The passage below raises two questions in my mind but I suspect they both have the same answer. My questions are:
- Why did Jesus at first refuse to speak to the Canaanite woman? We know He had no problem crossing gender and racial barriers, as seen e.g. in The Woman at the Well (John 4:1-42).
- Why did He refer to her (and presumably all Canaanites and probably all Gentiles) as "dogs"? I say that He was referring to all Gentiles because He contrasted helping her with Israel, when He said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”
Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
“Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
(This story is also related in Mark 7:24-30.)