Sunday, 14 February 2016

Teaching Moments - The Canaanite Woman - Mark 7:24 - 30

A story tells of a church leadership team that got bogged down discussing security issues for the church building. Their meeting was inconclusive, so they had to agree to an extra meeting convened on a Saturday morning at the church. That Saturday the arrived to find a tramp had let himself in, and was helping himself to breakfast from the fridge in the church kitchen!

The story raises for us our key question:
Key Qn: [IN] What does Jesus want to challenge in you?
Challenge: Reach across a barrier

The Canaanite woman had to pass two huge cultural barriers to beg of Jesus. She was a woman and a Gentile, walking into a house-retreat of Jewish men. She does this and asks for mercy. Curiously Jesus blanks her (see also the Matthew 15 version), so what is going on? Perhaps it is a simple test - will she be persistent?

We need to remember there are effectively 3 characters in the room: the woman, Jesus, and the gang of disciples. Perhaps the test is for the disciples - how will they react? The woman persists but they see her as a nuisance and want to get rid of her. Upping the ante Jesus seems to go along with them - technically they were right since Jesus' mission right now was to Israel, not foreigners.

Verbally this was like shutting the door in the woman's face, and yet still she continued, lowering herself to plain simple begging. Now Jesus' response is so harsh and rude it is hard for us to fathom. Yet we should remember the 3rd character, the disciples. All Jesus was doing was verbalising what was likely in their heads: this woman was a gentile dog who deserves to be treated as such (or worse!). This was Jesus holding a mirror to his disciples, effectively saying 'this is where your logic takes you - ugly isn't it?'.

With Jesus each incident can be a teaching episode, this being one about ingrained prejudices. He could have simply chastised the disciples, but instead acts in a way that shows them the gulf between their thinking and his, and so invites them to change. As with the key question what would Jesus want to show us in the mirror, as a call to change?

The woman, even after all this, still answers in faith. Her faith is applauded, and Jesus heals, but what work has also been accomplished in the disciples? Discipleship is simple (not complicated), but it is also hard in that from time to time Jesus will want to challenge us and mess with our world. Doubtless we will find that uncomfortable, but with Jesus it will be a grace filled invitation to be transformed more into His likeness.

The church with security issues was moved to start a work with the homeless. Our challenge may be something different ... but with Him it will bring fresh ability to reach across barriers.

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