Jesus, the reluctant exorcist

Feb 28, 2021 by

by Peter Mullen, The Conservative Woman:

IN today’s Gospel, Matthew 15: 21-28, Jesus walks from Judea to Tyre and Sidon on the coast of Lebanon. That’s some stretch, and you wonder why he bothered. They say it was to get away from the crush of people who wanted him to heal their infirmities. One commentary I read, from the Intervarsity Press, said that Jesus wanted to have some vacation with his disciples. Some vacation? Biblical commentaries can be wacky, and one imagines Jesus and his disciples trolling off to the seaside with their buckets and spades.

Tyre and Sidon were heathen places so you might imagine that Jesus would get some respite there, because the heathen wouldn’t be interested in him, a Jew. Instead, what does he find? A woman of Canaan – a despised heathen – recognises him straight away, not just as the wandering Rabbi, Jesus of the Nazareth synagogue, but as Thou Son of David. This is an echo of the Gospel in which the blind man sees Jesus as the Son of David while his disciples do not. It’s all very puzzling. The Son of David is the Messiah, the Redeemer of Israel. Why should foreigners and heathen women be interested in the Jewish Redeemer? I don’t know any answer to this question, except it be that God revealed it directly to these strangers.

Anyhow, this heathen woman wants something. She wants an exorcism: My daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. Why ask Jesus? Why trouble him? Exorcists were ten a penny in those days. And in the early days of the Christian Church the theologian Tertullian said that any Christian – any Christian, mind, not just priests – who can’t perform an exorcism should be put to death. Nowadays we sensationalise and glamorise evil, making lurid movies about demonic possession. In the saner, early Christian days, they knew that evil is banal. They knew that evil is not glamorous but just a bit of dirt – the sort of stuff a competent housekeeper would soon be rid of. We ought not to be in thrall to evil but to see through its shabby, phoney pretensions and cast it out.

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