A Man Bought A Dog
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 (NKJV)
How do you feel when you read Jesus’ response to the woman in this account? He is hard. Unfeeling. Racist. This story is a beautiful lesson to all of Jesus’ disciples – including us. Jesus enters the region of Tyre and Sidon. In Jesus’ day, this area was inhabited mostly by Gentiles – Canaanites Matthew called them. A proper Jewish rabbi would not visit such a place due to the possibility of being contaminated by the presence of Gentiles.
Why go to Tyre and Sidon? First, according to Joshua 13:6, Sidon was supposed to be the northernmost border of the tribe of Asher. It was never conquered by Israel but was still a part of Jewish territory. Second, Jesus is teaching His disciples something powerful by using their own prejudice as a tool. Jewish people did not like dogs. They considered them unclean. Greeks kept pets in their homes but Jews did not. The Jews and the Canaanites did not like one another. God had told the Jews before entering the Promised Land that they were to completely destroy the Canaanites. As a result of the Jews failure to obey, bad blood existed between the two. As a matter of fact, the Jews often called the Canaanites “dogs”.
Now, back to the story: the Canaanite woman had a daughter who was demon possessed. She cried after Jesus to heal her daughter. The disciples asked Jesus to do something about her. At first, Jesus ignores her pleas. When the disciples ask Him to get rid of her, He repeats His mission to them: “I am sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” His calling as Messiah was to the Jews first. God’s plan was to use both their obedience and disobedience as redemption so that regardless of how they chose redemption would be the result.
Finally, the woman falls before Jesus with the same plea as Peter as he sunk in the Sea of Galilee: “Lord, help me!” Jesus responded: “What kind of father would I be if I took the bread intended for my kids and gave it to the dogs?” Can’t you hear the mumbles of agreement among the Jews in the audience? While the language is tough, is not the logic valid? The woman? “You are right, Lord. That would be wrong. But, can’t I have what the kids won’t touch? Can I feast from the overflow? In Your house, is there enough compassion to share with the dog?” Sidon was part of the “house of God”. The Jews disobedience caused the “dogs” to live there. What are the rules of the house of God? Today, the disciples would learn. The Jewish leaders said rules are a priority. But, Jesus? He showed His disciples that redemption was priority. Redemption is the result.
Sidon was forfeit due to the Jews disobedience. But, Jesus was there to buy it back. The Canaanites was alive due to the Jews disobedience. Jesus was there to redeem them. This taught His disciples: redemption is the rule of the house of God.
- Matthew 15:21-28 (NKJV)
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