Yesterday at BBC, we continued our study of Matthew 15. Pastor George preached a sermon called, “Dogs are Fed, while Children Starve” from Matthew 15:21-28:
Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.
This scene comes after the feeding of the 5000, Jesus’ walking on the water, and most recently, Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees about what truly defiles a person. Jesus and his disciples traveled fifty miles to the gentile region of Tyre and Sidon. This was likely a chance to get away to a place where he was not well known as a retreat and time of teaching the disciples (Mark 7:24). However, Jesus couldn’t escape notice even here—a Gentile woman comes and insistently cries out for His help.
This woman was not a Jew, yet she had some knowledge of who Christ is, even referring to Him as “Son of David,” which is a clear Messianic title. When Jesus meets her cries for compassion with silence, she continues to plead at His feet. She didn’t doubt His power or ability. This is a reminder to us that even when God seems silent, we can be confident that He hears and knows. She trusts His character and calls out for mercy not based on who she is, but who He is. Contrasted with the disciples and the crowds who had seen so much yet were so slow to believe, she had just scraps of information about Christ and fully embraced Him as Messiah.
This woman is not the first example in Scripture of a gentile who demonstrated remarkable faith. Already in Matthew’s Gospel he has highlighted the pagan Magi (Matthew 2) and the Roman Centurion (Matthew 8) who showed incredible faith in who Christ was. The Old Testament is full of examples of gentiles who showed remarkable faith. Rahab, Ruth, and Naaman are just a few examples. Even Abraham himself, the father of the Jewish people, would be called by God from a pagan land. Although this is a pattern in Scripture, Jesus reminds the woman that He hasn’t come to her, but to the Jews.
She doesn’t take this lightly but still presses Christ by turning His metaphor around to explain why He should grant her petition. She humbly admits she is unworthy and her simple, beautiful, persistent faith amazes Christ. He rewards and commends her faith by healing her daughter “instantly,” although she is far away (much like the healing of the Centurion’s servant in Matthew 8). She becomes an example and reminder that God is Lord of the nations (Psalm 82:8), and that salvation would come to the whole world (Galatians 3:8).
Someday, whether Jew or Gentile, we will sit at the table of God and feast as His children, redeemed and purchased by the blood of Christ. Until then, we can have confidence in God’s character and know that He hears our prayers when we humbly seek Him and His mercy.