Everywhere that Jesus went, crowds formed all around him and swarmed in on him from every angle in order to hear what he had to say. News about Jesus kept spreading throughout the land and it started to worry the religious leaders. Many times Jesus openly spoke out against their traditions and man made additional rules. He was winning the hearts of the people, and for the religious leaders of those people, this was not good news.
One day Jesus wanted to escape from the crowds for a bit, as well as their anxious and angry leaders, so he took his disciples and left Capernaum and went to the area of Phoenicia. This area was in Gentile territory (non-Jews). In fact, Jews never associated with Gentiles, so this seemed a safe place as nobody would expect them to be there. It would be a good place to take a quick break and focus on some important teaching for his disciples. To remain secluded and hidden they entered a house. But guess what? They couldn’t keep their presence quiet for too long. Before they knew it someone was outside knocking on the door.
It was a woman, she was distraught, and she pleaded with Jesus, “Oh Lord, my daughter has an evil spirit. Could you please cast the demon out of her?”
I’m sure Jesus took a good look at this woman. She was a Gentile. The message Jesus was preaching was to the Jew first, but at the same time Jesus knew the Jews would reject the message. Besides that, he knew that in actuality his message was for all people, regardless of their race or social standing. Jesus looked at her and gave a very calm and gentle test to demonstrate where her faith lied.
“Let the children eat what they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs,” he said.
In most cases the word “dog” was used as a very mean and disrespectful term for a Gentile, but Jesus, in his compassion, uses the word differently. His reference was to young puppies that would have been kept at home as endeared pets. The woman got what Jesus was saying. She didn’t want to distract him from what might be more important things like teaching his disciples. She understood herself, according to custom, as not worthy of his time and attention like the Jews – after all she was a Gentile.
However, she continues, “Yes, Lord, but even so, the dogs under the table get to eat the children’s crumbs.”
It was normal back then for people to eat with their hands, they didn’t use silverware. When their hands would become dirty they simply wiped them off on a chunk of bread rather than a napkin. Once the meal was over the left over bread that was used for cleaning off their hands was given to the house dogs to eat. This is what the woman was referring to. She was just asking for a small portion, or even a leftover scrap if you will, of his grace. She wasn’t asking for a place at the table as an honored guest, no, she was humble.
The result of her humble and faith saturated response was Jesus answering her plea. He could have, and rightly so, turned her away but that’s not what he did. He made himself available to her, available to meet her pressing need. “For a reply like this,” Jesus said, “you may go. The demon has left your daughter.”
The woman returned home and found her daughter resting peacefully and the demon forever expelled.
Now, this woman was outside of their circle in more ways than one. Do you have a particular circle, group, type, or even clique you like to remain in? Do you dislike reaching out of your comfort zone? If someone who is outside of your group knocks on your “door” for help would you answer them or try and ignore them? We see here, our example for life, Jesus Christ, not only answering the door but also meeting the need. Let us follow the example of our Lord and Savior.