Monday, February 16, 2009

Crumbs, Dogs, and Treason

I walk into my local coffee shop and see my friend reading a book; he looks at me, and just shakes his head. “The more I read the less I realize I know…” What book? The Bible. I agree completely. A lot of times we drag our presuppositions into the Bible when we read it, often times missing out on small details that make things more beautiful or make more sense. We read it too quick sometimes, treating it like a book written to a bunch of over privileged Americans in 2008 when in all actuality it was written to a very Jewish audience (The Gospel According to Matthew at least) in the ancient middle-east. Something was illuminated to me the other night while I continue my journey through this book.

I’m in chapter 15; I’ve been in Matthew for what seems like a month or so. Another friend I talked to today responded to me telling them I was still in Matthew with, “Geeze, you’ve been reading that forever.” Yes, it does seem like it, but it has been such a rich read. Most people can tell you the story of this Canaanite woman who has a sick daughter that she wants healed. Most people will tell you that Jesus was impressed by her persistence in asking Him after being rejected the first time she requested the healing of her daughter. Cute story right? If it were that simple it would be disappointing to know that Jesus just gives in to something as long as you are persistent.

This all got me thinking. Why did Jesus reject her? What in the world made her think her second request would be granted? Why is Jesus impressed so much that He calls her faith great? This little story had me really thinking a lot, so naturally I decided to dig a bit deeper than just reading straight through and missing something. This is what I found in my digging, this is the natural progression of questions in my mind.

A Canaanite woman from that vicinity…what vicinity? Tyre, the vicinity in which Jesus withdrew to in verse 21. Where is that? Pull up a map of ancient Israel and find Tyre and Sidon. They are outside of Israel. Jesus came to seek and save the lost sheep of Israel. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Gentiles are woven into this grace, but Jesus came primarily for Israel, God’s people are Israel. When Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel,” she knew what that meant. She has been dealing with this for years; it is tattooed into her heritage, the separation of Jew and Gentile. Keep in mind that when Jesus moved, people knew, when He walked He always had a crowd following. Now this woman kneels before Jesus and cries, “Lord, help me!” Kneeling is something you do before kings, or emperors, like Cesar. Jesus replies, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.” What children? The children of Israel, the lost sheep He was sent to. Toss it to dogs…Jesus calls this woman a dog, what is going on? Again, nothing new to this woman’s ears, she is used to segregation between Jews and Gentiles. God wanted His people to be separate. Jesus says this in the context that everyone understands; it is not offensive like we read it, but a simple truth. She is not a Jew and for centuries now the Jews have called Gentiles dogs. Now that is wrong and Jesus calls it out and tests her. Jesus says she is a dog and she cannot eat what is meant for the children. This is where she flips the script and does something unexpected and quite amazing, considering the environment, socially and politically.

Without skipping a beat she responds, “Yes it is, Lord, even the dogs eat crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” This kneeling Gentile woman, who is a citizen of the Roman empire and thus subject to Cesar’s kingship, this woman says that even though she is a dog she can eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table. The master’s table. Keep that word in mind. The word translated as Master in the Bible I am reading (NIV) was actually written in the Greek with the original word kyrios.

κύριος (kyrios)

a) he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord
b) the possessor and disposer of a thing
c) the owner; one who has control of the person, the master
d) in the state: the sovereign, prince, chief, the Roman emperor
e) is a title of honor expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants greet their master
f) this title is given to: God, the Messiah

Those are the definitions of the word used here. All of these are pretty impressive for one to call another, but pay specifically close attention to d; The Roman emperor. This woman said Jesus was worthy of this title and that He was the owner of her and all that there is in calling Him master, kyrios. But wasn’t Cesar the Roman emperor at that time? The empire of Cesar worked upon the principle of peace through victory, meaning there would be peace with him as emperor through victory, military, oppressive, non-humanitarian, type of victory. That is called treason! What is treason?

Trea-son (tree-zuh n)

a) the offense of acting to overthrow one's government or to harm or kill its sovereign.
b) a violation of allegiance to one's sovereign or to one's state.
c) the betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery.

The penalty for treason in the Roman Empire was crucifixion. This woman, in front of everyone, who was a citizen of Rome, called Jesus master and Lord, kyrios, she said her allegiance was with Him and not Cesar! This is huge! This is why Jesus said, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.”

It is so convenient to be a Christian in America isn’t it? Simply by calling Jesus Lord or master this woman risked her life. To do it in such a public setting took faith bigger than I have probably. Calling yourself a Christian doesn’t cost much in our culture, you may even get some perks from it, like around tax time. What great faith this Canaanite woman had. May we learn to have great faith like this. May we be willing to seek allegiance with Christ and flee from anything that is not.

No comments:

Post a Comment