Saturday, January 25, 2014

Did Jesus Just Call Her a Dog?!?

It can be quite a surprise if you are reading along in the Bible and you see what appears to be a great insult.  In fact, you may not be ready for it when you see Jesus calling a woman a "little dog".  Ouch!  This isn't the Jesus we think about often...the one we think is cuddly at Christmas...the one we love because He first loved us.  And what's worse,  it appears that this title was because she was a gentile...so, I ask myself, am I a dog too?  However, there it is...right there in the text:

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. - Matthew 15:21-28

If we examine the text more closely, and we think about the unfolding revelation of God's plan of redemption, we'll remember that Jesus came to the Jews first..."the lost sheep of the house of Israel".  However, all throughout the Bible, from Genesis on, there has been an overarching understanding that God always had a plan for people from every nation (even His covenant w/ Abraham reveals this).  And by the book of Acts, it's clear that the gospel was predominately moving forward among the gentiles.  Even in Jesus' predominately Jewish encounters, gentiles are often mentioned (Matthew 4 as one example).  But here in Matthew 15, Jesus mentions his plan as unfolding in Israel first-and then a woman has persistent faith.  Jesus uses a term (but softens it in the Greek) that the Jews often used of Gentiles; dogs...then He blesses her based on her faith.  Jesus is pressing this woman to see if she will persist...and she does.  The point is not the insult, the point from Jesus' interaction is simply, "you know you are a gentile and are you willing, to come to me, to trust me, to keep pursuing me?" And she persists based on who she knows Jesus to be.  That is what our persistance should be like as well.  We come to Jesus because of His promise...because of Who we understand Him to be and we persist.   We trust Him when He promises good to any that come to Him.

"Yes" she said. "But even I can come to your table for crumbs..." was her belief.  Then we see that Jesus doesn't give her crumbs...he responds in answering her request. 

We don't get crumbs either...(Rev. 19) we get a seat at the table...