Sunday, December 11, 2022

Did Jesus Call Her a Dog?

By Clifton Angel


    Matthew and Mark recorded the details of an interesting encounter Jesus had with a Gentile woman (cf. Matthew 15:21–28; Mark 7:24–30). Mark tells us this Syrian woman from Phoenicia approached Jesus while He was attempting to have a private meeting with His disciples. She "fell at his feet" (Mark 7:25) and "besought him that he would cast forth the demon out of her daughter” (Mark 7:26).

    Matthew informs us that Jesus' initial response toward the woman was that of silence (Matthew 15:23). Silence is a tremendous test of our faith! We no longer need the audible voice of God to live upon the earth (cf. Hebrews 1:1–3); yet, that does not stop us from longing for it. We pray to Him, fervently seek Him, and grow in His Word, and still, we long to audibly hear Him. But, we trust Him. We believe Him. In reality, He is not being silent. He continues to broadcast His Word through His servants. He continues to advertise His power through His creation. He continues to speak to our hearts through His providence and His timely answers to the prayers that are according to His will (cf. 1 John 5:14; 1 Peter 3:12; Romans 8:26–27, 34). The Gentile woman did not stop seeking the help of Jesus, even in the midst of the silence. Neither should we.

    She continued, "saying, Lord, help me" (Matthew 15:25). We are then given Jesus' second response, which might be perceived as a simple illustration or as an insult. It is a simple illustration that we do not take food from our children (preventing their adequate nourishment) and give it to the dogs. The dogs must wait until the children have been adequately fed. However, there may be a hint of irony with the illustration. Jesus' primary mission was to the Jews. The same gospel would be delivered to the Gentiles at a later time.

    In the eyes of the Jews, they were God’s “children” and the Gentiles were “dogs.” Whether it was an illustration of waiting or an insult with irony, Jesus' second response was another test of the Gentile's woman's faith.

    More than a test of faith, it is a revelation of her faith to Jesus' disciples. She did not argue with Jesus. She seemingly did not become upset with Jesus. She did not turn away from Him in disappointment. Rather, she replied, "Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table" (Matthew 15:27). What a tremendous faith! She in essence said that she would be satisfied being a "dog" as long as she got to eat the crumbs from the table of Jesus. His third response was that of strength. "O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt" (Matthew 15:28).

    Jesus knew of this woman's great faith before she revealed it. But, His disciples didn't. And, we didn't. Now, we do. Will we learn from her example? Will we emulate her faith? Will we continue like spoiled children to come to Him with entitlement? Or will we humble ourselves like dogs, and come to him with loyalty for even the crumbs from His table?

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:

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