Rude and Racist

Matthew 15:21
Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it
to the dogs” (v.26).

Jesus could be harsh at times. He called Pharisees
“whitewashed tombs” (that is, nice on the outside,
disgusting within); He called Herod a “fox”; He
even called Peter “Satan” (Matthew 23:27; Luke 13:32;
Mark 8:33). Yes, Jesus could be forthright—but rude and
racist? Some think today’s story proves so.

Jesus was hiding in a home in the region of Tyre and
Sidon, trying to escape the crowds (Mark 7:24), when a
Canaanite woman pushed her way in and begged Him
to heal her demon-possessed daughter. How did Jesus
respond? With silence. Was He ignoring her or thinking
through His options?

When Jesus does reply, He doesn’t give the woman
much hope. His calling is first to the Jews, not to pagans
like her (Matthew 15:24). Unperturbed, the woman
kneels before Him and begs more urgently (v.25). Then
Jesus utters those troubling words: “It isn’t right to take
food from the children and throw it to the dogs” (v.26).
We can’t avoid it: Jesus has just given a racial slur.

Gentiles are but “dogs” in comparison to Jews. Ouch.
But did we miss the twinkle in His eye? Jesus is most
likely using the sort of a language a Gentile person
could expect from a Jew. He was throwing out a test to
the woman, seeing how she’d respond. And she didn’t
miss a beat, saying, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are
allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their master’s
table” (v.27). Her faith is proved and Jesus grants her request (vv.28-29). He
probably even laughed at her reply, as author Elton Trueblood has suggested.

Jesus was no bigot or racist. He accepted prostitutes and tax collectors
(Matthew 9:10); He healed and praised non-Jews (8:5-10; Luke 17:11-19). He
does, however, test our faith. How is He testing you today? —Sheridan Voysey

Read Mark 7:31 and
Luke 7:1 to see how
Jesus treated other non-
Jews of His day.

What does this story
say to you about the
personality of Jesus? How
might Jesus test our faith