One wonders exactly what Jesus was thinking throughout this conversation with this woman, and in what kind of tone did he speak to her.
Jesus, after his confrontation with the Jews, actually left the confines of Israel and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon which was north of Israel along the coast.
And while he tried to keep his presence there secret, people in the area heard about it, including this Greek woman born in that area. Her daughter was demon-possessed, and she no doubt had heard about Jesus, and so she came to him, begging for help, saying,
Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession. (Matthew 15:22)
For all the compassion that Jesus generally showed people, he did not do so here, at least at first. Though he heard her cry, he ignored her.
Undiscouraged (and probably desperate), she continued to plead for his attention until his disciples finally said in short, “If you’re not going to help her, at least send her away. She’s bothering us.” (Matthew 15:23)
At which point, Jesus gave her what seems a very curt answer,
I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. (Matthew 15:24)
How did he say this, however? Did he say it as curtly as it sounds? Or did he say it almost with a tinge of regret that said, “I wish I could help. But I’m only here for the Jews.”
However, he said it, it only caused her to keep crying out, “Lord, help me,” as she fell at his feet.
Again, Jesus rebuffs her, with what seems to be very harsh words,
It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their (little — YLT) dogs.
The word “dogs” were generally used in a pejorative sense in Israel, but Jesus softens it with the word, “little,” which was often used in a very affectionate way in their language. Even so, to be compared to a dog, even in an affectionate way is not the way most people want to be referred to.
But instead of being offended, she turned Jesus own words in her favor, saying,
Yes, Lord…but even the (little) dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. (27)
In other words, “I know that you came for the Jews. And I know that because of that they have priority. But can’t I at least have the crumbs they don’t want?”
At which point Jesus praises her like he praised few others.
Woman, you have great faith! (28)
There is only one other person that he praises for their faith, and it was another Gentile, a Roman centurion.
And because of her faith, he healed her daughter.
What can we get from this?
Sometimes, we pray and it seems like God is silent. Like he is ignoring us. But as this woman, we should be persistent in our prayer.
This is not to say that we have the right to order Jesus to do something, as some people would have you believe. But as with this woman, if we come with humility and keep believing that he can do what we ask, more often than not, he will reward that faith.
The key questions we need to ask ourselves are:
1. Do we trust that he is good and that he truly cares for us?
2. Do we trust his answers to be good, whether he says yes or no?
3. Will we persist in prayer until he does answer?
How about you? Are you persistent in prayer? Do you truly trust in him? And are you humble enough to accept whatever answer he gives?