Matthew 15:25-28 (NIV) The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
“Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
The woman heard Jesus’ reason for refusing to help her with her demon-possessed daughter: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” But her situation was so desperate that she couldn’t let it go. She cried out again for help.
Jesus’ answer sounds unbelievably harsh to our ears, accustomed as they are to listening predominantly to Jesus’ gentle words, and filtering out those we deem too strong based our prejudiced view that our kind and loving Jesus couldn’t possibly say anything so strong and harsh. But Matthew captured His exact words for us: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
Dogs were considered unclean animals, and the New Testament used the imagery of dogs on occasion to refer to those who were outside of the kingdom of God. (E.g., Matthew 7:6; 2 Peter 2:22.) But in those other instances, the Greek word used is the generic word for dog, “kyon” In this case, however, Jesus, who was speaking Greek to this Phoenician woman who wouldn’t speak much if any Aramaic, specifically chose a different word with a specific shade of meaning. That word was “kymarion,” which has more the flavor of a pet dog.
That slight shift in meaning, away from the word that often depicted wild dogs that roamed in packs and attacked sheep, to a more gentle word with shades of affection, gave the woman exactly the opening that she needed. “Yes, Lord, but even the (pet) dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
This woman knew that she had no claim on Jesus, neither tie of religion nor nationality. But she played her last card on the basis of that one word, and on something that she saw in Jesus, something in His eyes that convinced her that He really did care about weak and helpless things, as she surely was in the face of the demons besetting her daughter.
With a quiet chuckle, Jesus assured her that her faith and perseverance had won Him over. He daughter had already been set free. And, when the woman arrived at her house, she found it to be so.
Father, sometimes we give up far too easily. We make our requests once, and if they are not granted immediately, we shrug our spiritual shoulders, and go off to find an answer elsewhere. We can learn a lesson from this woman. She cared so deeply about what she brought to Jesus that she would not let go of Him until she received the blessing she so needed. She kept on asking, seeking, and knocking, looking for the key to Jesus’ heart, until her prayers were answered (cf. Matthew 7:7-11). Thank You for this lesson. Amen.