The Gentile Woman

Throughout all four Gospels Jesus is uniformly gentle, kind and
compassionate. But in today’s reading,a mother begs him to cure her
daughter and he pays no attention to her at all. Finally he does
recognize her, only to insult her: “It’s not right to take the food of
sons and daughters and throw it to the dogs.” He’s calling the woman
and her daughter “dogs.”

One explanation ascribes Jesus’ unusual reaction to the woman’s use of
the title, “Son of David.” The woman calls Jesus, “Sir,” and then she
adds, “Son of David.” In the context, “Son of David” is insulting.
Jesus is in a foreign land. Calling him “Son of David” is identifying
him as a Jew, a foreigner.

Jesus goes on as though he hasn’t heard her. She continues to follow
him and the disciples are getting more embarrassed, and say to Jesus,
“Do something about her.” Jesus replies, “I’ve been sent only to Jews.”
Finally, Jesus stops; the woman falls at his feet, and pleads with him
to cure her daughter. Jesus then speaks those unbelievable words: “It
isn’t right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” A
commentator suggests Jesus was continuing the rather awkward,
discriminatory approach used by the woman when she called him “Son of
David.” Maybe he wanted to show her how unfair she was. And maybe she
understood because she answered him, “Don’t dogs have some rights in
your house?”

Jesus grants the woman’s request. As he has done in the past, he deals
publicly with a Gentile, and a woman. In Jesus’ time, Jews despised
Gentiles and had little or no respect for women. Jesus granted to this
Gentile woman the request she had made and publicly praised her faith
while granting her request. He clearly felt himself absolutely free to
disregard these two Jewish prejudices. The incident is really an
invitation to us to review our own prejudices.

  • waynergf

    Or…calling Jesus “Son of David” was the woman’s way of showing great respect and reverence – since David was held in such high regard in Israel and showed that the woman was well aware of that fact…and perhaps even that the Messiah would be in the lineage of David.

    Maybe Jesus was simply testing the strength of the woman’s faith…

  • pbecke

    It strikes me that Jesus was probably simply testing the woman’s faith publicly, as a lesson for the onlookers, using her as a kind of teaching aid, and perhaps only did so, because (like a good lawyer framing his questions) he knew the strength of her faith in advance.

    I think she saw through his ruse, and like the crowds who followed him, could read him like a book, being all too familiar with the honey-tongued, sweet-talking false prophets. It seems likely the Pharisees did, too, but what they saw they didn’t like.