The Holy Gospel: August 14, 2011 (A)

Read:  Matthew 15:21-28

Meditation:  “Leave That Place”

This week’s Gospel lesson begins with the words, “Jesus left that place…”  Literally, Matthew is talking about Gennesaret.  But there’s more going on here than geography.

Jesus was not simply leaving a place, he was leaving an attitude—the attitude of the Pharisees and scribes who believed they had an “inside track” on God—a “hotline to heaven”—that they had everything figured out, and perhaps worst of all, that they were so “correct” they deserved God’s blessing.

Jesus left that place to get some “fresh air.”  And it’s ironic that he had to get away from religious dogmatism in order to find it.  His trip to Tyre and Sidon and his conversation with the Canaanite woman was a stinging indictment of “religiosity.”

The story drips with tender sarcasm.  Jesus is not chastising the woman; he is revealing that her faith was genuine—her desire for mercy was great.  There was no cry for “mercy” from the religious professionals back in Gennesaret.

His statement that he was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel was not a way to cut her out of grace, but rather a way to contrast her call for help with the attitude of those who didn’t think they needed any help.

The woman was willing to settle for “crumbs” from Jesus, whereas the Pharisees and scribes had refused to accept the whole loaf.  They didn’t need Jesus’ bread; they’d made their own bread.  Jesus had to leave that place and go to where people were hungry for whatever God would give them.

He still has to leave any place where people are “always right”—where they have all the answers and have stopped asking any new questions.  Jesus still has to leave any place where people have determined that they have a “super spirituality” in contrast to those on the “outside.”  The outside of what?  Jesus has to leave the place of presumption in order for the Gospel to survive.

But here’s the really hard part—Jesus asks us to make the same journey:  from Gennesaret to Tyre and Sidon—from being the presumptuous Pharisees to becoming the seeking woman.  Jesus still has to say to us, “Leave that place.”  Everything hinges on what we do after that.


About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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