Why Did Jesus Ignore the Canaanite Woman?

In Matthew 15:22-28, Jesus ignores and then denies a healing to a sincere Canaanite woman. It is not uncommon for a preacher to provide an excuse for why Jesus ignored the sincere cry of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:22-23. However, neither an exuse nor an apology needs to be produced. The Lord knew exactly what he was doing, was sure that it was the right thing to do, and explains his simple reason in verse 26.

“It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” – Matthew 15:26

Surely any modern church will take offense to this statement if made by a member of their church today. Yet here is the Lord Jesus Christ making such a frank statement.

Most expositors are not able to confidently preach the sense of this passage because they are wholly ignorant of the exclusive nature of Christ’s earthly ministry.

In the Old Testament God made it clear that the ‘man of sorrows’ would suffer for ‘my people’ as it related to Isaiah and the nation Israel. The apostle John declares that Christ came ‘to his own [Israel] and his own received him not’ (John 1:11). Jesus commanded his disciples to ‘go not into the way of the Gentiles’ (Matt 10:4). Furthermore, in hindsight, we can read the information of our apostle Paul and see that:

“Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:…” – Romans 15:8

The fact is scripturally evident that the Lord Jesus was not sent to the Gentiles nor did he instruct his disciples to go to them. Of this simple fact many are left wanting. However, even more allusive to those ignorant that Jesus’ earthly ministry was an exclusive ministry to Israel is why he would ignore the woman.

The Rise of Israel and Gentile Salvation

A casual study of prophecy will give any amateur student the understanding that Israel was to be the light of the world, and the nations would come to the knowledge and blessing of God through the brilliance of their light.

This fact had not changed when Christ came on the scene, for the Lord did not come to abolish the law nor deny the prophets. Instead he came to fulfill them!

“…These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. “ – Luke 24:44

This means that it was still God’s plan according to the promises and prophecies that Jesus as Messiah would reign over the nation Israel which would be a kingdom of priests ministering to the Gentile nations.

Until the time when Israel had worldwide dominion and power from heaven they were not to company with the Gentiles nor enter into agreement with the unclean nations.

Miracles given to Israel

According to prophecy as Israel would enter into the kingdom from heaven established on earth, many of the physical maladies would have to be eradicated. In fact, it was part of God’s law that if you were not whole and clean then you could not become a priest. If the entire nation were to be priests ministering to the Gentiles they would need to be made whole.

As such Jesus came preaching ‘the kingdom is at hand’ and healing all that were sick (Matt 9:35, Mark 1:15). To give the healing miracles to the Gentiles before it was time would be, in essence, denying the promises that were made exclusively with Israel.

So then, when a Canaanite woman asked Jesus to perform a miracle to make her daughter whole, Jesus responded:

“It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” – Matthew 15:26

The nation Israel, the children, was given the bread of life and the word of God! They were God’s chosen people and had a superior standing in the promises of God. They were supposed to partake of the heavenly gift first before the blessing of the Gentile nations which God had given up as reprobate long before (Romans 1:28).

Was Jesus Trying Her Faith?

Lacking the dispensational understanding to properly assess the situation, expositors often resort to extracting merely a spiritual principle – perseverance. They explain how that Jesus ignored the lady’s request much like our petitions seem to be ignored by the Almighty. But if we would persevere and humble ourselves like the Canaanite woman agreeing to her position as a dog, we would receive what we ask.

Although this teaching sounds very biblical it is altogether a dangerous wresting of the scriptures! The Gentile woman was not being teased by the Lord when he ignored her and then told her that he was not sent to her kind. He was being sincere and straightforward.

To those who would adhere to the ‘trial of faith’ explanation, perhaps they can explain why it was that Jesus so freely healed the masses whenever he was in a Jewish town. Yet whenever approached by a Gentile he is hesitant until an exhibition of faith is displayed. The fact is that Jesus did not heal on a whim, or merely because he ‘so loved the world’ (John 3:16). Jesus healed as a sign of the coming kingdom and the signs were for the nation Israel, and not for the Gentiles (Matt 11:4-5).

Furthermore, the Gentile lady did not get her request answered because she persevered but because she showed understanding of the order to which the blessings were to come.


“But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” – Matt 15:26-27

It was in response to this agreement and her elaboration upon how the Gentiles would receive blessing that her request was answered.

Jesus responds in Mark 7:29, “For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. “

She was granted her request because she understood and obeyed the promise to the Gentiles in Genesis 12:3, the promise of blessing the nation Israel by recognizing their position before God, the exclusive mediator position.

But now in this dispensation there is no difference between Jew and Gentile they are both one new creature. This basic truth makes this dispensation altogether different than that in which Jesus performed his earthly ministry to Israel.

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Published: Tuesday, December 26th, 2006
Last Modified: April 12, 2016