But he answered her not a word. His disciples came and begged him, saying,
"Send her away; for she cries after us."
But he answered,
"I wasn’t sent to anyone but the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
But she came and worshiped him, saying, "Lord, help me."
But he answered,
"It is not appropriate to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs."
But she said, "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs
which fall from their masters’ table."
Then Jesus answered her,
"Woman, great is your faith! Be it done to you even as you desire."
And her daughter was healed from that hour.
What does this reveal about Jesus?
Jesus' willingness to heal is in proportion to one's faith regardless of racial, ethnic or religious barriers.
The impression I have here is that Jesus is trying to do three things.
1. He is teaching his disciples.
2. He is helping to reveal the woman's quality of faith
3. He heals the daughter.
Far from taking on the racist attitudes the Jewish society and even his disciples may have towards Gentiles, not unlike that of many Jews today, it seems each time Jesus sees a Gentile exercising faith, he commends it as being great or even superior to that of Jews. Remember his comment on the centurion's faith, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." Lk 7:9 But of his own disciples and that of the Jews he often criticizes as being weak in faith.
Notice that this passage starts off with the disciples trying to get rid of this woman. Jesus, actually being well aware of the quality of faith this woman possessed, I can imagine he wanted to teach his disciples a lesson through this woman. So at first he played along with their condescending, insensitive, and heartless attitude. But he knew that the woman had the perseverance of faith and the level of humility that would keep her from being dissuaded from her objective regardless of the obstacles.
Jesus' main earthly message was indeed to the lost sheep of Israel - the Jews. But this is not to say that he couldn't or wouldn't do a bit of extracurricular activities with the Gentiles at times. Of course a time would come when Jew and Gentiles would be united in Christ under a common faith, but that was yet to come. Gentile believers had not been revealed as children of Abraham at this point, as Paul writes to the Gentiles in Galatia: "Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham." Gal 3:7 And "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Gal 3:29 But at this time the Jews tended to think only in terms of the flesh and thus Jews, even regardless of their faith or behavior, were all reckoned children of Abraham, a concept which would later be revealed to be inaccurate in a spiritual sense, though literally correct.
Jesus was using this literal fleshly sense of "children" here. So also with the "lost sheep". The "lost sheep" were not "Christians" just as the "children" he spoke of here were not Christians. The "lost sheep" are Jews who need to be saved. See the parable of the lost sheep. The "children" here are simply Jews. He was not speaking of those born of God, as Christians are today, but simply those who are reckon his people according to the flesh. This concept must be understand when interpreting the gospels and the apostle's writings. For the terminology Jesus used may mean something different at times than that of the apostles in their letters.
Jesus was the bread of life that was broken on the cross to become as crumbs swept off the Master's table being rejected by the Jews to be eaten up by Gentile dogs on the ground who would become the primary consituents of the Christian community.
This is a message only the humble would accept. For we all start off as dogs, not children but enemies of God. Colossians 1:21 "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior." And we must accept a broken Christ, one who died for our sins. "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."1 Corinthians 1:18
But we are no longer dogs, but truly children of God. "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--" John 1:12 As such we will sit at God's table and feast as children of God. But "I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom (unbelieving Jews) will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matt 8:11,12
But in the process of conversion one must become God's dog by submitting to Christ as Lord and eating the crumbs, before he can become God's child and sit at the table in the Millenial Kingdom.
Great faith is a humble persevering faith, believing in God's ultimate goodness.