It is not good to take the bread of the children, and to cast it to the dogs (Matthew 15:26).
Now, suppose you were this Gentile woman to whom Jesus addressed these words. Suppose you had lived in the Canaanite lands of ancient Palestine in the days of Our Lord’s advent and had heard of the miracles and healings He was performing. Suppose that you came to Him, adored at His feet, called Him by His Messianic title “Son of David,” and asked for a cure for your child. And, now, suppose that Jesus answered your request with the harsh rejoinder cited above. What would you have done?
Perhaps you had been encouraged to be so bold because you had heard that this Jewish Wonder-Worker had cleansed a Samaritan from leprosy. And, after all, the Jews did not associate with the Samaritans. Yet, Jesus of Nazareth did. In fact, you had heard that He had converted a whole village of Samaria to faith in His Messiahship through the testimony of the woman at the well. So, you had confidence in hope that He would mercifully grant your request.
You were strong enough to be bold. You came to Him as He walked in your land, outside of Israel, in Tyre and Sidon. Why would He do that? Was it only to reach the Jews living in Phoenicia, the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”? Or, did He come also for your people, whom the Jews called “the Gentiles”? A term applied by the Jews to all non-Jews, usually denoting “the heathen,” but not necessarily idolaters. (Holy Job was a Gentile!)
You came. You asked for mercy. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David: my daughter is grieviously troubled by the devil.” A group of men, acting like bodyguards, tried shooing you away from their Master. “Send her away,” they said to Jesus. And Jesus even seemed to acknowledge this, saying to them, “I was not sent but to the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel.” To the woman, however, He “answered her not a word.”
Hearing this, would you have walked away? I think I would have. For I doubt that my faith and humility would have measured up with that of this determined Canaanite.
We have here a magnificent soul. She loved her daughter so much and had such great faith that nothing but an affirmative response would satisfy her. She was importunate. She kept knocking, knowing that the door would be opened if she persisted. “Lord, help me!” “Help me,” she says, affirming, as well, her faith in His divinity by calling Him “Lord.”
This dramatic scene, arranged by grace and divine providence, was to teach a lesson for the disciples and for all of us. The Savior was not done with this woman yet. He was calling her to a high degree of humility, such that she would be an example to all of the disciples, who had dismissed her as unworthy, even “unclean.” Such is the case with all men, Jews as well as Gentiles. All are sinners. All must be cleansed: “It is not good to take the bread of the children, and to cast it to the dogs.” To which rebuke she replies: “Yea, Lord; for the whelps also eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters.”
“Ah! Did you hear this, Peter, James, all of you?” And this from a Gentile. As with the centurion, (who was not called to such a trial as this woman was) Jesus marveled at her faith. To her, as well as He did with the humility of the centurion (Matthew 8:8), Jesus could say, “I have not found such great faith in Israel.” Note, too, the greatness of her humility in acknowledging the faithful children of Israel as “their masters.”
“O woman, great is thy faith: be it done to thee as thou wilt” (15:28).
The lesson here, too, is not to grow faint in our prayer. If it seems that God or His saints do not hear our prayers and leave us apparently empty, this is to test us, either by drawing us to more earnestness and patience in prayer, or by denying us a request that is not in conformity with His Holy Will. In all things, we are to be humble. We are all, as I highlighted in my previous column, “unprofitable servants,” called to do the things we ought to do. In grace.