In reference to Matthew 15:22-28, this passage talks about a woman who approaches Jesus asking for help for her daughter. It appears from what she says that she was quite aware of who He was by referring to Him as the Son of David.
My question - Why did Jesus not initially answer her, in verse 23? Was he giving her the opportunity to express her need? Or was it to allow her to speak of her faith in Him? Why did the disciples say to send her away?
Does this passage have to do with Jew and Gentile, as Jesus, first, came as the Messiah for Israel, and then the Gentile?
I don't fully understand this part. Please, I would appreciate any insight.
"Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed." But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, "Send her away, for she cries out after us." But He answered and said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" But He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs." And she said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire." And her daughter was healed from that very hour" (Matthew 15:21-28) .
The answer to your question is found in Jesus' response to her persistence: "O woman, great is your faith!" Jesus was testing her faith, but he is also teaching us a lesson about being persistent.
I find this particular event fascinating because so many people are quick to take offense when insulted. Offense, in the Bible, refers to something that drives a person away. Yet here is a woman who receives multiple insults, and yet persists. Jesus at first ignored her (Matthew 15:23); the disciples in her presence wanted to send her away because she was annoying (Matthew 15:23); Jesus states she is of the wrong nationality (Matthew 15:24); and he calls her and her people dogs (Matthew 15:26).
Did Jesus offend her? That is, did Jesus drive her away? Did he cause her to stumble? No, we see that she remained persistent in her request. This woman did not live by her emotions. Faith is not emotionally based and this woman's faith was unshakable.
Jesus often taught the need for Christians to be persistent. "And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within and say, 'Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you'? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs" (Luke 11:5-8). The parable of the unjust judge teaches the same lesson (Luke 18:1-8).
Though it doesn't happen often, there is a time and place for even insults. Paul gives another example, "One of them, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith" (Titus 1:12-13). Did Paul say this to drive Cretans away? No. Paul is acknowledging what the people in Crete already knew about themselves. They lived in a wicked society which was influencing their behavior. Paul’s statement, while insulting, was needed to pinpoint the cause of their sins and the means of addressing them.