January 22, 2023

Why Did Jesus Christ Say That He Was Sent Only To The Lost Sheep Of Israel. Did Jesus Come Only For The Jews And Not The Gentiles (non-Jews)? And Why Did Jesus Call The Canaanite Woman A Dog?

I watched this sermon by Pastor Bobby Schuller a while ago on TBN.org. While he was telling us the story of the Canaanite woman begging Jesus to cure his daughter tormented by demons, he quoted the response Jesus gave to her and I was floored. It wasn't that Jesus referred to her as a dog. No, it was that Jesus said, "I was sent only to the lost people of Israel." Wait. What? I've heard this story before and even read it but that one sentence never captured my attention until this moment I was listening to this sermon. I obviously before didn't have ears to hear and eyes to see. This response Jesus gave has been gnawing at me ever since I heard this sermon which was weeks ago. It had to have been a replay because he gave this sermon in October of 2022. I had to go find out what Jesus meant by that statement and so here I am sharing what I have learned so far. (emphasis mine)
Hour of Power with Bobby Schuller October 23, 2022: The Win is in the Waiting - Pastor Bobby Schuller teaches that God is more interested in who you become than what you accomplish. When you become the right kind of person, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to, with today’s message: “The Win is in the Waiting.”

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I typed a transcript of Pastor Bobby Schuller the story of the Canaanite woman below starting at 5:54 minutes:

Pastor Bobby Schuller snippet: Matthew chapter 15. A strange story. Jesus seems to be a mean guy. You might have heard it before. It takes place in Phoenicia. Now remember the New Testament is always meant to have hyperlinks back to the Old Testament. Especially in Matthew which was written to Jews. 

When you hear the story two characters come to mind. Both are women. One is a villain. One is a hero. The first is Jezebel, rich, wealthy, queen, but evil. And the other is the widow of Zarephath, poor, destitute, but full of faith, and miracle working power. She's the one who cares for Elijah when he goes to the gates.

It's in the same place that Jesus travels to, for whatever reason we don't know, and he's walking along and a woman starts yelling out after Him to heal her daughter. "Heal my daughter." Yelling out after Him. Following Him. "Lord heal her. Lord heal her. Lord heal her." Until finally Jesus college age disciples say, "Will you tell her to shut up." You have to read it in Greek to see that bit. "Send her away."

Let's read it together. Matthew chapter 15, "Jesus did not answer a word." Do you ever feel that way when you're praying to God? It's easy to feel when Jesus doesn't answer a word to think that the word He answers is no. But that's not the word you get in this story. "So His disciples came to Him and urged Him, 'Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.'

and He answered, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel'." Who's that? The Jews. She's not Jewish. "The woman came and knelt before Him, 'Lord, help me'. She said."

"and He replied, 'It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs."

Dogs!? Dogs!? Toss it... you're a dog!? If that sounds bad in english I promise you it sounds like a million times worse in aramaic. It's obscenely offensive to the max. Incredibly offensive. Dogs!? She wants Him to heal her daughter and He calls her a dog!? It goes right over her head. Right?

He says, 'It's not right to take the children's bread and give it to dogs.' She says, 'Yes it is Lord.'

Oooooooh. Talkin' back to God. "Yes it is Lord." She said, "Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table."

Do you hear what she says there? Yep, I'm a dog. Call me whatever you want just heal my daughter. Call me whatever you want just give me my miracle. Say whatever you will about me I need a miracle from you. Call me anything you want. I love lines like that too. It's a very middle easter thing. A wonderful culture full of cleverness like that. I just think turning it around.

And Jesus said to her, "Woman, you have great faith."

Only two times in the whole bible Jesus says that. This is one of them. You, everybody else have little faith. Everybody else is the little faiths. Not her. You have great faith. Did Jesus love this woman? The answer is... of course. He's teaching His disciples something about real faith. And the request is granted and her daughter was healed at that moment.

What do we learn from this passage? Here's two things I pick up from this passage that if you learn today you're life will change;

1) This woman care more about her miracle than she did about her ego. This woman was unoffendable. There is a superpower. If you're looking for a superpower to achieve great things in life here's one, become as much as you can, become unoffendable. That's hard to do in a day that's all about trophy's and glory and labeling everything on earth that's offensive. We don't want to be offensive. But you know we can be unoffendable. That would be a great thing to have. One commentator on this passage said, "She was too desperate to take offense." How desperate are you? How desperate are you for that thing, that dream, that goal, that thing that's laid before you? How bad do you want it? Do you want it so bad that you don't care what people say about you? If you do you just go a superpower. Congratulations. This program makes a promise, it's called 'The Hour of Power' and one key to power, personal power, is understanding that the more power you have the more people will offend you. The more people will critisize you. The more people will go after you. and in large part your success is completely also related to your ability to withstand criticism and let it roll off your shoulders by simply saying, "That's interesting. Interesting". So that's one thing I learned is that she cared more about her miracle than she did her ego. Her desperation for a miracle was greater than the offense.

2) Dr. Schuller said it best, "God's delays aren't God's denials." Jesus is walking around she keeps saying, "Lord heal my daughter. Lord heal my daughter. Lord heal my daughter. Heal my daughter Lord." and what does he say? Not a word. Until His disciples say, "Tell her to shut up." It even sounds like a no at first. She just will not accept a no. God's delays are not God's denials. Maybe you're crying out to God and you're asking Him for something but it's just silence. It's just silence. Sometimes what God is doing is giving you a space to become a different kind of person. And this is the key to everything I want to say today. The win is in the waiting. The win is in the in-between. The win is taking your eye and focusing not-so-much on a goal and achievement as much as becoming the person who can get that kind of achievement. It's such a subtle difference. But it makes all the difference.


[source: GotQuestions.org]

ANSWER: In Matthew 15:21–28, Jesus encounters a Canaanite (Syrophoenician) woman who begs Him to cure her daughter. Jesus initially refuses her request by saying, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:26). Taken out of context, and especially in English, it’s easy to mistake this for an insult. In the flow of the story, however, it’s clear Jesus is creating a metaphor meant to explain the priorities of His ministry. He is also teaching an important lesson to His disciples.

Jews in Jesus’ day sometimes referred to Gentiles as “dogs.” In Greek, this word is kuon, meaning “wild cur” (Matthew 7:6; Luke 16:21; Philippians 3:2). Non-Jews were considered so unspiritual that even being in their presence could make a person ceremonially unclean (John 18:28). Much of Jesus’ ministry, however, involved turning expectations and prejudices on their heads (Matthew 11:19; John 4:9–10). According to Matthew’s narrative, Jesus left Israel and went into Tyre and Sidon, which was Gentile territory (Matthew 15:21). When the Canaanite woman approached and repeatedly asked for healing, the disciples were annoyed and asked Jesus to send her away (Matthew 15:23).

At this point, Jesus explained His current ministry in a way that both the woman and the watching disciples could understand. At that time, His duty was to the people of Israel, not to the Gentiles (Matthew 15:24). Recklessly taking His attention from Israel, in violation of His mission, would be like a father taking food from his children in order to throw it to their pets (Matthews 15:26). The exact word Jesus used here, in Greek, was kunarion, meaning “small dog” or “pet dog.” This is a completely different word from the term kuon, used to refer to unspiritual people or to an “unclean” animal.

Jesus frequently tested people to prove their intentions, often through response questions or challenges (see John 4:16–18; and 4:50–53). His response to the Canaanite woman is similar. In testing her, Jesus declined her request and explained that she had no legitimate expectation of His help. The woman, however, lived out the principle Jesus Himself taught in the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1–8). Her response proved that she understood fully what Jesus was saying, yet had enough conviction to ask anyway (Matthew 15:27). Jesus acknowledged her faith—calling it “great”—and granted her request (Matthew 15:28).

So, according to both the context and language involved, Jesus wasn’t referring to the Canaanite woman as a “dog,” either directly or indirectly. He wasn’t using an epithet or racial slur but making a point about the priorities He’d been given by God. He was also testing the faith of the woman and teaching an important lesson to His disciples.

[source: GotQuestions.org]

ANSWER: Jesus was in the area of Tyre and Sidon, a coastal region in extreme northeastern Galilee (Matthew 15:21) when a Canaanite woman came to Him with a request to heal her demon-possessed daughter. For a while, Jesus did not respond to the woman’s entreaties, and she followed Him and continued to beg for mercy. Finally, the disciples, feeling that the woman was a nuisance, asked Jesus to send her away. Then Jesus said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).

We should understand Jesus’ words here not as an outright rejection of the Gentiles—moments later, He heals the woman’s daughter (Matthew 15:28)—but as a fulfillment of prophecy, a setting of priorities, and a test of the woman’s faith.

In Jeremiah 50:6, God calls Israel His people and “lost sheep.” The Messiah, spoken of throughout the Old Testament, was seen as the one who would gather these “lost sheep” (Ezekiel 34:23-24; Micah 5:4-5). When Jesus presented Himself as a shepherd to Israel, He was claiming to be the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy (Mark 6:34, 14:27; John 10:11-16; see also Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4; and Revelation 7:17).

Jesus’ words to the Canaanite woman also show an awareness of Israel’s place in God’s plan of salvation. God revealed through Moses that the children of Israel were “a holy people to the LORD . . . chosen . . . a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6). It was through the Jews that God issued His Law, preserved His Word, and sent His Son. This is why, elsewhere, Jesus tells a Samaritan that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). In Matthew 15, when the Jewish Messiah says that He was sent to “the house of Israel,” He is simply connecting His presence with God’s purpose in Old Testament history. Christ was “born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Galatians 4:4-5).

Every ministry must have priorities, and Christ’s ministry was no exception. When Jesus sent His disciples to preach the good news of the kingdom, He expressly told them, “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6). Jesus did not forbid their preaching to all Gentiles; He did, however, narrow their focus to the areas which should be most receptive—those who knew the Law and were expecting the Messiah. Paul, in his missionary journeys, followed the same priority of preaching to the Jews first (Romans 1:16).

Finally, Jesus’ words to the Canaanite woman served as a test of her faith. She came to Jesus believing that He was the “Lord,” the “Son of David,” and the giver of mercy (Matthew 15:22). His delayed answer and seemingly exclusionary statement brought from her a further, passionate, public expression of her faith in His unlimited power (Matthew 15:27).

This act of compassion and healing of a Gentile is a beautiful picture of Christ’s ministry to the whole world—the Jewish Messiah is also the Savior of all who will believe (Matthew 28:19; John 10:16; Acts 10:34-36; Revelation 5:9).

[source: GotQuestions.org]

ANSWER: Jesus is the Messiah that the Jews had been anticipating for centuries (see Luke 2:25; 3:15). As such, He was born into a Jewish family and was reared according to Jewish law in a Jewish town (see Luke 2:27; Galatians 4:4). Jesus selected Jewish disciples, spoke in Jewish synagogues and the Jewish temple, and traveled mostly in Jewish areas. His mission, in fulfillment of the Jewish prophets, was to the Jewish people. However, none of this means that Jesus’ ministry was limited exclusively to the Jews.

In Matthew 15, there is an incident that, at first, seems to confirm the idea that Jesus came only for the Jews. Jesus was traveling through Tyre and Sidon, a Gentile region, and “a Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly’” (Matthew 15:22). This Gentile woman recognized Jesus as the Messiah (“Son of David”), but “Jesus did not answer a word” (verse 23). As the woman kept up her appeals, Jesus finally responded, but His words seemed to hold little hope: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (verse 24). However, the woman did not give up, and Jesus eventually granted her request, based on her “great faith” (verse 28).

The fact that Jesus helped the Canaanite woman, even though His mission was to the Jews, is a significant detail in the Gospel narrative. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus gave other indications that His power and compassion reached to all people. He healed a Roman centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1–10). He traveled through the Gentile region of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:1). He ministered in a Samaritan city (John 4).

Jesus came to save everybody (1 John 2:2). Jesus Christ is God Himself (John 1:1). Jesus died on the cross as the payment for all our sins, and He rose from death in resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). Jesus said He was the Good Shepherd, and He predicted that His flock would be greatly expanded: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16).

It took a while for the early church to recognize that salvation was available to the Gentiles. The Jewish Christians who fled the persecution in Jerusalem went into the Gentile regions of Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, but they were “spreading the word only among Jews” (Acts 11:19). Peter was hesitant to bring the gospel to a Gentile household, but God made it plain that Cornelius was also one of the elect (Acts 10).

“Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too” (Romans 3:29). Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, but He had come to offer salvation to everybody. The Messiah was to be a “light for the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6). So call on Jesus, because “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21).

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