“And suddenly out came a Canaanite woman from the district and started shouting, “Lord, son of David take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil”. But he said not a word in answer to her. And his disciples went and pleaded with him, saying “give her what she wants, because she keeps shouting after us. He said in reply. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” But the woman had come up and was bowing low before him. “Lord”, she said, “help me.” He replied, “it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to little dogs” (MT15:22-26).
There is a happy outcome for the Gentile woman as you will probably know. But Jesus makes it quite clear; He had been sent to the Jews (the lost sheep of Israel) so that they might be restored and fitted for the Kingdom role promised to them in Scripture; that is why He initially refused to heal this Gentile woman’s daughter. Jesus did not “test the woman’s faith” by lying; He affirmed with His own disciples (v24) that He had been sent by the Father to minister to His own people (the Jews). What He had spoken He had spoken: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”. Does this shock you? – it did me until I grasped Paul’s revelation concerning “the fellowship pertaining to the secret plan hidden in the Father from the previous age” (cf. Eph3:9-11). Sharing His Father’s compassionate nature (Jn14:9) Jesus was willing to aid such Gentile folk who came to Him for help. But it is evident if one reads carefully through the gospel narratives that John the Baptist, Jesus and initially His disciples ministered and preached almost exclusively to the Jews (cf. especially Mt10:5-6). Through the avoidable failure of what Jesus described as “this evil generation”, the privileges they were to inherit have passed to (or rather are to be shared with) elect individuals drawn from every nation through elective grace, who by nature and birth are just as unworthy to be a nation of priests and kings to our God (Rev5:10) as those who happened to be the seed of Isaac. As Paul later commented:
“HAVE (THE JEWS) STUMBLED IN ORDER THAT THEY SHOULD FALL? GOD FORBID, BUT RATHER THROUGH THEIR OFFENCE ‘SALVATION’ HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO THE GENTILES IN ORDER TO PROVOKE THEM TO JEALOUSY? (Rom11:11)
What Jesus had spoken He had spoken, and what Paul has written he has written. Take them at their word and one might begin to grasp the context of Israel and the Church within broader benign providence as outlined in my book* – for it was never the case that God only intended to rescue and reconcile Israel to Himself, but it was the expectation that only the Jews would be the princes of His Kingdom, the royal priesthood of God (Ex19:5, 6 cf. 1Pet2:9). Joining the messianic community required soul-healing through cleansing and restored divine communion whilst still in mortal flesh. This is what Paul and the New Testament as a whole means by “salvation”, Paul’s Good News being that this privilege had now been afforded to people drawn from every nation through the establishment of a world-wide Church. Now, hopefully, Romans chapter 11 vv11,12&15 and Romans 8:19-23 in particular should begin to make sense and bring joy to every good heart.
*A free PDF available HERE