The Faces of Compassion Part I

Scripture Reading: Genesis 45: 1-15
Matthew l5: l0-28 Pastor Colleen Petaros
'Special Thanks!'
Compassion is the word upon which I want to dwell. In the first passage, Joseph showed compassion to his brothers that had sold him into slavery in Egypt. The gospel reading is a difficult one. The Pharisees have all kinds of laws about who would be included and who would be excluded from God's mercy. Jesus had just given his disciples a message about 'love', the love He has come to portray. He tells them that the loving words we speak are more important than the letter of the rigid Pharisee laws. The attitude of our hearts is more important than the ritualistic traditions people have begun. Then comes the Canaanite woman challenging tradition and challenging the rules in a new way. At first it sees that Jesus, whom I associate with compassion, is showing little of it to the woman who asked for her daughter's healing. Did the disciples embrace this woman and say, “Sure, we'll help? Certainly not. Just like me, sometimes it takes a while or the point to get across, for us to apply what Jesus is trying so hard to teach. It does take a while to get the picture, whether you lived back then or now. So, here comes this woman, she has several strikes against her. First, she is Canaanite, which was likes calling someone an enemy of God's people, a pagan, a dog, whereas the chosen people called themselves, “the Children of God”. She is definitely not with the 'in' crowd because she is from “the wrong side of the tracks” if you will. A second strike is that she is a woman. At that time, a woman really had no business approaching a male religious leader uninvited. Third, she has a mentally ill daughter. There were those who probably thought it was her sin that created this affliction. Personally, as a person that has struggled with shyness and feeling inadequate, I really appreciate the temerity of this Canaanite woman.
A person I teach a Sunday school class with has called this woman, “the whiny woman”.
Needless to say, he and I disagree in our view of this amazing woman. What he calls whiny, I call blessed persistence. It's not necessarily a trait I liked in my children when they were begging for something I didn't think they needed. But, in this woman, I consider her persistence blessed.
What makes the difference? It is her 'heart'. She will not take, “No!”, for an answer despite
the huge barriers she has to overcome.
We know as parents that we would do almost anything to help our children. She comes not for herself, but for her daughter. Nothing will deter her from finding the help she needs.
I am thinking “You go girl!” She recognizes who Jesus is. She calls him 'Son of David'. Despite her upbringing and the perception that the disciples have of her because of her nationality, she knows who Jesus is. That's amazing!
Then, we hear the rather disturbing dialogue in which Jesus says that he has come to the lost sheep of Israel and that it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs.
This response of Jesus is hard to swallow given my image of Him as the Savior of all people, no matter what their past, as one that is striking down the artificial barriers that people have put up. He is the one who has come for all people. There he is looking as if he is denying his help because of the region in which a person was born.

This image just doesn't make sense. You may come to different conclusions, but I tend to think he must have been testing the disciples and her. I think that he wanted the disciples to know and for her to acknowledge that she was not just seeking a “magic” trick out of desperation for her daughter's condition. That she was not just coming as a “last resort”. I love her response. She does not get angry and stalk away. She does not become indignant. She calmly replies, “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table”. She acknowledges Jesus as Master. She acknowledges her own unworthiness. Jesus responds with, “Woman, you have great faith!” He goes on to tell her that her daughter is healed.
Ultimately, Jesus provides the compassionate response. God showed us the face of compassion in the form of his son, Jesus Christ.

Continues in Part II....