Shortly after feeding the 5000 and walking on water, we see this odd scene. Odd because it just comes off as, well, un-Christlike. Odd because in it the sinless son of God, Savior of the world, sounds rude, short and abrupt with one of His people crying out for help. Harsh even.
Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.” First – we see here a Gentile woman is asking for help. Gentile meaning foreigner, outsider. Other translations are more specific and call her a Canaanite. Either way, she is not one of God’s Chosen People. She is one of Those People. Not one of us, but one of them.
Second – she is, well, a woman. Strike two. Outside of the bedroom and the kitchen, this culture had little to no respect for women. As a foreign woman, she has no right to expect anything from Jesus. She is not a Jew. She is not a disciple. She has nothing to offer in exchange for what she’s asking. And she’s asking for a lot.
But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. No response from Jesus. Is he testing her, to see how serious she is in her request. Kind of like when we pray, our prayers are almost never answered the first time. We have to keep coming back to Jesus, keep bringing our requests to God. Or maybe when you were a kid, your parents didn’t always buy the GI Joe with the Kung foo grip the first time you asked. You had to keep asking. Most of the time the request was simply forgotten by you and your parents, but some things you just WANT, so you keep coming back asking over and over, right?
I don’t think this is what’s going on here. I think Jesus was just caught off guard at first. Maybe he’s admiring this woman’s boldness. She is who she is, a foreign woman. Yet she makes this audacious request of Jesus, with nothing to back it up. She’s not offering anything in return. She’s not trying to justify herself or her request. She’s not trying to tell Jesus all the good things she’s done to deserve it. She hasn’t jumped through any hoops or hurdles, nor does she intend to. She is wholly undeserving of what she’s asking, and fully aware of it. Not only that – she’s fully aware of who JESUS is. Yet she asks anyway – Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! “God, help me!”
Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” His disciples still don’t get it. Really, they walk the world with Jesus for 3 years, but never seem to understand until He’s crucified, buried, then resurrected. They see miracle after miracle, receive instruction from Jesus daily (their daily bread), but still can’t get past their us and them way of seeing the world.
But what’s with Jesus here? I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel. We know this isn’t true, and that’s not just hindsight. Remember the woman at the well? She was a Samaritan, a foreigner. And the Roman centurion. Jesus had already helped the Gentiles, why say this now?
But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” She comes again, “Lord, help me!” Not only that, it says she worshipped Him! She may not have a heritage, she may not have works, but she knows who she’s talking to!! And she knows why she is talking to Him. Her daughter is weak, and Jesus is strong.
But what about Jesus’ response? Is He being cold and rude? He had already fed the 5000 when he was dead tired and trying to get away. He wept over Jerusalem. He came to search for lost souls just like this woman, so I don’t think that’s it either. Some say He was testing her, to be sure she was serious and her faith was real. But why test her by calling her a dog? That’s not it either.
Well, then what is it? Jesus is having fun with this woman. He’s jerking her chain. We take things so seriously, we forget God has a sense of humor. Look at the giraffe. Look at the platypus, seriously! Think about Jesus talking to the self righteous sinner, telling him to take the log out of his own eye before worrying about the sawdust in his friends eye. Was Jesus being serious there? He was making a serious point, but with a sense of humor. The same sense of humor He had when He sent Jonah on the most successful missions trip in history, despite Jonah running the opposite direction and having to be brought back by the whale.
Yes, Jesus is enjoying talking to this Canaanite woman. I picture Him grinning at her as He says these things to her. We’re not in on the joke, because we take things way too seriously some times. He is enjoying talking to someone who is not trying to prove anything to Him, but is simply willing to take what He came to give. We don’t get the joke, but this woman does.
She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” She gets it, and plays right along with the son of God. She’ll be just fine with the leftovers, thank you very much!
“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.” She did something the disciples never did – get Jesus to admire her for her faith!! Jesus knew all along that 1). He could heal her daughter, and 2). That he would heal her daughter. This story does not show a cold, distant savior. It shows us the God who loves and delights in those who seek Him in faith. The savior who delights in the seeker who knows they want way too much, who knows they don’t deserve it, but also knows that is why Jesus came!! He came to give us His gifts freely. We don’t have to deserve it. We CAN’T deserve it!!
It shows us the savior who smiles.
Aren’t you glad He does? I am. Maybe His children should follow His example, and smile a little bit more 😄😄.
“Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.” But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.”
Matthew 15:21-28 NLT