Posts Tagged ‘my pastor’

Today I read where Jesus called a desperate woman a dog. And I realized I am a dog too. Maybe even an anti-semitic dog.

I wrote in March about being “at the table,” which of course is what Christ graciously invites us to, but I think we’d do well to remember often just how gracious this invitation is. Our rightful place, if we have a place at all, is not at the table, but under it.

The story I read (see Matt. 15:21-28 ) is one that on first reading can make you uneasy, as many gospel stories and parables do. It just doesn’t sound like the Jesus we know. But of course we only have the verbal record. What was going on nonverbally and in the heart would probably set our objections aside immediately.

The context is this: after spending frustrating days being scoffed at by his relatives and neighbors in his hometown, scrutinized and criticized by self-righteous Jewish teachers, and hounded by the masses of miracle-followers all around the lake, Jesus “withdrew” to a town on the coast, away from the madding Jewish crowds of Galilee.

But then there’s this desperate voice: “Lord, Son of David, have mercy…”. At first he makes no response, but when his disciples request that he get rid of this gentile woman because of her noise, Jesus answers something strange: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

What?? You agree with them?? And you’re not going to have mercy because she is not Jewish??

Well there’s a whole lot of theology in his words, and a whole lot of theology in my objections. But take a look at the rest of the story, and decide for yourself what he’s up to here.

She hears his response, and simply kneels down and begs (like a dog?) for help. Then he calls her a dog: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Given that he has just said quite clearly that his “bread” is for Israel (obviously the “children” of the metaphor), there can be no doubt whom he is calling a dog. Even if you think of “dog” as “little dog,” like a cherished little fluffball under your kitchen table, a dog is a dog.

Now, considering the state this woman is in, would you expect her to be offended? Her little daughter is possessed by a demon. She has no hope.

Her response says everything about what faith looks like. “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” In other words, “Lord, I know I am a dog, and have nothing to offer you. I’m just glad to be under the table, for whatever crumbs might fall my way.”

This is exactly the kind of faith, the kind of poor-in-spirit heart, that the Lord responds to, every time. I love what Matthew Henry says about this passage:

“Those whom Christ intends most to honour, he humbles to feel their own unworthiness. A proud, unhumbled heart would not have borne this; but she turned it into an argument to support her request. The state of this woman is an emblem of the state of a sinner, deeply conscious of the misery of his soul. The least of Christ is precious to a believer, even the very crumbs of the Bread of life. Of all graces, faith honours Christ most; therefore of all graces Christ honours faith most.”

This passage convicted me this morning, because I know I typically have an upside-down view of who “belongs” at the table: according to my proud heart, it’s first for the gentile, and then, if they’re really humble and repentant, the Jew. (Those mean old Jews — who did they think they were, rejecting and crucifying my savior?) God forgive me my attitude! I even find I have this strange knee-jerk surge of anti-semitism sometimes when I encounter a face and personality that my mind instantly labels as “typical Jewish.” Where did that come from?? A misguided Sunday School teacher when I was six? I hate bigotry! How did these ugly thoughts take root in me?

John Piper preached some convicting sermons on this topic a few years ago, and my own pastor referred just this week to God’s intentions toward Jews, and what a glorious day it will be when finally the lost sheep of Israel will be gathered in. Piper’s warnings to us gentile believers are strong and appropriate:

“It is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you” [Rom. 11:18]. People who need to be supported should be slow to boast. And a Christian is a person who has made a deep discovery: He is weak, lost, sinful, helpless, indeed, dead in trespasses and sins. A Christian is a person who by grace has wakened from a dream of self-sufficiency into a reality of dependence. Utter dependence on the grace of God. Christian, if you boast over the branches, if you are anti-Semitic and proud, you don’t know who you are. Or you are not who you say you are.”

As gentile dogs such as I feast on the overflow of crumbs under the table, we should be longing and praying for that day of salvation for the lost sheep of Israel, guarding our hearts against any sense of arrogant entitlement to the Son of David.

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