August 17 - Jesus is schooled by a wise, desperate woman

It all starts with a Canaanite (gentile) woman confronting Jesus and his entourage. She is a mother determined to help her child—pleading for help. The disciples are annoyed. Indeed, Jesus appears annoyed and seems to dismiss her with a "not my job" remark.

But this woman is not easily dismissed. She is resolute, brave, insistent; driven by one of the strongest forces in nature, a mother protecting her child. She replies, in essence, "You are wrong. Your God is a God of mercy and kindness. You are here to help us all—Jews and Gentiles."

Jesus is taken aback. He heals the woman's daughter, but he does more than grudgingly grant her request. He holds her up as an example of bravery and faith.

Long before this story unfolded, the Canaanites were slaughtered by the Jews. Some have called it genocide. It was a dark chapter in history, and so this encounter between a band of Jews and a Canaanite was fraught with social, historical and racial overtones.

Is this a parable about speaking truth to power? Maybe it's about overcoming deep-seated prejudice? Or was this a moment when Jesus realized the true scope of his mission?