MAN WITH A MISSION
15:21-28 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 master’s table.”
“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.
On the Mediterranean coast a “Canaanite” woman persistently follows Jesus’ itinerant team and hounds them with her cries for help. Help for her daughter who is horribly tormented by a demon. Jesus ignores her.
Your natural reaction probably is, “What? That’s not the Jesus I know!” That is because the naked truth is that we do not know Him.
This is one of those very engaging crossroads of conflict that Jesus seems to enjoy bringing us to. Calls to mind the surprising introduction of words like “eating My flesh and drinking my Blood“(John 6:53,54,55,56). There was some pretty drastic fall-out from that. From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Pretty telling numbers on that verse too – John 6:66. (We’ll get to that when we explore John) The point is that many turned away in disgust. After all, these are Jews with very tangible sensitivities about eating things “unclean” or bloody.
One explanation for saying things that attack our sensitivities is that He is weeding out the lookie-loos. “I didn’t come to bring peace but a sword.” Dividing the sheep from the goat-heads (ask a Texan). But as a motivation here, I don’t think it stands up to the test of scripture, though you could say the same thing in a “positive” way – It was to refine and test the “called” or the ones who stick around.
My question is this – Does Jesus have ulterior motives or secret agendas? I guess in a manner of speaking you could say yes, just because we don’t have a clue what He’s doing most of the time. But does He need to have reasons for His words and actions that relate to our human reasoning or cleverness in order to get our validation and loyalty? Once we are sure the translation of His words is correct, we must take what Jesus says and does at face value. Did He really ignore this woman? Yes. Why? He Himself articulated the reason very clearly, “I was sent…” The disciples didn’t ask Him why He was ignoring her. They were irritated by her waling and begged Him to get rid of her! “Jesus, please tell her to go away. She’s bothering us!”
To their request, still not to her, Jesus says, “I am sent… to the lost sheep of Israel and to no one else.” His mission was very specific and He was driven by that and not by the temporal needs of people, like it or not. Though He would feel those needs like no one else could, He was going to “say what the Father said and do what He sees the Father do” even though it would kill Him. He was so focused and driven by the Father’s desire and instructions that He would literally die finishing it.
Jesus’ lack of response to this woman’s cry for help had nothing to do with a disregard for her need or prejudice toward her race or blood line. He was not calling her a “dog” when He said, “It is not right to throw a child’s bread to dogs.” A better way of interpreting His words is, “You wouldn’t give a puppy the food your child needs! There is a specific diet by which to raise the house of Israel (to redemption), as their is a specific and different one for raising the gentiles.”
She has a great come-back, “Absolutely, Master! But puppies get the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Meaning, “All that would be necessary to heal my daughter is a tiny morsel of Your great power to heal and save. You wouldn’t even notice it was gone.” Surprised and probably grinning with pleasure He said, “Wow woman, you have big faith. You’ve got it!” Her daughter was healed from that moment.