Monday, June 23, 2014

A Journey With Matthew - Day 23

Read Matthew 15:12-28.

In an earlier post (on day 13 of this journey) I raised the question about Jesus's "clarity" at that point about his mission as only to the lost sheep of Israel. That precise phrase comes up here. Previously he used it to give the twelve - all Jewish men - their "marching orders." Today we see it used as a kind of defense as to why he cannot help this Canaanite woman out. Her daughter is tormented by a demon. But she is not one the lost sheep of Israel. He has to stay focused on the mission, right?

I heard a sermon on this text once, in the Drew Chapel, that began with these words: "In interpreting this passage, it depends on whether you have a high Christology or a low Christology." Only in a seminary chapel can a sermon begin this way! But the preacher's point was that how we see Jesus - whom the church claims as fully divine and fully human - matters. Those with a higher Christology will have a harder time seeing that Jesus has learned something here. But those with a lower Christology, that begins with his humanity, will wonder if Jesus isn't bested by a woman (and a foreigner at that!) in a theological debate here.

I won't dwell on the point, except to say that while we cannot know what is going on in Jesus' head (or in Matthew's as he reports the encounter) it does seem that this encounter expands the mission. No longer are those other than the "lost sheep of Israel" an abstraction. This real woman stands before him, interceding for her daughter. Her faith is indeed real, and great.

The disciples wanted to send her away. If they had succeeded they could have kept their theology intact. But because the encounter happens, the "other" now has a face and a story - even if not a name. I don't care what one's Christology is - such encounters change people. And I don't think it pushes the envelope too much to say that she changes Jesus, for good.

1 comment:

  1. I love this story (I must possess a very low Christology!) because it makes such good sense to me. How could Jesus be "fully human" if he doesn't make a mistake or learn something during his earthly life? Amy-Jill Levine says that church tradition names the woman "Justa", and that that her story recalls that of Rahab and Tamar; outsider women who succeeded despite the first hesitance of the men with whom they are paired.