news is that I met today with the management of Balmain Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC), and there may be an opportunity opening up there for us too. The location is better for most of our fighters and the facilities there are fantastic. Stay tuned. I do believe that the Good Lord has something exciting in mind for us yet.😊
In other good news, we’ve had nine former Australian Attorneys-General co-author a letter appealing to Prime Minister Albanese to escalate efforts to persuade the United States to abandon the ongoing incarceration of Julian Assange! This in itself is a remarkable achievement, and a great sign of the support Julian is now receiving. Despite all the ambiguous signs of late, like the Canaanite woman, we keep praying and wait for a just outcome. I’ve attached a copy of the letter below as a PDF.
Let me close today, as has been my custom of late, with some links to things I’ve published this week.
The second thing I published this week was a new site. It’s an Amazon Shop that promotes both the books I’ve written and the books I recommend in my ‘Fighting Fit’ video series. Go to Fightshop.biz and you’ll find the videos in the Fighting Fit series along with two of my other favourite videos, along with links to all relevant books.
Let me know what you think of this site. If it’s useful, I will expand it. I figured it was a good way to give people access to my video course while promoting my books at the same time. All suggestions are appreciated.
Continue to keep me in your prayers please, as I do you.