Matthew 15:21-28 says…
The Faith of a Canaanite Woman
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
We studied this verse in my church’s Spiritual Formation (Otherwise known as Adult Sunday School) this past Sunday. And, one thing stuck out to me:
Why is Jesus so mean?
My heart ached for this woman who came to our Savior to request healing for your daughter only to be met with him blatantly calling her a “dog.”
But, then I thought about it. And upon my first reading–as most first readings are–I didn’t get it. With a first reading we can gloss over what the author is really saying. And, one thing I know about Jesus is:
He teaches lessons.
So I applied that here and reread the passage.
And, over again.
And, I found some truths for me that I want to share with you here today.
#1 – Tyre and Sidon was a place that Jews did not go. The people of this area were classified as gentiles aka unclean. Anyone know how the Jewish people referred to them? I’ll give you a moment.
You guessed it! DOGS!
Here’s a little History Throwback for ya: Jezebel’s Dad? The King of Sidon.
So let’s just say the cross-racial dynamic here left much to be desired.
So why was Jesus here? I believe someone said it is because if Jesus was getting heat from the Pharisees, this is where you go because they wouldn’t go here. But, since Jesus is JESUS, would he need to run to a heathen town for protection? Marking that as a question to ask Him when I get there.
#2 – Jesus teaches lessons. Everything word from Jesus’ mouth that is documented in scripture was to teach his disciples. What a powerful lesson in how to treat someone! What a powerful example of how to change the way you view a person based on their culture and background.
Jesus said what he had heard his disciples saying.
He turned to this woman begging him for healing for her child, and his response?
“He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’” (vs. 26)
Were his disciples shocked? Were you shocked? I was!
This isn’t my God! This isn’t my Savior!
I believe that Jesus used this conversation to further educate his followers then — and now — (That’s US.) on the fact that not one soul is lost to God. Not one.
After Jesus repeatedly rebuffed her, calling her a “dog,” and saying “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel,” she continues to challenge his answers. She’s heard of this man. She knows what he is capable of.
This brings us into Truth #3.
#3 – Jesus likes persistence. The New Testament is chock full of persistent women.
The Parable of the Persistent Widow found in Luke 18: 1-8.
Could it be that Jesus seized the day on this one? Could it be that in this situation, he could literally see his Persistent Widow Parable come to life before his and and his disciples eyes? Do you think he went. “WOOHOOOOOO! Finally! Let’s do this!”?
In the Parable of the Persistent Widow, Luke 18 opens with “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. ” In our scripture today, our woman prayed and didn’t give up. Not to insults. Not to a flat out “No, I’m not here for you.”
And, we are to persist too.
Jesus loves us. Jew and Gentile, slave and free, man and woman, we are ALL loved in the eyes of God. (Galatians 3:28)
Pray today. Pray like the Canaanite Woman, who is unnamed but her story yet is still told to us today. Pray like the Persistent Widow how Jesus himself told us to. Pray like the Woman With the Issue of Blood, who knew that if she merely touched the tip of his garment she would be healed.
Pray today. Be persistent. And, allow Jesus to say “…you have great faith! Your request is granted.”