Could you please explain a passage in Matthew 15, where Jesus said to the Canaanite woman, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” and she replied, “Lord, help me,” and Jesus answered, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” Her answer seems very strange. She said, “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” And Jesus commended her for her great faith. What was she saying?
The Canaanite woman, often called the Syro-Phoenician woman, showed great quality of character in the requests she made of Jesus, and He in turn recognized them and took the opportunity to teach a lesson.
The passage in question is Matthew 15:25-28. In it a Canaanite woman was pursuing Jesus, who was with his disciples. She was seeking His aid for her daughter, but the disciples felt badgered and implored Jesus to send her away. Jesus said to her “I was sent only to the lost children of Israel.” When she shows her sincerity by her persistence, He replies, as if by parable, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs,” as if denying her request. Again she shows her persistence, and her understanding of His statement, as she uses in her reply the same symbolic language He used to address her: “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
By this brief conversation, we see the woman’s humble attitude. She was content to be among the “dogs,” the demeaning term often used by Jews to describe Gentiles. In Jesus’ day, the Jews often assumed that they were God’s chosen people and therefore superior to others. This attitude generated much animosity among non-Jews.
But the Canaanite woman showed no animosity, only a confidence that there was something for her, despite her nationality; that she could have a share in what Jesus could give, without depriving those who seemed to be preferred. She would not impoverish others, yet she sought enrichment for herself. Her faith won the highest praise from the Master, and He replied, “O woman, great is your faith! Let is be to you as you desire.”
In every age God judges people by their quality of character. Actions, and actions only are weighed–not nationality, not birthright. If she was a Gentile in nationality, she was a true Israelite in disposition, and as such she was blessed. Her concern was not status or recognition but only that she could have some share in the provisions of the Master’s table.
She said in essence, I do not desire what is provided for the highly favored children, only what they leave. Perhaps she comprehended what Jesus had been teaching, that the Jewish people were not taking advantage of their opportunity as they should have been.