Advancing the Conversation of Jesus
The Woman from Syrophoenicia. (Mark 7; Matthew 15) Exhausted by the many arguments with the religious leaders, Jesus left the area for a getaway into the region of Tyre and Sidon. This is a non-Jewish area. In the home where Jesus was to stay he encountered a non-Jewish woman. Mark calls her Syrophoenician and Matthew refers to her as Canaanite. Neither was friendly to the Jews.
The Syrophoenicians or Canaanites worshiped a variety of nature gods. El was the chief god who was portrayed as a bully, and this image kept people in fear. This woman with this religious background boldly asked Jesus for help. Her daughter was tormented by evil spirits. Since her gods hadn’t helped, the mother now turns to Jesus. He initially dismisses her request, but her persistence wins out.
Jesus says to her, “You have great faith! Your request is granted.” Her daughter was healed that very hour. Note what happened here! Jesus honored her faith. He didn’t pull her into a new religious system, didn’t invite her to join a study class, didn’t urge her to renounce her cultural upbringing, didn’t warn her of the many man-made myths and gods of her religion.
Here’s the point. This woman sought and received, and now she has her daughter whole. As a result, she went away with a special relationship with Jesus that she would never forget.
Why didn’t Jesus try to convert her to the one, true God and pull her away from El or polytheism-the many gods? Why didn’t Jesus invite her into the “holy huddle” of Judaism? Didn’t he care about keeping the holy huddle holy? Or, at least, keeping the holy huddle a huddle?
It’s troubling to me how hyper so many who claim to follow Jesus are about promoting a “conversion” experience with every “outsider”. It seems introducing people to Jesus, who is the Good News, is not the priority. It just isn’t enough! Therefore, we act as if Jesus, the revolutionary and the only one who can transform a person’s life needs something more from his followers to help the salvation process along. This is precisely why I signed on early in an advisory capacity with Jesus. Then, when Jesus apprehended me, I realized that position was not needed or even available!