To the thief, to the doubter / To the hero and the coward / To the prisoner and the soldier /
To the young, to the older / All who hunger, all who thirst / All the last, all the first /
All the paupers and the princes / All who fail you’ve been forgiven / All who dream, all who suffer / All who loved and lost another / All the chained, all the free / All who follow, all who lead / Anyone who’s been let down / All the lost you have been found / All who’ve been labeled right or wrong / Everyone who hears this song/ Just come, come to the table
Oh, come join the sinners you have been redeemed / Take your place beside the Savior
Just sit down and be set free
Sidewalk Prophets, Come to the Table, from the 2015 album “Something Different”
The Christ and His gang of followers have left the region of Galilee and headed north to Phoenicia on the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean. This is a sea-faring group of Gentiles (non-Jews). It is interesting that Jesus heads here to minister because, as He admits in this passage, His primary purpose is to seek the lost sheep of Israel (v. 24). What is He doing among the Gentiles?
He’s doing what He does best: teaching and healing. A woman (read: second-class citizen) comes to Him and begs for help, saying “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely!” (v. 22). What puzzles me is that Jesus doesn’t respond right away to the woman. In fact, He gives her the silent treatment and the disciples, annoyed by her pestering, urge Him to send her away.
Nevertheless, she persisted, and Jesus utters the line about only serving the house of Israel. He’s not saying He won’t help. In fact, Jesus ministers to Gentiles in other portions of scripture. What He is saying is that “Jews were to have the first opportunity to accept him as the Messiah because God wanted them to present the message of salvation to the rest of the world (see Genesis 12:3)” (Study Bible, p. 1575). She still doesn’t give up. Matthew writes “But she came and worshipped him, pleading again, ‘Lord, help me!’” (v. 25). Jesus apparently tries to dissuade her once more, this time by saying, “’It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs’” (v. 26). Say what?
“Dog was a term the Jews commonly applied to Gentiles because the Jews considered these pagan people no more likely than dogs to receive God’s blessings. Jesus was not degrading the woman by using this term; he was reflecting the Jews’ attitude so as to contrast it with his own” (Study Bible, p. 1575). It is important to note that the woman does not argue with Jesus or become insulted by His choice of words. Instead, she offers a clever reply that seems to delight Him.
“She replied, ‘That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table’” (v. 27). Imagine the humility and the boldness it took to utter these words. “Instead, using Jesus’ choice of words, she agreed to be considered a dog as long as she could receive God’s blessing for her daughter” (Study Bible, p. 1575). Even Jesus notes her great faith and says because of it, her request will be granted (v. 28a). Matthew writes that her daughter “was instantly healed” (v. 28b).
Can you imagine the mother’s relief? Can you imagine how the trajectory of her daughter’s life has been forever altered for the better? For the first time, in perhaps a long time, her daughter will now lead a “normal” life. Now, buried hopes and dreams have a chance to become realized. All of that begging and pleading pays off.
The only thing that maybe bothers me a little bit is it took a good number of exchanges before Jesus acquiesced. Maybe He was testing her faith. Or “he may have wanted to use the situation as another opportunity to teach that faith is available to all people…Ironically, many Jews would lose God’s blessing and salvation because they rejected Jesus, and many Gentiles would find salvation because they recognized and accepted him” (Study Bible, p. 1575). It’s like the lyrics to the song above say, the invitation is open to all. It doesn’t matter your background or situation. Everyone is welcome at the table.
The question now is: what have you done about it? I have my place. Do you have yours? I would love to see you there. Like the Gentile mother, it’s a simple matter of faith. It’s not even a question of receiving table scraps (though, as we’ve seen, the scraps invoke incredible results). The full banquet dinner awaits.