Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”

But He answered her not a word.

And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”

But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”

But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (Matthew 15:21-28)

A modern, native born Israeli is called a sabra. The sabra is the fruit of the prickly pear cactus. Israelis think of themselves as being like that fruit: prickly on the outside but sweet on the inside. One day, Jesus acted like a sabra with a Canaanite mother.

In the time of Joshua, the Canaanites of Palestine were set for extermination by God for their idolatry. Nvertheless, a few repented and joined with the Israelites. Some of those Canaanites living in Tyre and Sidon ended up the friends of David and Solomon. Hiram, the king of Tyre, actually helping Solomon in the building of God’s temple.

But we should notice something intriguing about the story of this Canaanite woman. Jesus went out of his way to go to where she lived. After he talked to her, he went right back to where he had come from. Jesus’ entire purpose in going to the region of Tyre and Sidon was to heal the Canaanite woman’s child.

Jesus responded to her, not out of cruelty, but out of love. Jesus parroted what the disciples believed, that the Messiah only belonged to them. He parroted the disciples’ belief, that gentiles were dogs. And the woman took those words and twisted them around, revealing their fallaciousness. Just as Jesus taught the crowds that their understanding of what they imagined the Bible taught was flawed, likewise Jesus instructed his disciples in the same way.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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