From the Word
21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Matthew 15:21–28, RSV
The woman follows Christ into the home. There she received her last mortal blow. Christ presents her in a bad light; she is a condemned and outcast person, who is not to be reckoned among God’s chosen ones. That is an eternally unanswerable reply, to which no one can give a satisfactory answer. Yet she does not despair, but concedes that she is a dog and desires no more than a dog is entitled to, namely, that she may eat the crumbs that fall from the table of the Lord. Is not that a masterly stroke as a reply? She catches Christ with his own words. Where will Christ now take refuge? He is caught. Therefore Christ now completely opens his heart to her and yields to her will, so that she is now no more a dog, but even a child of Israel.
All this is written for our comfort and instruction, that we may know how deeply God conceals his grace before our face, and that we may not estimate him according to our feelings and thinking, but strictly according to his Word. All his answers indeed sound like no, but they are not no, they remain undecided and pending. For he does not say, I will not hear thee, but is silent and passive, and says neither yes nor no. He does not say she is not of the house of Israel; but he is sent only to the house of Israel. He does not say, Thou art a dog, one should not give thee of the children’s bread; but it is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs, leaving it undecided whether she is a dog or not. Yet all those trials of her faith sounded more like no than yes; but there was more yea in them than nay; ay, there is only yes in them, but it is very deep and very concealed, while there appears to be nothing but no. Whoever understands the actions of this poor woman and catches God in his own judgment, says, Lord, it is true I am a sinner and not worthy of thy grace; but still thou hast promised sinners forgiveness, and thou art not come to call the righteous, but “to save sinners.” Surely, then must God according to his own judgment have mercy upon us.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 74–75.
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