(Posted September 1, 2021)
“There's a fine line between angry and grumpy. Angry isn't nice, but grumpy is funny.” - Rick Wakeman, British Musician
This weekend we experience a Jesus we weren’t expecting: Grumpy Jesus. In fact, he’s not only grumpy, but also pretty sarcastic toward a woman who hunts him down when all he wanted to do was get away and rest in the village of Tyre.
However Jesus, being sort of a “rock star rabbi” of his day, cannot enter a house without being recognized and then flooded with requests. All he wanted was to get away. Then there’s a Syrophoenician mother of a sick daughter who wanted to be healed. This is often how Jesus’ attempt at personal peace got whittled away.
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The Jesus Encounter That Did Not Go Well
The encounter didn’t go well. First of all, The mother wasn’t Jewish but a gentile. Bible scholars suspect that she thought of Jesus as a great magician, with the kind of magical powers that some of her pagan friends believed in. The concept that Jesus might be the Son of God didn’t occur to her, only that her daughter was possessed by something demonic and needed immediate help.
Second of all, the Jesus we meet this Sunday is a “still growing” Messiah. He has yet to understand that his mission is not only to the Jews, but to all the troubled people of the world. At first, he dismisses this woman kneeling at his feet because of what she is to him: a gentile taking him away from the people he thought were the only focus of his work. But then she persisted. And asked again for a healing.
Tired, frustrated and grumpy, Jesus laid an unkind remark on her, making clear she has no standing among the Hebrew children of God. He tells her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs."
Wow! Did Jesus Just Call This Woman a Dog?
But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."
Suddenly Jesus sees that the depth of this humble gentile’s faith in him is greater than many of the people to whom he thinks he has been sent to minister. And now he understands. The need for healing is not just to one people in one corner of Judea. The need for healing is for the entire world. He grants the healing and the woman returns to her home to find her child healthy.
When We Feel Overwhelmed and Anxious
The interesting thing about this story is how uncomfortable it makes us to see Jesus, not as the perfect Savior, but as a very human, very tired, very annoyed person. Perhaps some people think that “grumpy” is funny, but when God gets grumpy, we get nervous.
On the other hand, I find this passage really comforting – in the sense that Jesus, having taken on the pluses and minuses of being human, truly understands what we feel when we are overwhelmed, overburdened, and anxious.
At a time when our mental reservoirs are depleted by pandemics, by destruction and cruelty in Afghanistan, by too many shootings and not enough common sense among the nation’s politicians, it’s comforting to know God understands “grumpy.” It may not solve things, but it’s nice to know Jesus is our companion in the journey. So, grumpy or not -- please come on Sunday to partake of communion and the beautiful music Jim Moriarty has planned for us.