A great teacher helps his or her students to learn. He doesn’t just dispense information. He creates new ways for people to discover the truth he wants them to discover as their own. Truth always has so much more power when we discover it on our own than when someone just tells us. There were times that Jesus deliberately set his disciples up so they would have to use every bit of creativity to discover the solution to the problem. When faced with feeding the 5000, he tested his disciples saying, “You give them something to eat” (Matt 14:6). He told them to “drive out demons” knowing that they would flounder and fail at this (Matt 10:8). He gave them orders to cross the lake knowing they would encounter a storm (Matt 8:18). Tests are important because they reveal our attitudes and what we believe about the most important things in life.
On another occasion Jesus tested his disciples, and the result was that their attitudes were pretty bad. They needed to see how much prejudice and indifference they carried around toward certain people. When Jesus and his disciples arrived in Tyre, a Canaanite woman whose daughter was suffering from demon-possession came to him for help. The exchange reveals ugly attitudes buried deep within the disciples. The Lord tested the woman and his disciples (Matt 15:21-28).
The disciples want to send her away because she is a bother. Jesus says in effect I minister only to Jews, but the woman insists and begs for help. Jesus says that it would not be right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs. The woman does not become insulted or defensive but responds in a magnificent way: “Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” To which the Lord immediately responds with: “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour (Matt 15:27-28).
The woman passes her test because Jesus had ignored her at first and then had replied in what could have been a rude way to her. She never wavered in her insistence for help. Her humility and sincere answer would have melted the heart of a stone. The disciples learned, as Jesus planned, that all people matter even if they are different. When Jesus commended her faith, they learned that any person can have faith and that Jesus loved this woman as much as any Jew. The disciples would take a while to fully comprehend what happened on this day. However, they would all eventually come to embrace the idea that all people everywhere deserve to know about Jesus.