Matthew 15:26

Matthew 15:26 - He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

Matthew 15:26 | NIV | Other Versions | Context

Brief

Amongst all the miracles that Jesus performed that were recorded in the four gospels, there is one that is particularly curious to me. Not so much about the result of the miracle or what the miracle was about, but more on the conversation and events that led up to Jesus performing the miracle. In Matthew 15, Jesus was approached by a Canaanite woman who asked him to heal her daughter from demon-possession. Demon-possession wasn’t an extraordinary thing for Jesus to deal with, but there was an obstacle – the woman wasn’t a Jew. In this study, we will pay special attention to the conversation between Jesus and the Canaanite woman, especially the words uttered by the woman, and in our analysis we will attempt to draw out points from her which we can and should learn.

Context (Matthew 15:21-28)

 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

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 the dogs.”

Analysis

Does Jesus sound harsh to you here? To me, he did. He was calm and composed even when the people around were distressed because of the persistence of the pleading Canaanite woman. He did not say a word, and his disciples had taken it upon themselves to ask him to respond to her. His response was cold – I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. The woman, a Canaanite, wasn’t part of that. Yet the persistence of the Canaanite woman was far greater. Coming before Jesus, she knelt down and asked for help.

It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs, said Christ. He didn’t say no. He didn’t say I won’t help you. Yet, in this statement alone he was implicitly saying that she is not fit to receive his blessings and aid. In this statement alone, he also insinuated that she, and her entire race of people, the Canaanites were dogs. In this statement alone, he seemed to have removed her last strand of her of healing for her demon-possessed daughter.

Yet for all the perceived harshness in the answer she was given, she rose up to it with her strong and humble faith. In the four gospels that detailed the ministry of Jesus, there were many instances of Jesus scolding people for their lack of faith [Matt 8:26, Matt 14:31, Matt 16:8, Matt 6:30, Mark 9:19]. There were also quite a number of instances where he affirmed people of their faith [Mark 10:52, Luke 7:50, Luke 17:19]. But in only two instances did he praise people for their great faith, and these were both Gentiles. First was the centurion, who had the faith that his servant would be healed even from afar as long as Jesus said the word. It was recorded that When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith [Matthew 8:10, Luke 7:9]. The second was this Canaanite woman. It is interesting to note how they were both not Jews, but perhaps it is because of them not being Jews that their faith was regarded as even more impressive. After all, it was a time before the crucifixion of Christ, before the early Church days, when the apostles begin fighting for the Gentiles’ right to believe in Christ.

Similarities abound between the two Gentile cases. Yes, they were both Gentiles. Yes, Jesus commended them for their ‘great’ faith. But even more so, there were obstacles that threatened their faith, and yet through humility, they stood firm in their faith. For the Canaanite woman, she was snubbed – for the lack of a better word – by Jesus. Yet what did she say?

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

What did she mean by saying this? She implied a lot of things. First she accepted the analogy used by Jesus, which insinuated that she was a dog. By accepting that analogy, she also acknowledged that the Jews were the children of God – she was an outsider. By acknowledging that, she portrayed immense humility. Yet, she corrected Christ – yes it is right, not wrong. Even dogs get to eat crumbs that fall off their master’s table. It’s not leftovers – not blessings intentionally left for them, but crumbs. Essentially, she means that the abundance of blessings for the Jews would overflow and bless the Gentiles as well.  This takes an understanding of the work of Christ. But above all, this takes faith.

Conclusion

Many people question why Jesus did that to the poor woman. Why make things so difficult for her? In most cases, Jesus would immediately attend to the needs of the people, even to the extent of travelling around just to get to them. Furthermore, Jesus never showed a discrimination against Gentiles before. What was his purpose?

We weren’t told why. But if Jesus didn’t say that, we probably would never know the extent of this woman’s faith. Faith that transcended the social stigma of her time; faith that was rooted in humility and understanding of the work of Christ. Faith that conquered any obstacle in her path. Faith that eventually led to a miracle.

What would you have done, if you were in the shoes of this Canaanite woman, and Jesus told you it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs? Would your faith pass this test?

God bless,
Z.

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One thought on “Matthew 15:26

  1. Pingback: Matthew 15:26 | A disciple's study

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