Jesus and the disciples were far from home when a strange, troubled, pagan woman approached. She was screaming for Jesus to heal her daughter. The disciples wanted to send her away, but Jesus said nothing. Then the woman fell to her knees and pleaded, “Lord, help me!” Jesus’ reply was as troubling as anything he ever said: “It’s not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
Yes, Jesus really called her a dog.
But the woman was undeterred. She said, “Yes Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
Jesus, amazed by the woman’s faith, healed her daughter.
The Christian faith is nothing if it’s not realistic. It’s not sentimental. It’s not chicken soup for the soul. It’s not pie in the sky. Jesus was a real person, born into a real, hard world inhabited by Jews and Gentiles who hated each other. Until Jesus healed the girl, he was doing what every other Jewish man would have been expected to do in the same situation.
Of course pagan women were dogs. Everyone knew that.
What if Jesus was testing? What if he was testing the disciples to see if they would show mercy? What if he was testing the woman’s faith?
As I was writing this, a hurting person came to the church door looking for work, bus fare, hope, anything.
All I can say is that the world is still real and hard.
If Jesus was testing, I’m not sure I passed today.