Check out this story about Jesus…
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
“Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
Or how about this rendition from Mark?
Mark 7:24- 30
Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
The above story is one of those that has bothered me for years. The idea of Jesus calling someone a dog seems hard for most modern readers to accept. Some believe that the offensive language was later added by the authors. Others point to this statement as illustrating Jesus’ humanity. Some think of it as a test to demonstrate true faith in the face of a challenge.
It is an odd story where the woman almost seems to be the hero who teaches Jesus something. She is the one on the moral high ground although He is the one with the power. Jesus could have been exhausted from everyone wanting something from Him.
This story definitely shows Jesus’ awareness of His mission and focus on it. He relents to help the woman only after she demonstrates great faith and determination. Some might have thought of the woman as a trouble maker. It is clear that the disciples just wanted her to go away. In Mark’s rendition, Jesus and His disciples were in a house trying to get a break from the crowds.
At first Jesus did not respond to the woman’s request. When He does speak, He makes a challenging comment. The woman does not dispute his comment. Instead she humbly maneuvers through it to convince Jesus to act. Modern readers must be aware of the fact that Jesus made these comments to a foreigner on her own home turf. Jesus didn’t seem worried about causing offense. Throughout His ministry He seemed to say many things that even His closest disciples found hard to accept.
Jesus was speaking to a foreigner. As a Jew, he had no responsibility to help her. She belonged to a group of people that were not liked by the Jews. All of these factors help fill in gaps in the story.
While I may never be able to reconcile Jesus’ words with my view of what a Messiah is supposed to be, I do believe that Jesus had a godly reason for what He did. More importantly I believe the woman shows us the impact of persistence and great faith.