“Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice”
Crumbs from the Table
(Please read Matthew 15:21-28)
This text is one of those that make us wish the printed text would reveal the speakers’ tones of voice and the expression on their faces, since some of the words on the printed page at first seem somewhat at odds with the kind, caring nature of Jesus.
But perhaps the reason we assume too much about the Lord’s words is the unfeeling nature displayed by his disciples. First, although they knew about the suffering caused by demon possession, they wanted to shoo the poor mother away as she sought help for her daughter. And when Jesus responded that he was sent only to the house of Israel, they probably took that as agreement with their attitude toward the woman. Jesus, though, did not dismiss the woman.
Seeing her faith and perseverance, he seemed to test that faith a bit by his reference to taking the children’s bread and tossing it to the dogs. But the lady was undaunted and not insulted by his use of the word “dogs,” a common Jewish expression for Gentiles. Showing quick wit, she came back with the line about dogs getting the crumbs that fell from their masters’ table.
Don’t you suppose the Lord had that conversation with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye? He commended the woman for her faith, and in healing her daughter gave an indication of his love for all humankind, not just Israel. And the Canaanite woman provided an example of faith worthy of emulation by every Christian.