Remember that one time Jesus low-key insulted a woman? It was actually a very beautiful exchange, but it is quite shocking on the surface. Jesus was hiding out in a house in Tyre, failing miserably to keep his presence there a secret. As soon as this woman heard about him being nearby, she goes to the house and throws herself at his feet (this part of the story is recorded in Mark 7:24-30). Her daughter was being tormented by an evil spirit and this mother brought all of her hope to Jesus and begged him to release her little girl. Matthew 15:21-28 tells us that the first time she asked, He ignored her. Then, she kept pleading incessantly until his disciples had enough.
“Send her away, Lord! She keeps crying out after us!”
I don’t know how the next part came out. Was it apathetic? Cold and distant? Weary? He said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” She was a Canaanite and I’m sure knew how to read between the lines. She was not on the VIP list. Instead of turning away, which is probably what I would have done, she knelt at his feet and implored, “Lord, please help me.”
Surely that got him, right?
“It’s not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
Bruh. Did you hear that? Jesus just called her a dog. This momma bear was undeterred and quipped back, “Yes it is, Lord. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
This whole conversation is marked with grace beyond belief. It fell into my remembrance the other day as I made my way to the living room with a snack. My dogs were getting a knee here and a toe there because they weren’t moving with me while I walked. They were doing their best to be as close to my food-hand as possible. When I sat down, Hoggie (full name Mahogany, but Hoggie makes sense …) crept behind my knees and wound herself up around the back of my leg to peer up at me from the center of my thigh gap so she could catch any and everything that fell from my mouth. I was beyond annoyed. Ruffles, the other pup, was sitting on my toes at a safe distance from Mahogany’s jealous jowls, watching in anticipation. I remembered this woman’s response and the power of her words finally hit me; no wonder Jesus commended her for her faith and answered her plea.
I don’t know about you, but at my house, eating is kind of a robotic thing. We don’t worry about food and we eat on schedule every day. The kids don’t beg for food, they simply respond to it. Food appears, they eat. They don’t say thanks, because it’s a given that they’re going to eat. It’s an expectation and they aren’t ever disappointed. Well … sometimes. Let me rephrase that: they aren’t ever hungry.
My dogs, however, would prefer the food from my table over their own. When we’re eating, they are as close to us as they can get (Ruffles is always sitting on someone’s feet and Hoggie is always edging her way into a thigh gap). They eagerly salivate at the thought of someone sharing and jump out of their skin to be closest to the ground when a crumb falls. A crumb. It’s ridiculous the tidbits they find worth their time and effort.
I wonder if Jesus’ attitude was a set-up. Did his disciples know how awful they were being? They were children and heirs who had become flippant about Jesus’ purpose. They were self-righteous snobs who knew they belonged at the table. The children of Israel were God’s people, but they were entitled and I think Jesus wanted them to see that. After all, they had free access to what she needed most desperately. Would they really deny her pleas just because of her heritage? Seems they would, but would He?
It gave me chills to parallel this story to the behavior of my dogs when food is involved. It seems like Jesus is insulting her, but once again, we find him in irony. This woman is desperate. She carries on the analogy and equates him to her owner. She tells him she is willing to take even the crumbs – the offal from the table – because she considers even the tiniest morsel to be worth her time and effort. The children would never do that! Suddenly, I wanted so badly to have that kind of devotion. Not the devotion of a child, because I find that children have a blind devotion and a common lack of appreciation. No, the devotion of a dog. Dogs are such loyal, loving and zealously devoted creatures and they abandon themselves in their displays of affection for their “masters.” They love to eat, most especially, the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.
I bet his disciples learned something that day. I know I did when the full weight of that conversation hit me. No wonder dogs are known as man’s best friend! And no doubt, Jesus is a dog person.