ESV - 26 And he answered, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.
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What did Jesus really mean when He said “I can’t take the food that belongs to My children and give it to dogs”? It sounds quite offensive. I notice that this incident happened outside Israel. Jesus takes a deliberate trip to foreigners and gets there only to offend them by calling them dogs? Why go there in the first place? Considering that Jesus is God and did nothing by coincidence it strikes me that there was more to it than meets the eye. To whom was this jibe directed to? The woman? She certainly doesn’t react like someone offended. At the end of the encounter with this foreign woman she is blessed and her prayer answered instantly. To me it begs the question: what was Jesus’ mission really on this trip? Especially considering that He returns back home soon after the encounter. We therefore need to look deeper at this story and find answers that will help us get the right meaning of this verse for which Jesus took such a wide detour for. We are all generally agreed that “dogs” in the verse refers to non-Jews or Gentiles whilst “children” refers to Jews exclusively. In the parable of poor Lazarus and the rich man who died, we see another reference to “dogs”. The meaning of this parable was clear to the listeners. It was attitude that was being addressed. It would appear that Jews in their fascination with exclusivity referred to their gentile neighbors as “dogs” not quite an endearing term to people that God required them to evangelize or “proselytize”. That is why in my view Judaism remained and exclusive religion. When Jesus deliberately decided to visit Tyre & Sidon, His plan was to break that barrier through a practical demonstration that there are people outside the Jewish race who were more faithful to God and believed wholeheartedly than even the disciples. Jesus came not looking for the genetics of a person but looking for that faith which is totally surrendered to Him. There was no better practical example than to find this lone foreign woman despised by the Jews including the disciples. If this woman didn’t have total surrender to the will of God and faith she would have been offended and been lost forever but Jesus recognizing her faith used her as a live example, a lesson never to be forgotten. Which is why Mathew, a Jew, wouldn’t leave out of his account of the Gospel. It made such an impression on him. In this verse Jesus was simply echoing the common sentiments and beliefs of the Jews to show them how ridiculous they were. The real story would come after the verbal exchange with the woman. She and her family were welcome into the beautiful Kingdom of God through their faith. Whilst Jews doubted that Jesus was the Messiah she was steadfast and utterly convinced that this was the Messiah and there was no other. She was going nowhere else for salvation, something that took even the closest disciples a very long time to understand and accept – some of them until Jesus resurrected and returned to heaven. With this one statement Jesus broke down very strong barriers. The disciples needed to breakdown these barriers and love fellow human beings regardless of age old prejudice.
I believe the foundation for Christ's response to this Greek (Gentile) lady can be found in Matthew chapter 10. In verses 1-4 the 12 disciples are called and identified. In V's. 5-6 Christ establishes the boundaries and limits as to where and where not they are to do their missionary work. "These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Let's go back to the context of the verse you referenced, beginning with Matthew 15:22 through V. 26. "And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs." I believe it is clear from scripture that our Lord Jesus Christ's earthly ministry was directed to Israel, the Jews. As God incarnate Christ never deviated from His mission: ".......My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." (John 4:34). "And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him." (John 8:29). ".....Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David....." (V.22). "Son of David" was a Jewish title/address. She, being a Gentile had no claim on the Messiah of Israel. However, when she later called Him "Lord" and worshipped Him as such, He graciously complied. ("All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." John 6:37) "But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs." (Matthew 15:26) In light of the above scripture, I believe in His reference to "the children", He is speaking of Israel, the Jews, children of the kingdom. In this context, "dogs" is a little dog, a puppy and elsewhere defined by Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words as: Dog: is used in two senses, (a) natural, Mat 7:6; Luk 16:21; 2Pe 2:22; (b) metaphorical, Phl 3:2; Rev 22:15, of those whose moral impurity will exclude them from the New Jerusalem. The Jews used the term of Gentiles, under the idea of ceremonial impurity. Among the Greeks it was an epithet of impudence. Lat., canis, and Eng., "hound" are etymologically akin to it. Praise God this has changed! When? Read Ephesians 2, especially V. 11-22.
It is a simple answer, scripturally backed. Jesus did not come but TO restore Israel. It was prophesied that they (Jews) would "stumble on the stumbling block", but you'll always read: First to the Jews, then to the Gentile. The verses preceding Mathew 15:26 explain Jesus' thoughts: But he answered and said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matthew 15:24 KJV Peter and Paul would soon bring the Gospel to the Gentiles, and Paul would take the Message further, becoming the "Apostle to the Gentiles (non-jews). See Romans 11. In CHRIST.
There are very few times in scripture where we read that God ''changed his mind''. I believe the account given in Matthew 15:21-28 is one of them. The priority of Jesus clearly was to preach the gospel to the Jews first (15:26), while the Gentile world was to be brought on board eventually or later through the preaching of the converted Jews. The Gentile woman to whom the words in Matthew 15:26 are addressed demonstrated such strong faith by acknowledging the power in the lordship of Christ to heal her daughter. She comes with her request in 15:22, totally convinced that Jesus could help her. First, Jesus ignores her; and even after his disciples try to intervene (15:23), he still refuses to assist her (15:24). Then the woman comes to beg him again (15:25), and strange enough, Jesus drops the bombshell on her in 15:26! The woman's heart was broken, she did know how else to convince Jesus to help her, so out of despair she tells him in 15 verse 27, ''True Lord, yet even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the Masters table''. Now, this was if you like, 'the last straw that broke the camel’s back''. Prophet Isaiah in Isa. 42:3, while prophesying about the coming servant of the Lord (Jesus) said,''A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick, he will not snuff out'' - Jesus did not want to further "break' this woman or 'snuff out' her faith. He thus changed his 'priority' at that moment just for her! He ministered to her need right there not later! This was her moment because soon after, Jesus leaves and goes back home to continue with his mission. Lastly, while Jews remained Christ’s priority in his earthly ministry, he clearly demonstrates in this account that the Gentile world was not far from his heart - the reason he deliberately visited this gentile woman's home town. Jesus knew he would find 'true faith' in this town that will allow him to demonstrate his love for the gentiles and what truly touches the heart of God, albeit not yet their time.
Jesus spoke to shame the prejudice of those disciples and fellow Jews with him. Jesus was close to his mother, and would have understood the fervent request of a mother seeking her daughter’s healing. I am sure the woman understood Jesus' answer and intent better than any present. I think I can envisage the scene. Her confident - even sassy - answer confirms the understanding. The Lord’s intervention on her behalf is wonderful. Recorded for our benefit.
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