Jesus made the statement above to a Canaanite woman who came to ask for his help with her daughter who was demon possessed. Jesus was visiting another region when she came crying out to him. He ignored her pleas and his disciples begged him to send her away because she kept calling out to them for help. Jesus’s response would have further suggested that he had no intention of helping with her daughter. “He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”” (Matthew 15:24). Why did Jesus respond to the woman in the way that he did, when she came and knelt before him to ask for help?
I suppose we can assume that his aloofness was perhaps a test of her faith and resilience. First he ignored her when she cried out to him and later he told her that it was not right to take the children’s bread and give it to dogs. Jesus’s mission was to the Jews first and this woman and her daughter were Gentiles whom the Jews sometimes referred to as dogs. Yet the woman’s response showed that her need for her daughter’s healing was more significant than her feelings being hurt. “She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table”” (Matthew 15:27).
The response to her persistent faith and her refusal to be offended was a favourable response from Jesus. “Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly” (Matthew 15:28). If the woman had taken offence to what Jesus said, she may have walked away and missed out on her daughter’s healing. Instead she chose to focus on her need over her emotions and the result was success.
There are times when we have to persist beyond our feelings. Some gains are worth the challenges and we have to trust our emotions to God. It is impossible to go through this life without someone saying or doing something that will hurt our feelings. We have a choice in deciding whether or not to become angry and to harbour offence and bitterness. We are human and we do have feelings, but the ability to control our emotions despite the actions of others is exercising grace. Let us pray for the fruits of the spirit to be abundant in our lives, so that we can exercise self control and refuse to be controlled by our emotions.
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offence” (Proverbs 19:11).