Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”
But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. — Matthew 15:21-28.
A woman of Canaan. In Mark 7:26 she is “a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth,” who in the modern world would be a woman from southern Lebanon. She was obviously non-Jewish, hence “a Greek”. This account, like Matthew 8:5-13, showed Jesus’ care for Gentiles. The healings summarized in the next section — Matt. 15:29-31 — took place in a predominantly Gentile area (cf. Mark 7:31).
She has a prayer request for Jesus. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.” Master, Savior – “my daughter is severely demon-possessed.” She cried out. Obviously this was done loudly and repeatedly. The mercy and compassion of Jesus towards the poor, sick, and possessed had been told far and wide. Even a non-Jewish woman felt He would act on her behalf. She knew something about the Jewish faith and hope.
The disciples urge Jesus to dismiss her. This reveals their lack of compassion compared to Jesus’. Why does not He answer her? He explains to the disciples that He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
We would do well to remember that Jesus had helped other Gentiles, but within the geographical confines of the Jewish Nation. If Jesus had begun a healing ministry in a Gentile land, He would have been rejected by the Jews in general because of their prejudices. The phrase “lost sheep of the house of Israel” shows the spiritual condition of the Jewish people.
The woman is not deterred by Jesus’ silence but draws closer and worships Him. Her attitude cries out, “I have nowhere and no one else to turn to.” “Help me, Lord,” she implores, looking up at Him from her submissive position.
At last Jesus addresses her directly. “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” The harshness of the term “dogs” is diminished by the fact that it is diminutive in form, “puppies” (JB, “house-dogs”). The Jews called the Gentiles “dogs.”
According to the context and language involved, Jesus wasn’t referring to the woman as a “dog,” either directly or indirectly. He wasn’t using an epithet or racial slur. He was using a metaphor to make a point about the priorities He’d been given by God. The “lost sheep of the house of Israel” came first. It would not be right for him to deviate from this task of serving the children to minister to the pets (dogs)! He was also testing the faith of the woman and teaching an important lesson to His disciples. However, based on her faith and persistence, he does help her eventually.
She would not be dissuaded! “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
Her answer causes Jesus to recognize and publicly affirm that her faith is great (cf. Matt. 15:28)! And so, in accordance with her faith, He says, “Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter is healed instantly.
“O woman, great is your faith!” Jesus complimented Gentiles several times (cf. Matt. 8:10). This was to: (1) show His love for Gentiles, or (2) expand the disciples’ global worldview.
Her daughter was healed immediately. This lady did not require ritual magic or Jesus’ physical presence. When He told her that her daughter was healed, she believed.
What lessons can we draw from this incident?
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.