“Lord, help me!”
– Matthew 15:25
Jesus traveled outside Jewish territory to Tyre and Sidon. In His earthly ministry, this is the only time we really see Him go into a region such as this. While He is there, a Canaanite woman, a “Gentile”, approached and asked Him to heal her daughter.
She is a gentile and not considered part of the Jewish flock, and Jesus reminds her of that. At first, He did not answer her, but when she cries out for help again Jesus refers to her like a dog.
At first glance, this seems very harsh. Why would Jesus, the lover of souls, answer in this way? Is He not being loving towards her? Of course, He is! It would be contrary to His nature not to be loving. So, what does this mean then? Jesus was teaching, as He always did.
This Canaanite woman first tried to come to Jesus by calling Him “Son of David” which was a Messianic title. She was a non-Jew attempting to approach the Lord in a religious way that she never even practiced nor was part of. When she approached Him this way, He did not answer her. But, the second time would be different. The woman drops the religious act and simply comes to Jesus as a creature to her Maker. When she does that in humility, Jesus answers.
Jesus told her it was not right for Him to give to Gentile dogs what was rightfully the inheritance of Jewish children. The expression Jesus was using was not for a stray dog but rather for pet dog looking for scraps under the master’s table. The picture being given is one of a heart of unworthiness and humility. The kind of heart that can be forgiven.
The woman was crying out for help for herself and her child. It was as if she was telling Jesus, “I am unworthy of asking you anything and I will take the scraps and leftovers of your healing. Even though I am undeserving of your help, please do this for me anyway because You created me!” Her faith in Jesus was commended and Jesus answered her prayer immediately.
May we approach Jesus in humility, not religiously.