In Search of the Loving God

Excerpt from Chapter 11

. . . Other contradictions and seemingly unreasonable statements remain, though, which are not just a product of faulty translation. Sometimes these are there to spur us on to dig for a deeper meaning, but sometimes they are a result of our looking at Jesus with pre-conceived notions about his character. Jesus' example was clearly that there were no outsiders to him, and that all people, Jews and Gentiles alike have an equal place in God's kingdom. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 29-37) illustrates this, as does Jesus' great commission to his disciples: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…" (Matt 28:19) In the light of this, his conversation with the Canaanite woman seems most extraordinary:

A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out,
"Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering
terribly from demon possession."

Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and
urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us."

He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."
The woman came up and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she

He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and
toss it to their dogs."

"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that
fall from their masters' table."

Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your
request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very
hour.   (Matt 15:21-28)

What are we to make of Jesus' response in this incident? To call people dogs is a highly offensive insult in the East. Could Jesus really have insulted this poor woman who had asked for his help, knowing she would take it without a word, in return for the mere chance of him healing her daughter? It seems a cruel and demeaning thing for him to have done. The answer to this dilemma is, however, not in any shortcoming of Jesus' character, but in our own preconceived notions about his character. We never think of Jesus having a sense of humor, or of him being quite so human as to make a joke at his disciples' expense as a gentle way of correcting their poor behavior. Yet if we look at this passage with the possibility that Jesus is "taking the Mickey out of" his disciples for snubbing this poor woman so cruelly, and doing it in such a way as to show the woman he rejects the snub, and is siding with her, then we can see Jesus responding in the kindest possible way. Jesus can't seriously be saying, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel," as this directly contradicts his saying, "I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also." (John 10:16). Jesus is actually being facetious, saying, "So, I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel!" in order to point out to his disciples both their error and his disapproval of their snub. When the woman came and knelt at his feet, Jesus would have exchanged a look with her which said something like, "We know what they are thinking!" He then spelt out what their thoughts were: "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs!" With a quick wit, the woman replied in like humor, though very humbly and poignantly: "Yes Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." By this time, I think the disciples would have been thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Jesus, having made this woman feel good about her request, of course went on to heal her daughter. Read in this light, the story becomes one of the most touching illustrations of Jesus' kindness and understanding. Once this story is understood for what it is, it can of course be better translated: no Bible I have seen has it right. . .

From: In Search of the Loving God by Mark Mason - Copyright © 1997.

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