Hiding in plain sight
September 5, 2021
Metropolitan UMC, Indian Head, MD
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New International Version
24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.[a] He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.[b] 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.
33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the
The Gospel reading for this Sunday is a pair of healing stories, each with an odd or troubling feature. In the first story Jesus seems to treat a woman seeking his help with uncharacteristic rudeness, and in the second he employs what might appear to us as strange or even offensive technique in healing a deaf man.
In the first story a mother comes to Jesus on behalf of her troubled but cherished child. She comes because her daughter’s agony has become her agony. But she arrives at anything but the ideal moment. Jesus is completely tuckered out. He’s preached out, prayed out, and peopled out. He’s headed north and holed up in a safe house. Across the border he attempts to conceal himself from the intrusive crowd while on retreat with his disciples.
But someone or something has blown his cover. Careful as the disciples have been, someone has discovered the secret hideaway. There’s a knock at the door. Outside stands a woman from the area, a mother, a Syrophoenician. She has come to see if Jesus will do something for her demon-possessed daughter. She comes to Jesus hoping that he might do something to heal her deepest sorrow.
Perhaps she knows it is a long shot. He’s a Jew and she’s Syrophoenician, and between the two stand centuries of bad blood. He is a man, she is a woman. She is intruding and he is tired. But for her daughter she must try, and so she knocks at the door and then falls at Jesus’ feet. “Please, gracious teacher, please, please heal my precious little girl. Cast out the demon. It’s turned our lives into a living hell.” And she waits for him to answer. Her biggest fear is that he will tell her to go away or will be unable or unwilling to do anything.
She makes her request, and then Jesus delivers his troubling response: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Now Jesus’ words to this mother might lead us to suppose that he means to turn her away. Let the children eat first, Jesus says. It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the puppies. The word Jesus chose, a diminutive, is less harsh than it might initially sound. But placing the needs of children before the puppies establishes a pecking order, if not of persons, at least of tasks. Jesus’ intention to instruct his disciples is a higher priority than healing the masses. 
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Notes from Point 1
Notes from Point 2
Notes from Point 3
 John M. Rottman, “Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B,” in The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts, Volume Three, ed. Roger E. Van Harn (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 227–228.