And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon." 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying after us." 24 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." 26 And he answered, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 27 She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." 28 Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:21-28)
24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house, and would not have any one know it; yet he could not be hid. 25 But immediately a woman, whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoeni'cian by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, "Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 28 But she answered him, "Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." 29 And he said to her, "For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter." 30 And she went home, and found the child lying in bed, and the demon gone. (Mark 7:24-30)
Are you surprised by the woman in this story?
Are you surprised by the way that Jesus responds to her?
Let's dive in!
This was a mom who was desperate to save her child. We aren't told what the demon caused her daughter to do, but as we discussed earlier, it could be anything from talking to air, to throwing oneself into the flames. It was scary, and it was harmful. The mother heard that Jesus was in the area, and approached Him.
That in itself is worth looking at: the Jewish people looked down upon the Greeks, and snobbishly call them "dogs." In addition to the Jewish snobbery against the Greeks, the Greeks themselves felt that the Jewish people were inferior to them. They pointed to their great thinkers and mathematicians and enjoyed the prestige that they afforded them. In spite of these differences, this woman admitted that Jesus' wisdom and His power exceeded those of humans, and she felt that He alone could rid her daughter of this problem.
She cried out for Him to help. His disciples suggested that He needed to do something about it. She was "causing a scene" and they wanted Him to have some peace and quiet. Matthew's account says that He replied that He came "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Mark notes that He said, "let the children first be fed" meaning that the Jewish people were His first priority, and that when the timing was right, the Gentiles would be a part of the equation. (It's interesting to note, though, that the only other time that Jesus healed a Gentile was the centurion's servant....again in that passage, He remarked at the faith of the seeker, and He healed from a distance. Nothing is too hard for our God!)
It's hard for us, too, when we see what we think of as rudeness, coming from our Lord. Scholars tell us that this is not the usual word for dogs, those that would fight and scavenge in the streets of the city, but a word used for little pets that would be in the household. Jewish families did not keep dogs as pets, for they considered that to be unclean. Greeks, however, had dogs that were indoor pets, much as we keep our pets today. They were sometimes considered part of the family.
So, kneeling at His feet, she may (or may not) have understood His remark, but her quick and nimble mind came back with a reply that turned His apparent rebuff to her own advantage. (Oh, to be as quick-witted as she! She humiliated herself and begged for help, but she still was "thinking on her feet"!)
"True, Lord, but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."
It certainly seems that Jesus was impressed and pleased with her answer. It was an answer of humility, and we read in Proverbs:
He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and
oppressed. (Proverbs 3:34)
Her answer also pleased Jesus because it was a statement of her faith in Him.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who
comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those
who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Finally, I believe that her answer pleased Him because she was persistent. Remember the passage in Luke 18:1-8? It's a story of a persistent widow, who finally received justice against an adversary because of her persistence. (Go back and read it -- it's inspiring!) Also, Jesus said that we should be persistent in our prayer life, and expect to see our prayers answered (Luke 11:9-10).
Jesus remarked on her great faith, and then sent her home -- with the assurance that her daughter was healed! She got her miracle!
We'll have some more thoughts on this passage tomorrow as we wind up our study of this woman and her faith.