“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.’”
Jesus initially doesn’t respond to the Gentile woman, and his disciples ask Him to send her away. Jesus says to the disciples, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And after the woman prayed a short but powerful prayer to Jesus – “Lord, help me!”, He responds, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
Jesus’ response appears harsh. However, based on the commentaries that I read, Jesus is actually responding in a loving and merciful way, as He always does to anyone who throws themselves at His feet. The bread is the ministry of the gospel and the little children are the Jews, God’s chosen people. When Jesus first sent His disciples out, He told them to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, not the Gentiles or a city of Samaritans (Matthew 10:6). By God’s design, the Jews are first to receive the gospel. The dogs in Jesus’ statement are the Gentiles, as this is how the Jews perceive the Gentiles. But Jesus came to die for all. Therefore, after His death and resurrection, Jesus will send his disciples out to the Gentiles as well as the Jews, just as God planned before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-7). God worked His plan of salvation through His chosen people, the Jews, but eternal life is available for anyone who puts their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior.
So instead of getting offended at what Jesus said, the woman is humble and persistent in her faith by responding, “‘Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.’ 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.”
Jesus also, once again, shows compassion for the multitudes, about four thousand people, who have been with Him for three days with nothing to eat. Jesus says he wants to feed the crowd, and the disciples question Him saying, “Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?” Didn’t the disciples just see Jesus feed five thousand people with only five loaves and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21)? The disciples are still shaky in their faith. However, Jesus simply asks them how many loaves they have. Jesus knows the answer to this question, but He is asking for their benefit because He is patiently working to grow their faith in Him. So when they respond saying they have seven loaves and a few fish, Jesus does what Jesus always does — He makes possible what is seemingly impossible. He feeds the multitudes until they are filled, leaving seven baskets full of leftovers.
But the Pharisees are still trying to trap Jesus by asking Him to show them a sign. So Jesus rebukes them for not being discerning because they are blinded to Him as the Messiah. And Jesus warns His disciples of the false doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees believe in justification by works and elevate the man-made laws over God’s commands. The Sadducees believe there is no resurrection, angels, or spirit. However, Jesus has been clear that salvation is obtained by grace through faith in Jesus Christ who will soon in the story die for our sins and rise three days later, defeating death.
Tomorrow Jesus has an encounter with Elijah and Moses. Keep reading. (Mark 7:24-30, Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:31-37, Matthew 15:29-31, Mark 8:1-10, Matthew 15:32-16:4, Mark 8:11-21, Matthew 16:5-12)