Mark's Gospel account gives some background about why Jesus Christ traveled to this far-off area in the first place. Several times the Gospels tell us that the press of the crowds and their needs were so great that Jesus and the disciples could get no rest and "they did not even have time to eat" (Mark 6:31). Perhaps this was one of those times when they just needed to get away to rest, so "He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden" (Mark 7:24).
Even in this foreign area He could get no rest! Somehow the Syro-Phoenician woman must have heard of His fame as a healer, and she kept asking for healing for her daughter.
There are two likely reasons why Jesus Christ at first did not answer the gentile woman who came to Him to request healing for her daughter. One is that He wanted to make a point to His disciples that they were to go first to the people of Israel with Jesus' gospel of the Kingdom of God. Of course, this was just a matter of timing and priority. As we now know, He later sent them to all nations. But He started the Church of God with the descendants of the nation of Israel.
The other reason was to test the woman's faith to see if she truly was willing to look to "a Jew" for help. The phrase that He used, "throw it to the little dogs," drew sharp attention to the fact that her people did not have dealings with Jews. Her answer demonstrated both humility and faith. So outstanding was her example that Christ inspired it to become part of Scripture as an example for us all.
He was not speaking in disrespectful terms about her heritage by His choice of words, even though a superficial reading might make it seem so.
He later inspired Paul to write in clear language that the Church of God makes no distinction between people of different ethnic backgrounds: "There is neither Jew nor Greek...for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).
For more insight, please read our booklet You Can Have Living Faith.