But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast [it] to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table (Matthew 15:26, 27).
Dogs. That's it? The woman was pleading for help with a demon-possessed daughter. And Jesus first speaks not a word to her. Then He tells His disciples He is called to the House of Israel -- and not to DOGS.
I'm partial to dogs. I have two Daschunds. They are sitting with me as I write this. Sweet dogs. But the connotation of the word used by Jesus was anything but an endearing term.
The Jews, while they boasted of being the children of God, gave the name of "dogs" to the heathen, for their idolatry, etc. It was, for lack of a better term, a racial (and spiritual) epithet. An insult. A putdown.
Of course there are obvious eschatological implications in Jesus' words. He had indeed come to offer the Kingdom to Israel. His concern was with the Jews. But, was it necessary for Him to be so derogatory when He finally answered this poor woman?
First, the Jews had no real REASON to boast against this woman or any other Gentile -- they were as guilty of sin before God as were any of the Gentile peoples. Paul details that at length in Romans 1:18-3:23.
Second, If anyone IS justified in calling this woman -- or any other human throughout history! -- as a "dog," it is the Lord Himself. He is the perfect, incarnate Son of God! This woman -- and I, and YOU -- are worse than dogs, lost in our sins, deserving of nothing. Some point out at this point that the Greek term He used meant "lap dog" or "little dog," as opposed to a scavenger dog or attack dog -- but under the circumstances, did that make the term any easier to hear?
Third, and most importantly, real faith -- as seen in this woman's response to the Lord's apparent insult -- is often NOT seen until it is challenged, until it is tried. How would this woman react -- rejection, faithlessness, pride....Acceptance, faith, humilty?
"It's true Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master's table." There are only two ways to "amaze" Jesus. The first is unbelief, the second is "great faith." And Jesus was amazed at this woman's great faith. And that faith was rewarded -- her daughter was delivered from demonic possession.
Do we have that kind of faith? Do I? I sometimes doubt it. To apparently be ignored, then seemingly insulted...Could I stick it out and persist in faith as she did? We never hear from this Syrophoenician woman again. She does not grace the pages of scripture beyond this one episode. What an example she leaves us. What great faith we should seek to emulate.