A Difficult Expression, A Gentle Response

Matthew 15:26-28—But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

After Jesus gave the crowds some hard sayings, only the disciples remained (John 6:66-68). Jesus then journeyed outside the region He regularly taught in. He led the twelve to Tyre and Sidon. There were communities of Jews there, but we have no record of any teaching or interaction except this one story. A Canaanite woman came to Jesus to plead for her daughter’s healing. She must have heard stories of His work on the shores of Galilee. She pleaded for mercy, but Jesus told her He was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As she continued to plead, Jesus gave her a very hard saying. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” Let us put this into some perspective to see if we can read between the lines. Jesus already had gone to Samaria. They were not considered Jews by the Jewish standard, yet Jesus ministered to them. They declared Him to be the Savior of the world. Jesus was thrown out of His hometown for reminding them that prophets were often sent outside Israel to Gentile people. In the story following our text, Jesus went to the region of Greek cities and fed the 4000. (Mark 7:31f) Yet, He told the disciples to go only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Matthew 10:5). It seems that there was a turning point here in the ministry of Jesus. He knew it was coming, for He knew the prophecies (Isaiah 11:10; 42:6). It was God’s plan to offer salvation to the Jews first. The Apostle Paul follows the same pattern in His ministry (Acts 13:46-48). This Gentile woman’s response was filled with faith. Compare that to the Jews response to Jesus’ hard saying to them (John 6:52,66). Jesus often comes to us with a hard saying to test and strengthen our faith. Jesus’ saying actually drew her closer instead of driving her away.

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