One of the passages of the Bible which had troubled me a lot during early adult years, was the passage found in Matthew chapter 15 verse 26. We as Christians are fed with a lot of nice epithets like ‘loving’, ‘compassionate’, ‘non-judgmental’, ‘forgiving’ JESUS and suddenly the verse, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs” hits an Indian Christian. Was Jesus truly sent for the lost sheep of Israel and not for the salvation of “MANKIND” as suggested by the disciples after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus? I reproduce the passage for better appreciation of the episode:-
21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. 23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. 27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. 28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
Years of scrutiny has led me to the conclusion that THIS IS THE ONLY MIRACLE OF JESUS (WHILE IN FLESH) THAT TOOK PLACE IN WHICH, HIS WILL DID NOT COINCIDE WITH THE RELIEF SOUGHT AND OBTAINED. IF ONE ADVERTS TO THE MIRACLE, WHERE THE WOMAN WITH BLEEDING for 18 YEARS GOT CURED, JESUS KNEW OF THE PASSAGE OF POWER THROUGH HIM. HE WAS UNAWARE TILL THEN that the woman touched the hem of his garment with the faith and intention to get cured.THEREFORE, THAT EPISODE SHOULD BE INTERPRETED AS THE ONE IN WHICH JESUS WAS NEUTRAL, BUT IN THE EPISODE OF THE CANAANITE WOMAN, HE WAS NOT MERELY RELUCTANT, HE WAS DOWNRIGHT AGAINST “WILLING” IN FAVOUR OF THE WOMAN’S REQUEST.
The beauty of this passage is that Jesus relents, as He knew that it is/was/will be HIS FATHER’S WILL, to be compassionate to the afflicted and grant relief, when fervently asked for, even by the undeserving. Jesus says: O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.
Jesus does not tell the leper whom he cured “be it unto thee even as thou wilt”, instead Jesus said,”I will; be thou clean!”( Mark 1:41)”. The difference is apparent and clear, in the case of the leper, he had lost his “faith” and needed the help of Jesus to restore that by “willing” for him, whereas in this episode, the Canaanite woman had a “faith” that amazed even Jesus. There is another miracle of Jesus in the episode of the Centurion’s servant where Jesus was amazed, as excerpted below:-
Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.2 And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. 3 And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: 5 For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. 6 Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: 7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. 8 For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 9 When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.
In the Centurion’s case Jesus was on His way to the Centurion’s house and he had obtained a good report from the elders of the Jewish synagogue, whereas, this Canaanite woman was a CANAANITE and starts off with an inherent disadvantage and is almost like Naaman, the Syrian, coming to Elisha (II Kings 5th chapter) for cure of his leprosy. Yet her FAITH breaks the barrier of the Jewish mind that a Canaanite was a “dog”, and Jesus by this miracle breaks the barrier set by the Jews that the NON-JEWS (gentiles) were not to be a part of the SALVATION, to be inducted by the MESSIAH.
IT IS THROUGH THIS MIRACLE THAT JESUS PROVES THAT, FAITH MOVES MOUNTAINS and FAITH was beyond THE NORMAL PRINCIPLES OF SALVATION .
FAITH IS CAPABLE OF ALTERING THE VERY PRINCIPLES, THAT STOOD AS BARRIERS TO SALVATION.
There were instances where Jesus willed the cure of the afflicted (the leper who asked Jesus to will his cure), there were instances where Jesus agreed with the request of the afflicted (water to wine, the blind man of Bartimaeus), there were instances where Jesus was moved with compassion (Widow of Nain’s dead son, the man with a legion of demons), there were instances where Jesus was moved by the request made by someone on behalf of the afflicted (dead Lazarus, man with palsy sent thru opening the roof), there is at least one instance where Jesus was unaware till the cure was obtained by faith ( the woman with issue for 18 years) BUT this story of the CANAANITE woman is the only instance that this blogger knows of, where JESUS accedes reluctantly to the woman’s request by saying:”be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”
THIS IS THE PASSAGE THAT SHOULD EMBOLDEN A NON-JEW (the so called “gentiles”) TO BELIEVE THAT FAITH IN JESUS IS SUFFICIENT, EVEN IF ALL THE OLD TESTAMENT PRINCIPLES WERE RANGED AGAINST GENTILES. EVEN JESUS HAD TO RELENT WHEN HE SAW THE FAITH OF THE UNDESERVING GENTILE CANAANITE WOMAN.
PAUL WAS RIGHT AFTER ALL!!