Jesus admits that this woman has bested him

This woman, however, just will not give up: “Then she came and prostrated before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’” (Matthew 15:25). The scene is becoming embarrassing. Can things get worse? Yes, they can—and do: “But he answered and said, ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the puppies.’” Oh, my! Is Jesus calling this Gentile a dog? No wonder the gospel of Luke does not relate this story! Then, all of a sudden, the story changes, and it is the woman who changes it. Like Jesus’ mother at Cana, she gets pushy with the Savior: “Yes, Lord,” she responds, “yet even the puppies eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” In the end, of course, “her daughter was healed from that very hour” (Matthew 15:28), but the reader may be left with the feeling that the whole transaction was excessively painful and that Jesus, at least for a while, was acting terribly out of character. What should be said about this? Not for a moment do I believe Jesus was insulting this woman. Once again, I take his silence and then his reference to puppies as a rhetorical pretense, very much like his request that the Samaritan woman should summon her husband.

…A friend of mine once compared this lady’s faith to that of Abraham, as he “haggled a price” with God over the fate of Sodom. That is to say, rhetorical considerations provide the key to the conversation between Jesus and this Gentile woman. Perhaps this point is more clearly expressed in Mark’s version of the story, where she is known as “a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth” (Mark 7:26). In Mark’s account, the woman is praised not for her faith but for her “word”—her manner of expression: dia touton ton logon. Jesus admits that this woman has bested him in the conversation! He tells her, in effect, “Ma’am, you certainly have a way with words.” Jesus recognizes the good logic and superior style in which the woman humbly asserts, “Even the puppies under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” The lady is not only persistent; she is also eloquent. And Jesus is . . . well, impressed!

From The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon.

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