Casting Crumbs

By Chuck Alley

Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, 15:21-28

21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22Just 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.” 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Meditation

When we look at this passage through the eyes of faith in a loving and merciful God, we can see that the woman recognizes how God works in the world better than do her Jewish neighbors. This episode then becomes a restatement of God’s promise to Abram (Gen. 12:3) articulated from the perspective of the nations. God gave his promise of the blessing directly to the descendants of Abraham, but with the intention that this blessing would overflow into the world. So although Jesus came to Israel as her Messiah, the Gentile would also come to know God and his kingdom as the world witnessed the work of Jesus. No more nourishing and satisfying crumbs ever fell from so great a banquet table.

We are blessed for a purpose, and the Canaanite woman is a reminder of that purpose. God’s grace is so much more abundant than our need in order that we have a surplus from which to liberally give to others. Building bigger barns for hoarding the blessings will not work (Luke 12:16-21). We are to receive God’s blessings with open hands so that as we experience the blessings, they will liberally scatter through our fingers and into a waiting and hungry world.

Chuck Alley is a retired Episcopal priest and an adjunct associate professor of anatomy on the medical faculty of Virginia Commonwealth University. He and his wife, Scottie, have three children and nine grandchildren.

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