Monday, 14 June 2021
Title: Bread Crumbs.
Ong Hwee Soo
Matthew 15: 21-28 (Please read)
In my Devotional (John 4:1-45) on 24 May, we have seen how Jesus traversed geographical territories, drove through race and gender divides, contravened social conventions, demolished religious demarcations, entered emotional walls, broke down psychological barriers to reach out to the deepest needs of a Samaritan woman whose redemption and resultant transformation as well as spontaneous testimony led her community to receive salvation.
Today’s text is another disturbing story but which has a beautiful ending. Preceding this episode, Jesus just had a theological debate with the scribes and Pharisees who had left Jerusalem to scrutinize Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. The religious leaders confronted Jesus because His disciples were not washing their hands before meals, violating a purity ritual (v 2). Jesus contended the rabbinical laws, particularly relating to outward ritual cleanness and espoused inward righteousness instead (v 3; 10-20). Further, Jews generally avoided the Gentiles, as association with them rendered them ceremonially unclean.
After this controversy with the Jewish leaders, Jesus crossed deep into Gentile territory, by taking His disciples to the region of Tyre and Sidon (v 21), which were both port cities with thriving commerce. In view of their prosperity, they were proud, historic Canaanite cities. It is here, Jesus and His entourage encountered a Canaanite woman (v 22). The parallel passage in Mark 7:24-30, specifically describes her as “a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth” (v 26). Phoenicia (present day Lebanon), then belonged administratively to Syria. Matthew intentionally emphasizes her Canaanite descendancy to evoke a response from his Jewish audience.
The drama begins with this woman begging Jesus, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” (v 22 & Mark 7:26). She had apparently heard of Jesus’ reputation as a healer, as His fame had spread beyond the Galilean border to Phoenician territory. Initially, Jesus ignored her plea (v 23a) up until His disciples demonstrated their annoyance with the woman. To them, she was a Gentile nuisance that had to be sent away (v 23b).
Jesus answered her enigmatically, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. The plot became increasingly perplexing when at the woman’s pleading,” Lord, help me.”, Jesus responded seemingly harshly, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs .” Undoubtedly, Jesus’ disciples would have fully agreed with Him on this. But, here’s the twist in the tale: the word “ dog ” Jesus used was not the usual Greek word ‘ kyon ’ but the diminutive ‘ kynarion ’. Jesus was referring to ‘puppies’ or ‘household pets’ not the stray, scavenging canines. While the Jews did not view dogs as loving pets but as detestable scavengers, Jesus softened what could have been a more derogatory insult. The woman took Jesus’ word and turned it on its Jewish head. She viewed herself, not as a scrounging hungry hound but as a domestic pet that shares a meal with the family: “ Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat crumbs that fall from the master’s table . Jesus’ disciples would have been blindsided: they would never have a dog at their dining table.
The story concludes with Jesus commending the Gentile woman for her faith, and heals her daughter immediately (v 28).
In sum, up to the point, prior to this episode in the two Gospels, Jesus’ ministry concentrated in Jewish areas. So here, Matthew and Mark introduced a story about a Gentile woman who foreshadowed the future ministry of the disciples. At first sight, Jesus’ response to her appeared ethnocentric and offensive. But actually, Jesus was being intentionally provocative in order to elicit the correct response from her. Hence, Jesus’ words are not to be construed as unfeelingly harsh but, in fact, tenderly drawing from her an expression of faith. He was testing her to ascertain whether she would claim what was rightfully hers, namely, the opportunity to receive God’s blessings in the new age of salvation.
Jesus began His earthly ministry by ministering first to the Jews, so that through them He would send the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles. In today’s text, Jesus elucidated His inclusiveness to His disciples in contrast to their exclusiveness. Jesus taught His disciples that the Gentile’s positive response to the Gospel meant that they were accepted by God.
As in both the case of the Samaritan woman and the Syrophoenician woman, Jesus went out of the way to meet them at their point of need, so Christ can meet you at your point of need, right now, whatever it may be. Let me encourage you to receive His salvation today, and be included in His kingdom.
For those of us who are believers, in what ways can we share our ‘bread crumbs’ as well as ‘leftovers’ of usable items with the migrant/refugee/diaspora communities around us? How may we be more inclusive in our ministries?
Let’s Live the Life, with Blessings Overflowing to those Outside.
Dear God, Creator of all peoples, overflow us with Your Love and Compassion, so that we may bless others with Your overarching inclusiveness. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
在我5 月 24 日的灵修中（约翰福音 4:1-45）我们已经看到耶稣如何跨越地理区域、跨越了种族和性别鸿沟、违反社会惯例、拆除宗教界限、进入情感墙、打破了心理障碍、满足撒玛利亚妇人最深切的需要，她的救赎和随之而来的转变以及自发的见证使她的社区接受了救恩。
今天的篇章是另一个令人不安的故事，但有一个美丽的结局。在这段插曲之前，耶稣刚刚与离开耶路撒冷去加利利仔细察看耶稣的事工的经学家和法利赛人进行了神学辩论。宗教领袖质问耶稣，因为祂的门徒饭前不洗手，违反了洁净的礼仪 (第2节)。耶稣反对拉比律法，尤其是与外在仪式的洁净有关的律法，而是重视内心的义（第 3 节；10-20节）。此外，犹太人通常避开外邦人，因为与他们交往使他们在礼仪上变得不洁净。
在与犹太领袖的这场争论之后，耶稣深入异邦领土，带着门徒来到 推罗和西顿 (第21节)这两个商业繁荣的港口城市。鉴于它们的繁荣，它们是令人自豪的、历史悠久的迦南城市。就是在这里，耶稣和祂随行的人遇到了一位迦南妇人(第22节)。马可福音7:24-30中的平行经文明确地把她描述为 “外邦人，属叙利亚的腓尼基族” (26节)。Phoenicia(腓尼基-今黎巴嫩)，当时行政上属于叙利亚。马太刻意强调她是迦南人的后裔，以引起他的犹太群众的反应。
耶稣高深莫测地回答说：“我奉差遣，不过是到以色列家迷失的羊那里去”。 当妇人央求 “主啊，帮助我” 时，情节变得越来越令人费解。耶稣近乎严苛地回答说：“不好拿儿女的 饼 丢给 狗 吃。” 毫无疑问，耶稣的门徒会完全同意祂的看法。但是，这是故事的转折点：耶稣所用的 “狗” 这个词不是通常的希腊语单词 “ kyon ”，而是小型的 “ kynarion ”。耶稣指的是 “小狗” 或 “家庭宠物”，而不是那些流浪、觅食的狗。犹太人并不认为狗是可爱的宠物，而是可憎的食腐动物，耶稣却软化了这种可能更具贬损的侮辱。那妇人听了耶稣的话，就把犹太人的观念反转过来。她认为自己不是一只觅食的饥饿猎犬，而是一只与家人共享一餐的家养宠物：“主啊，不错，但是狗也吃主人桌子上掉下来的碎渣儿。” 耶稣的门徒会傻了眼：他们绝不会让狗出现在餐桌前。
耶稣在地上的事工，由先服事犹太人开始，通过他们将救恩的好消息传给外邦人。在今天的经文中，耶稣向祂的门徒阐释了祂的 包容性 ，而不是他们的排他性。耶稣教导祂的门徒，外邦人对福音的正面回应意味着他们被上帝接受了。
对于我们信徒，我们可以通过哪些方式与我们周围的移民/难民/散居者社区分享我们的 “碎渣儿” 以及可用品的 “剩余物”？我们如何在事工中更具包容性？