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Jesus made this statement in response to a Syrophoenecian woman who (although she was a Gentile, rather than a Jew) had come to Jesus seeking His help in healing her daughter, who was possessed by a demon. Jesus' apostles had originally tried to keep the woman away from Jesus, and when the apostles told Jesus about her and asked Him to send her away, Jesus Himself had said in regard to her that He had been sent only to help the lost sheep of Israel (that is, the Jewish people). Even after the woman persisted in coming personally to Jesus to ask His help, Jesus had told her to her face (in a seemingly stunning rebuke) that it was not right to take the children's bread and give it to the dogs -- by which He was saying that it was not right for Him to use His miraculous powers on behalf of someone who was not a Jew, and in which He was additionally comparing her status as a Gentile to that of a dog. However, rather than being discouraged or insulted by this remark, the woman humbly agreed with the characterization, but answered Jesus by saying that even the dogs (as in the case of household pets) ate the crumbs that fell from their master's table -- indicating her continuing faith (despite Jesus' comment, as well as her status as a Gentile) that He would still help her. Jesus then responded to her by telling her that she had great faith, and that He therefore would grant her daughter the healing that the woman was seeking.
When Jesus met this woman she said, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Matt 15:22) and Jesus thought she might be a child of Abraham (a believer) even though she lived in the region of Tyre and Sidon. So Jesus tested her with this statement: "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs." (Matt 15:26) The woman replied: "Yes it is, Lord. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." This proved to Jesus that she was a believer, a child of Abraham, so he said: "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." I believe there is a general misunderstanding about Jesus statement in Matt 15:24: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." 1. Jesus made this statement in response to his disciples after they said "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." 2. This statement was not a rebuke of or to the woman. 3. Jesus allows her to keep crying out and then responds to her. 4. Jesus is declaring in this statement that his mission is to the lost sheep of the "Israel of God". He is not referring to the nation of Israel, he is not referring to the Jewish people. Jesus is saying that his mission is to people of faith, the children of Abraham. 5. Later the apostle Paul affirms that not every Jew is a child of Abraham (Rom 9:7-8; Gal 3:7). 6. Jesus' entire ministry of healing and deliverance was to people of faith. When Jesus went to his home town of Nazareth, he performed very few miracles there, because of their lack of faith. They knew Jesus as a human being but could not accept him as the Son of God (the Messiah). 7. Jesus did perform other miracles for people outside the Jewish nation. The Roman centurion's servant was dying and Jesus responded to the centurion's astounding faith by healing his servant (Matt 8:5-13). 8. Jesus is confirming to his disciples in this statement that his mission is to the lost sheep who have faith in God and they could come from any nation under heaven. The children's bread is the good news of the kingdom of God. That Jesus has come, not to be the saviour of the Jewish nation, but the saviour of the whole world, everyone who would believe in him (John 3:16). "The dogs" is a metaphor for people who don't treasure what God has to offer them, but chase after the food offered by the world. The woman counters that a smart dog will wait by the master's table to catch the crumbs. She was showing that she was hungry to receive the mercy of God, that was available from Jesus, her Lord, to heal her child.
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