Today’s Word: ‘Canaanite’ as in… another beautifully subversive reminder that Jesus goes the distance.
Jesus hikes nearly 60 miles northeast, from Gennesaret up to Tyre and Sidon and bumps into someone whom Matthew describes as a “Canaanite woman.” This is strange because by the time of Jesus, and certainly by 60 to 65 AD when Matthew’s gospel was written, people were no longer called “Canaanites.” Even then it was really an outdated word. Canaan wasn’t even really on the map anymore. So when Matthew refers to her as a “Canaanite woman” what he’s really doing is signaling that she’s an “outsider,” that she’s well off the map. She doesn’t have a support network. She doesn’t have a small group. She doesn’t have theology or even profess any faith. She doesn’t use any religious lingo and doesn’t have any connection to a church. Or synagogue.
All of that, though, just makes it all the more extraordinary that Jesus steps into her life, into her daughter’s life, into their desperation, and into our lives.
Jesus met the mom and her daughter right where they were: smack dab in the middle of their fear and desperation.
Jesus steps deeply into their lives and meets them just like he met thousands of people on a hillside multiplying loaves and fishes by teaching the generosity of the kingdom.
Jesus met the mom and her daughter right where they were, just like he met Peter in the boat on the water, in the storm, reminding them, “Don’t be afraid, I’m here with you.”
That’s the point of this beautifully subversive story: there’s never a place too far that Jesus won’t go to show love and mercy, grace and compassion. If Jesus is willing and able to go to Tyre and Sidon to meet this woman and her daughter, there’s no place too far, too “out there,” too remote, too disconnected for Jesus to show up in our lives. Especially when things seem dire and when we’re feeling desperate.
This “Canaanite woman” knew that Jesus would meet her right where she was. He’s still meeting us right where we are.