As I kid I was very fortunate to have the best wiffle ball backyard in the neighborhood. We played with as few as two players but the best games were when we had bunch of kids. The challenge was choosing fair teams. We relied on an ancient ritual.
This particular ritual provided a somewhat fair way to at least begin the "Choosin' Up". From there, teams were chosen primarily based on skill level. When a small number of kids were playing, the winning team was often determined by who "won" the coveted first pick. Of course it was never a good thing to be chosen last but we'll get back to that later.
How does this apply to the Gospel you ask? Read on to find out.
At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon." But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus' disciples came and asked him, "Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us." He said in reply, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, "Lord, help me." He said in reply, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters." Then Jesus said to her in reply, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And the woman's daughter was healed from that hour. Matthew 15:21-28
"I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." This seems very exclusionary as Jesus reminds the disciples that His ministry is to those Israelites who have strayed from God. Jesus' words to the Canaanite woman seem even more harsh as He makes reference to non-Israelites as dogs. In this scenario the Canaanite woman doesn't seem to have a chance at even being the last one chosen. The message can't be more clear. You don't belong.
However, there is a different dynamic at work here. Something very significant happens. This story, in the middle of Matthew's Gospel, cracks the door to salvation for the Gentiles. Jesus came for all! Everyone belongs. While Jesus never physically left Israel, the salvation He brought through Israel was for all. With hindsight you and I understand that.
As His disciples we are responsible for inviting everyone to follow Jesus. In our world where people are separated by every imaginable boundary this can be challenging. Jesus sees no boundaries, no differences, no barriers. Are you living to break down those barriers? Or do you get caught up in the divisiveness that is so prevalent today? Jesus doesn't need an ancient ritual to choose sides. He died for all!