I am doing a Bible study called “The Tough Sayings of Jesus.” This Bible study, wrote by Michael Kelley, digs deep into some things that Jesus said that are hard to swallow. I’ve read these passages before but as I dig deeper into them and really focus on them, I can’t help but say to myself – “Wow! Did Jesus really just say that? That was pretty harsh! Did I read that right? What did Jesus mean by that?”
Today I read about a few statements that Jesus made to a Canaanite woman in Matthew 15. I was very surprised at the way Jesus responded to this woman. Take a look: Matthew 15:21-28
My first thought is – Why in the world did Jesus ignore this woman? But then I read the background of this woman and where she was from. “Tyre and Sidon (two non-Jewish cities)…were frequently referred to in the Old Testament as symbols of paganism and godlessness; in fact, they were specifically condemned by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. According to these Old Testament prophets Tyre and Sidon were poster children for the righteous judgment and anger of God.”
“To the Jewish people, the word Gentile became synonymous with pagan and heathen.” The Jews were to set themselves apart from those who didn’t acknowledge God (which were usually the Gentiles). That gives me a little better understanding of the situation. Not only was this woman a Gentile, but she was from a place that was wicked and did not acknowledge God. This is why the disciples urged Jesus to send the woman away. But I’m still left to wonder – Why did Jesus ignore her?
My next thoughts are – Did Jesus just basically say that he wasn’t going to do anything because he was sent only for Jews? Did Jesus just insult this woman and call her a dog simply because she was not a Jew!? And did she just accept the fact that she was a dog like Jesus had called her? Why did Jesus go ahead accept her plea and heal her daughter after ignoring her? What in the world is going on here!?
Then, little by little, it all begins to make sense. This woman did something. She called Jesus the “Son of David” which was a Jewish title. Not only that, but she was eager for Jesus to help her. She knelt before him and begged him to help her. She must have been familiar with who he was.
“She was in passionate and desperate need and was doing her best to approach Jesus with the utmost respect despite the upturned noses of the disciples. She actually seems like the ideal person for Jesus to help. She believed He could help, she approached Him in the proper way, and she was passionate about her situation… So surely Jesus would help her – right?”
But he didn’t. At first he ignored her just like the disciples. Then he told her that he was only sent for Israel. But the woman didn’t take no for an answer. She kept crying out for him to help her. I can just imagine this woman continually crying out until she got Jesus’ attention. Finally Jesus acknowledged her. He insulted her by calling her a dog because of who she was. That doesn’t sound that bad at first, but there’s something we have to keep in mind. “Dogs were not very commonly kept as pets in that day. They were scavengers. They were filthy, and they were dangerous.”
Even after the insult, the woman still doesn’t give up. She basically told Jesus that she knew what they thought of her and that she accepted that; and then she pretty much asked Jesus to have pity on a dog like her. Wait – what!? Did this woman just lower herself to the position of a dog?
Then Jesus healed her daughter. So I’m thinking – Is this all? Jesus lowered this woman to the likelihood of a dog before healing her daughter? There’s got to be something more to this!
There is. And I’ll let you know just what it is in my next post. For now, I want you to soak in what I’ve written so far. The reason I am doing this is because you need to really soak this part in (plus this post is long enough as it is). Study it. Pound it in your head. The next part will blow you away just like it did me!
** All quotes from the Bible and Michael Kelley.