About the gospel reading for Sunday, I have reduced the size and set off in blue the first part because it's optional and likely will not be read, at least in our church, as we are trying to cut down on the time folks are assembled and potentially at greater risk of covid-19 exposure.
So I'm ignoring the small blue part and looking at the startlingly intriguing story that Matthew (below) copied from Mark (also below). And I was thinking to compare Matthew with Mark's original as we often do in Sunday School, to spot differences, to see if they're significant, and to talk about why Matthew may have made changes.
Of the woman, Mark says that she is "Gentile, Syrophoenician", Matthew changes it to Canaanite, why? I think maybe Mark sees this event as Jesus opening the gospel to Gentiles, as did Paul before him; whereas Matthew - - who is writing to Jewish Christians, may consider that Jesus is only for the Jews, (indeed, Matthew adds Jesus' dismissive retort “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”) - - Matthew feels he needs to emphasize, maybe with a hint of hostility and prejudice? (Black Lives Matter), that this woman is of Israel's ancient enemy and is unwelcome, but Jesus deigns to accommodate her because of her faith (which might suggest she's a "God-fearer", a Gentile who worships the God of Israel? and therefore marginally acceptable?); whereas in Mark, the verbal exchange seems maybe a bit playful, and Jesus does as she asks because she outdid him in the verbal exchange and he is delighted that her wit matches his own!
Another difference is that Mark has the woman's child sick In bed back home, but Matthew does not; so it's not unreasonable to visualize the daughter as standing there beside her mother. Maybe you see something I'm missing, but I don't see this difference as significant other than that it allowed me to use a drawing (above) of Jesus that shows the little girl.
If you read and compare the two stories, Mark and Matthew, you may find more to explore, but that's what I see of differences at first glance this morning.
What's more noticeable (in both stories) though, is Jesus' apparent rudeness in disparaging the woman and her daughter and her people as "dogs". A Jew, he might instead have said "pigs" but he says dogs, snide and dismissive enough. Coming from our dear, sweet, kind and loving Northern European Savior portrayed on Baptist Sunday School walls throughout the South when I was a boy,
this is shocking to us, stunning, unacceptable, does not match our image of Jesus. So some comment is appropriate, eh? I think at least a couple of things, suggestions, and then you may want to think about it further before it hits whatever pulpit you attend next Sunday (I am not preaching Sunday).
First, though I am taken aback, on thought, I don't think it's surprising, because after all Jesus was a Jew, and there is no reason for me to think that his orientation to untouchable Gentiles would have been different from other Jews of his day.
Second, from a bible criticism point of view, the fact that what Jesus said is shocking and unacceptable may indicate (there's a literary technical term for regarding ugly things as especially likely to have been said or done, but I forget it) that Jesus really did say this. Or at least that it comes from an old memory of something that really did happen. So I say yep, Jesus really did say this to the Gentile woman who may have regarded him as a known exorcist.
Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28 (NRSV)
[Jesus called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”]
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Mark 7:24-30 (NRSV)
The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith
24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.