A crumb for me - Matthew 15:21–28
We live in a world that seems to be more interested in that big, emotive, single thrill that will be life changing. The problem is that once it’s done, and the buzz is gone, an emptiness lingers craving to be refilled. So people go from one thrill to another, hoping that somewhere in the midst of this they find what they’re looking for. Eventually they realise that such is a hopeless endeavour, and too often they revert to the other extreme, ritualising their life to protect themselves from ever being damaged by such excesses again.
Too often, Christians are as guilty as everyone else in this. Some seek for the thing that will dramatically change their lives. The spiritual experience that will give them a feeling of euphoria. While others insist the church become a structured, rigorous, ritual driven experience to protect people from such excesses. Both extremes make no sense when one looks at the person of Jesus and the ministry he performed.
This text about the Canaanite woman comes after a teaching section where he rebukes the ritual excesses of the Jewish leaders. The rules and regulations with which they impose upon the people, are exposed by Jesus as nothing but a false façade. What makes a person clean before God is not what one eats or the rituals one performs but what comes from their heart. It is not even associated with one’s family line or how well they ascribe to the Jewish faith. What makes a person clean comes from the heart.
To make this point, Jesus travels to Canaanites cities of Tyre & Sidon. Here, while teaching, a Canaanite woman approaches him to heal her daughter. Jesus refuses, claiming to only be here for the people of Israel. But she persists, and cites back to him terms the Jews readily used to refer to non-Jews. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs from the table”. Jesus is impressed, for it is out of her heart that she appeals to Jesus, and Jesus responds by affirming her faith. Faith is driven by our heart relationship with God. It is out of the heart that we act and demonstrate our faith.
Being a Christian is a matter of having a right heart. It is not a matter of doing, or seeking individual experiences, but in sitting at the feet of Jesus and receiving from him something the world and ourselves can never create. Faith is given, and even the crumbs of faith can move mountains, heal the sick, and make the world a better place. We all have issues we need to confront, we all have a sinful side that needs to be forgiven, and we all need to see that only in Christ is faith made real.
We live in difficult times. The world is trying to impose upon us ways that are incompatible with the truth of God’s word. We ourselves have been seduced by the lure of religious or spiritual experience. We have confused what we do, and how we do it, with who we truly are. For in the end, we are no better than the Canaanite woman, and all we deserve are crumbs of grace. But God pours out his grace abundantly on us. He bestows upon us riches we can barely imagine. A crumb from our Lord ’s Table is more powerful than any feasts the world promises.