Today’s focus is on Jesus’ conversation with the Canaanite woman as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. Our devotional reading is from Fusion: Food.
Isaiah 56:1, 6–8
Romans 11:1–2a, 13–15, 28–32
Read the propers for today on lutherancalendar.org.
When speaking with Jesus about the crumbs from the master’s table, the Canaanite woman demonstrates commendable boldness in approaching our Lord. May we remember too that we can approach our Heavenly Father with boldness and confidence, asking Him to help us in every need.
Between the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand, there is the story of the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus. By calling Him “Lord, Son of David” (Matthew 15:22), this woman indicates that she is a pious believer, even though she is a Gentile.
When Jesus says, “It is not right to take the children’s bread” (Matthew 15:26), He is referring to the Jews, whom He also calls “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v. 24). The “dogs” are the Gentiles, that is, everyone who is not Jewish. This woman is an “outsider,” and one who lives in the presence of demons, at that! Yet this woman also provides us with great comfort, because she feels willing to approach Jesus, the Son of God, and make her requests known to Him. She reveals that no one needs first to “clean up their act” or “get right with God” before they can approach Jesus. She simply comes to Him with all her struggles and difficulties, and lays them at Jesus’ feet.
Jesus’ words, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:26) sound harsh and condemning, but it must be remembered that this is God’s merciful and loving Son speaking! Jesus does not say these words in order to drive this woman away, but to sharpen her faith.
He could have said, in a more simple way, “It is not right to throw the children’s bread to the dogs.” He also could have used a different word, such as “It is not right to grab the children’s bread“ or “it is not right pick up the children’s bread.” However, Jesus deliberately used the word take, a word that helped make the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:19) and of the four thousand (Matthew 15:36) sound similar to the celebration of Holy Communion. In each case, and also at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26), Jesus takes bread.
In 1 Corinthians 10:21, the apostle Paul writes, “You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” Here, the “table of the Lord” refers to Holy Communion. This bears at least a similarity to the woman’s words to Jesus, speaking about “their masters’ table” (Matthew 15:27). The Greek word for “master” is kurios, the same word used for “Lord” in 1 Corinthians 10:21!
Just as a mere “crumb” of Jesus’ grace and mercy would satisfy the woman’s need, so also do the small bits of bread and little sips of wine received in Communion fully provide each communicant with the full riches of forgiveness, life, and salvation. It matters not how much of the bread and wine you receive, but that you receive it in faith, as the Canaanite woman received Christ’s mercy in faith.
Devotional reading is adapted from Fusion: Food, pages 53–54 © 2006 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.