“It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” ESV What was Jesus thinking? He is supposed to be the essence of compassion. Was he just having a bad day?
Notice first that Jesus has led his band out of Galilee and into Phoenicia. Jesus could not have been surprised to be approached by a Canaanite woman; he was in their territory.
At first, he ignored her, possibly to see how serious she would be, but more likely to build up the teaching moment. The disciples became agitated with her, but Jesus did not. He simply pointed out that his mission was to Jews. Notice too that he made that statement to the disciples, not to the woman.
In any case, the woman finally came close to Jesus and asked him face to face for help. It was then that he uttered the contentious words above.
Jesus was not trying to cut her off or denigrate her. Yes, Jews considered all gentiles to be no better than dogs, thus the reference. But Jesus was still making the point that if he were just another Jewish man, he would refuse to help her because she was gentile, not to mention female. He needs to see how she would react.
Jesus got the answer he wanted. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. ESV She proved her faith, willingly accepting the insult because she recognized Jesus as her master, and as the one who could save her daughter.
The message from Isaiah assures us that Jesus the Messiah knew and accepted the message that gentiles would come to God’s house in swarms and that God intended that all along. My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. NIV
See my comments on these NT readings from August 17, 2014, here.
Be righteous and do good.