The story of the woman is hard to understand. Jesus seems mean...
When an ambulance driver gets a call, the job is to respond. They do not stop until they arrive at the location and tend the patient. Along the way they may pass any number of problems, but their mission is the call. The same is true for fireman, policemen and soldiers. In fact, anyone with a job or boss learns quickly that if you are asked to do "something" you better not chose to do "something else."
Missions are clear and precise. They have parameters: goals, objectives, and timelines.
Jesus is the Messiah of Israel. He is the Jewish King sent by God. Ez 34 spells this out. I myself will graze my flock, and I myself will let them lie down--declares the Lord God. I will look for the lost and i will bring back the strayed; I will bandage the injured, and I will sustain the weak... I will appoint a single shepherd over them to tend them--My servant David--shall shepherd them.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise. He is David, He is the shepherd, He is the King. His mission is to the Lost Sheep of Israel, which was probably a couple million people. So it is tempting to say, "What's one more?" However, she was not one more, she was the doorway to millions more Gentiles. Millions looking for healing and free bread. Millions and millions taking every moment of His short time. Gentiles are going to share in the Kingdom, but only after the renewal of Israel! She came too early...
Listen to the reading. Jesus was hiding in Gentile territory. He did not want anyone to know He was there. Miracles tend to draw crowds.
I think it is important that to understand that Christians have a mission. It is more than random acts of kindness which are rarely as nice as we think nor as frequent. A mission has clear goes. What is the church's mission?
Crushing demons and healing the sick is definitely part of it. Unlike Jesus we do not have a limited scope for our work. Our mission is a corporate mission: the whole church shares in it. We are called to announce God's Kingdom in word and deed. St. Andrew's mission statement is very much a summary of what we are to do: Worship, love one another in community, pray, study, do in reach and outreach. As a team we do these things together.
What about your mission? It needs to fit into the church mission, but it needs to flow from your gifts and call. The Lord will tell you, if you ask. Obviously someone who finds kids irritating would be a lousy youth minister, but there are numerous age groups to work with. There are jobs that take talkers and jobs that need the quiet ones. All the work can be mission work. But mission needs to be the focus.
The story today ends well for the woman. The 'unclean' spirit is exorcised. The conversation, between representatives of two cultures at hostile odds, reflects the living situation of the time. She did not come to Jesus as a friendly, she was an outsider looking for a handout. Perhaps her tenacity won the day, or maybe His compassion. What we know is He was pleased with her answer. Did He laugh at her response?
The unclean demon, however, must be seen in context. Just prior Jesus was talking about what makes a person unclean. He said it is not from food but from the human heart. Gentiles were unclean because they did not follow the Jewish Law, including the dietary law. The connection of the stories here is a preview of the day when the division between Jew and Greek is abolished in the cross, death and resurrection of Jesus. This is a foretaste of coming attractions!
I think in our day, the church mission to exorcise and heal may be overlooked. The mission to the lost may be forgotten. We can be satisfied with talking about a world gone to hell and bemoaning the good old days when everyone went to church. However, the mission of the church is not to bemoan. Our world is far less hostile than Jesus' was. No one is executed for the faith around here. But if the world is going to Hell right now the transportation team is Satan and the demonic horde. We are empowered and sent on mission to stop those trucks full of lost humans and kick demons out. CONFRONTATION and spiritual warfare is part of the deal.
I recently told someone that I am amazed at how much more healing is going on lately and how more and more folks are praying in faith! I asked why now when we have taught and preached this a decade and a half. She reminded me that we only recently got serious about the demonic barriers active in the spiritual realm. She is right. We have done that and the fruits are obvious.
The blockage has been removed. That is the mission of Jesus, removing the blockage so God's Shepherd can get to the lost sheep. You and I are sheep. We are also shepherds, each in our own way. When you die you will stand before God and the first question will be, "Mission accomplished?"
Be prepared to give the right answer!