Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Lectionary and am I a Dog?

The Lectionary and being a Dog ....

The Gospel reading this week was from Matthew ....

Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

[Jesus called the crowd to him and said to them, "Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles." Then the disciples approached and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?" He answered, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit." But Peter said to him, "Explain this parable to us." Then he said, "Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile."]

Jesus left Gennesaret and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 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 he 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." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed instantly.

On first glance one might say that Jesus was rude, crass, calling the woman a dog .... let me assure you this is not what I believe as I heard in a sermon this Sunday. This would imply that Jesus did not love this woman, in effect breaking the 2nd commandment. This would then mean that He sinned, and could not be the perfect sacrifice for my sins.

By looking at the lesson being taught before the encounter with the woman, you can easily see that Jesus was talking and teaching about the power of our words, what comes from our mouth being evil or good, - as what comes from the mouth comes from the HEART - and if it is evil that is what defiles the person in God's view ... not their outward person and not their nationality.

So here as the woman is encountered, Jesus waits to see what comes from the mouth of the woman - her HEART - and it was not evil, it did not defile her, it was good and filled with faith.

As a side note:

Dog was a term that the Jews used commonly about Gentiles (as was this woman) .. as it was more likely that dog would recieve God's blessing than the pagan Gentile. Jesus was not degrading this woman, but using this term he was contrasting the Jewish view to his own view. AS you can see the woman did not argue, did not leave but instead used using Jesus's choice of words, she asked for a blessing from her heart.

Ironically many Jews would miss out or lose God's blessing and salvation because they rejected the Messiah; and many Gentiles would find salvation because they recognized and accepted him as this woman did.


kim strifert said...

Nice job with the scriptural interpretation. A positive and accurate reading of the text. The explanation of the usage of dog to describe gentiles really helps one understand the passage.

Mister Ed, The Watching Warden said...

Thank you! I had to go back and re-study that scripture for awhile this week ... The added comment about the use of the term Dog comes from and explanation in one of my study Bibles.