The one with the crumby dog

I finally declared this picture finished…

It’s the story of the Syro-Phonoecian (Canaanite) woman who asks Jesus to heal her daughter (Matthew 15):

22Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ 24He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ 26He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ 27She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ 28Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.

She is a woman. She is foreign. She has a disabled/sick child. And she shouts. She’s a reject in pretty much every way. And she’s awesome.

In the painting I tried to do something different from my previous attempts at this story (which had focused on the ‘meeting of minds’ that Jesus and the woman reach by both stroking the hypothetical dog, but I was challenged to have a go at the moment of confrontation itself, which is much harder. So this is the moment when the woman grasps Jesus’ arm and makes him listen. She’s small, but mighty.

Here are some things I’ve tried to do in the painting:

  • On the left, there’s a small gathering of Jesus’ disciples, but they’re a group of individuals. On the right everyone is presented relationally. The woman, by touching Jesus, draws him into the relationality of her family. This, for me, is a mirror image of the usual pattern in which Jesus draws outcasts into relationality (often by touch).
  • The stones on the floor are a recurring theme in scripture. Here, they stand for stumbling blocks – the stumbling blocks that Jesus warned about (in Mark 9), the stumbling blocks that we must not put in the way of ‘any of these little ones’.  The woman demonstrates to Jesus that her daughter is indeed one of the little ones that come within Jesus’ sphere of protection and love.
  • The woman is dressed in blue because her confrontation with Jesus reminds me of the way that Mary, his mother, showed him that his time had indeed come, and that it was the right moment for him to perform his first miracle (John 2).
  • The older lady on the right is grandma, and she’s looking after her other grandchildren so that the woman is free to go and confront Jesus.
  • I’ve always assumed that there was an actual dog.  Dogs can enable people who wouldn’t otherwise engage with one another to reach a place of understanding and generosity.

30 thoughts on “The one with the crumby dog

  1. Dear Ally I like your painting very much and also your explanation which brings it to life. Thank you for sharing it. God bless David

  2. Wow! Ally – I have never considered this story to be hugely significant before (I know a crime in its self!) but I shall so look at it very differently from now on! Fabulous painting – speaks a thousand words!

    Thank you!
    (I always read and inwardly digest your pearls of wisdom but have rarely been so moved to say thank you! I will more often! You have such a gift!)

    God Bless

    Shelley Porter
    Discipleship Project Officer
    c/o Archdeacons House, 4 Park Drive, Bodmin, PL31 2QF
    Telephone 01208 892811
    The Truro Diocesan Board of Finance Ltd is a company limited by guarantee.
    Registered in England No 49825. The Board is a Charity (No 248330).


  3. May I use this image in a video for our church. Its a video of a young lady’s testimony in which she identifies with and makes reference to this story.

    1. Hi Leslie, I’m asked this a lot, and I should probably get myself organised and get some proper digital images of my paintings done, so that I can make prints…. But in this case, all I have is the image that’s on the blog, which you are very welcome to download and use however you like – I gave away the original painting, so I can’t go back to it and get a better quality digital image now, I’m afraid. Sorry about that! But please do feel free to download and print out any of the pictures that I’ve posted here – just credit them to (c) Ally Barrett and enjoy them.

  4. Hello Rev. Ally, I really like your painting, especially the title! May I copy it for a lesson I’m teaching on this passage of scripture? I will give you credit, of course. Bless you and your ministry. Marcia S

  5. OOOh just discovered this – love the painting and love your meditation on the story. May I use it for the bulletin cover Aug 23, 2020 AND direct folks to your blog? – Pastor Christa – St. Luke Lutheran in Albuquerque, NM

  6. This imagine brings the story to live for me! May I use it, with proper credit, in my sermon slides this week? The service will be recorded and broadcast on my church’s Facebook and YouTube channels as well. -Intern Pastor JoHanna in Dawson, MN

  7. I just found your blog and the wonderful picture (as well as the industrial version). Thank you for your generosity in sharing your words and your art. I will be using one of the images for our bulletin cover this Sunday. I appreciate that you allow people to use them freely. I have also forwarded your post to a parishioner who has written a chancel opera on this story. You are she are both very creative!

  8. The painting is so well done for the Gospel reading this Sunday. We would like to use it for an opening slide in our church’s online service on our website and facebook and give credit to you as you have indicated above.

  9. I just saw your painting for the first time today on our church website as I provided the reflection on this very reading for our Zoom House Church (due to pandemic). It is a challenging and wonderful story in so many ways. I love your image of it. Based on the previous comments, thank-you too for making available that it might inspire others!

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