How to Talk Back to Jesus and Win

Copyright 2014 by Elspeth Young. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy of Al Young Studios.

Copyright 2014 by Elspeth Young. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy of Al Young Studios.

For years my daughter suffered from a cruel demon. It made her too hot, then too cold, then doubled over with violent convulsions, and her howls would often keep us up at night.

I tried to hold her and comfort her, but my other children were afraid and stayed as far away as they could. Her father blamed me for her illness. My neighbours thought I must be guilty of some sin for there to be a demon in my house.

I prayed to our gods day and night, but received no answer. I offered up all the comforts of my home and all my fine clothes in exchange for my daughter’s health, but the gods would not take the bargain. I lost sleep. I lost weight. I felt sick with worry, fear, and shame.

Then one day a stranger came to town. People called him a teacher, a healer, a miracle worker–and they also said he was a Jew.

Now the Jews and we Canaanites have never been friends, but for the sake of my daughter, I would even ask a Jew for help. So I went looking for the stranger and found him walking with his disciples. I stood at a distance and called out to him in the manner of his own people,

Show me mercy, Son of David. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.

When the teacher ignored my plea, I approached his disciples. But they refused to speak to me and complained to him,

Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.

This time the teacher ignored his disciples, and instead looked right at me and said,

I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.

His indifference almost made me give up and return home, but now at least I had his attention. Now at least he was talking to me. In desperation I went nearer, knelt down, and begged him,

Lord, help me.

He only shook his head and answered,

It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.

On the surface, his words were an insult, an apparently humiliating reminder that to the Jews, both dogs and Canaanites were religiously unclean. Yet at the same time, his words seemed open to interpretation and deliberately provocative as if he expected some kind of witty comeback. I thought of my own dogs at home and when my daughter had once been well how she loved to feed them scraps from the table. So I matched the stranger’s tone and rose to the challenge of his words,

Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.

I guess that worked, for suddenly he smiled and addressed me with respect,

Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.

Oh how I wished that my daughter would be free from her demon! I repeated the stranger’s words to myself over and over as I hurried home. There I found my daughter sitting up in bed, still weak from her ordeal, but completely well! Thank you, Son of David, for restoring my daughter to full health. Thank you for letting me talk back and win your mercy.

Your Turn: I’d love to hear your response to this re-telling of Matthew 15:21-28. What questions does it raise for you? What can you learn from the way this woman talked back to Jesus? Please scroll down to leave your comment.

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Categories: Spiritual Practice

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5 replies

  1. Never quite knew what this meant “even the dogs eat crumbs from the table”. Now I know.

    • Hi Susan – it’s good to hear from you – thank you for leaving a comment. I find it interesting that Elspeth Young’s painting that I used to illustrate this article actually includes a dog. She says, “The dog by her side is an elegant Italian greyhound. Such whippets and greyhounds are known to date back to ancient Egypt, and also frequently appear in Roman mosaics.”

  2. I have often felt too that Jesus’ words were offered as an invitational comeback, and a wonderful insight into the charisma and wit of Jesus. Similar to the conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. The dog in the painting certainly adds a marvelous touch.

    And your point–yes, at times we are welcome to express our true feelings in words that don’t sound reverent. Thanks be to God.

    • Hi Melodie – I love your comment about Jesus’ charisma and wit, which would have been so evident in person. On the printed page and in English translation those are sometimes harder to catch, but this story offers us a wonderful glimpse, and I hope can encourage us.

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