5 Aug 2015
We’re not quite sure what to make of it. Jesus—whom we know to be loving and welcoming—Jesus gives this Canaanite woman the silent treatment, the cold shoulder. And we can make all kinds of excuses for him. You know, maybe St. Matthew wrote it down wrong. Maybe some translator of the ancient manuscripts missed something. Whatever’s the excuse, it’s tempting to think that a mistake was made in this passage—after all, Jesus just wouldn’t do that; he wouldn’t turn someone away.
But why not? Maybe Jesus knew something of that woman’s soul; something that said she wasn’t committed enough to him. Who knows. We do know that Jesus turns to us—if we turn to him. And so, there is a sense that Jesus comes only to those who come to him, who desire to know him, and—importantly—who will commit themselves to him.
Jesus loves everybody and wants everyone to be with him. But he waits for a commitment, a pledge of faith in him as the Lord, the Son of David, the gateway to the New Jerusalem. In effect, Jesus seems to say, “If you want me to be your Lord and Savior, then commit yourself to letting me be your Lord and Savior.”
Our instinct in hearing this passage from Scripture is right: Jesus wouldn’t do that; he wouldn’t turn someone away. But he can’t respond to people who don’t have real faith in him as the Lord, the Savior, the Son of the living God. In a way, he mirrors back to us what we give of ourselves to him. The Canaanite woman gave her full faith and trust in Jesus. And he, in turn, blessed her. He didn’t turn her away. He welcomed her and helped her, as he does for all those who truly and deeply have faith in him.
Jesus is ready and willing to be there for us, to shower us with the “bread of life.” But, first, we have to want it. First, we have to want him.