A Child’s Bread… and the Dog

Matthew 15:21-28

After His encounter with the Pharisees from Jerusalem in the last section, and His instruction to the disciples, Jesus heads into Gentile territory to show the disciples His teaching in action. Remember that in this section, Jesus has set about to “disciple” the disciples, so they will better understand who He is and what the mission is. So far, they have come to see that He is the Son of God, but that, as big as it is, is only the beginning.

A Canaanite woman appeals to Jesus to help her demon possessed daughter; Jesus does not respond. The disciples ask Him to send her away: Jesus answers, but not their request, saying: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (15:24).  That isn’t the end of the matter:

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 the dogs.”

Matthew 15:25-26

I just want to be sure that you understand that Jesus just told the woman that she and her afflicted daughter are “dogs”… right? “Dogs” is the word used by the Jews to characterize Gentiles; they were “unclean” and shouldn’t receive the time of day from a “proper” Jew. Obviously the woman caught His drift:

“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” (15:27)

The “children” refer to the “lost sheep of Israel”, the “dogs” are Gentiles, like this woman and her daughter, and we know who the “master” is.

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (15:28)

It looks to me like Jesus just blew up another one of those traditions that the Pharisees were so concerned about.

Here’s the lesson for the disciples, and by extension, for us as well: God couldn’t care less about our traditions and customs and ceremonies and rituals; He cares about our faith. Jesus was sent to save Israel first of all; for they were God’s chosen. Yet, in the end, they placed a higher priority on their traditions than they did on their faith that God would keep His promises. When this conflict, between faith in God and traditions of men arose, Jesus’ reaction was not all that diplomatic, for this conflict, that is still with us today, is nothing less than toxic, and in the end, the one who received God’s grace was the one with faith, not tradition, breeding, position or human righteousness. Instead it was a poor Gentile woman who loved her afflicted daughter, and was willing to put her trust in Jesus.

But wait; that’s not all! We have another whole scene to go… see you next time!


About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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8 Responses to A Child’s Bread… and the Dog

  1. Wally Fry says:

    Our Jesus was sometimes quite direct in His dealings wasn’t he?

    Great lesson there Don. You know, a while back I had a contentious non believer use that very passage to illustrate what he said was the prejudice and bigotry of Christians, then proceeded to argue that Jesus Himself taught us to behave that way. As in…..”See! Jesus called people who weren’t Jewish like Him dogs!”

    The fact is, the above is not a lesson on exclusion, but inclusion…if we only have faith.

    Good start to my morning, thanks!

  2. Pingback: This Christmas could we each do something different | Just me being curious

  3. Don, I really like these seven little verses; and Wally is right, many use them to validate bigotry and exclusion when the lesson of Jesus was just the opposite. He was being a mirror for the disciples. He does this often for us, if we would only realize it. Glad you brought it to our attention in such a direct way.

  4. Brother Don; what an awesome statement on trust AND faith, “for without faith it is impossible to please God!” This woman’s trust in Jesus’ ability to accomplish something led to her ability to please our Heavenly Father. Child-like trust! Awesome indeed! Brother Don, I pray and hope that this season brings you and yours all the Joy and Peace and warmth from our Heavenly Father! God bless you richly!!

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