The woman in this passage receives an incredible affirmation from Jesus, “Woman you have great faith!” And as a result of her great faith, her daughter is healed. So who was this woman and how did she demonstrate great faith to Jesus? The full story is found in Matthew 15:21-28 NIV:
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” 23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” 25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
This passage starts out with Jesus fleeing Galilee and withdrawing to the region of Tyre and Sidon (Gentile Roman port cities) with His disciples. A woman approaches Jesus there and cries out to Him. We do not learn the woman’s name in this passage, but in verse 22, we are told she is a Canaanite woman. This suggests she is a direct descendant of the ancient Canaanites. The Canaanites were enemies of Israel in the Old Testament and were known for being very pagan and worshiping idols. In Mark’s account of this same story (found in Mark 7:24-30), Mark refers to the woman as a Greek, born in Syria Phoenicia. The key understanding of the woman from these descriptions is that she is a Gentile and has a pagan background. Notice though in the middle of verse 22 when she cries out to Jesus, the woman calls Jesus “Lord” and “Son of David”. Although she has a pagan background, these names the woman calls Jesus imply she does have some belief that Jesus is the Messiah. “Son of David” in particular signifies her recognition of Jesus as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament to come through the lineage of David (for more on “Son of David” please see blog: Jesus Heals Bartimaeus – http://faithgauge.com/jesus-heals-bartimaeus/). We also learn at the end of verse 22 that the woman has a daughter possessed by demons which is why she is crying out to Jesus to help. The woman is a mother in a desperate situation and she is willing to do anything to get her daughter help. She sees Jesus, the Son of David, as her only hope.
In verse 23, Jesus does not answer the woman and the disciples immediately want Jesus to get rid of her. After all, she is Canaanite, a Gentile, and pagan. “Send her away” the disciples say. They are basically saying Jesus does not have time to be bothered by this Gentile. She is nothing more than a nuisance. In verse 24, Jesus answers, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel“. In the Old Testament in Jeremiah 50:6, the people of Israel were referred to as lost sheep. Jesus was sent as the Redeemer for the lost sheep first, God’s chosen people of Israel. This is what was prophesied in the Scriptures. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as “King of Israel” by the Jews and “King of the Jews” by the Gentiles – a reference to Jesus being the Savior for the Jews/ people of Israel. But as we know, Jesus paid the sacrifice and was crucified on the cross for everyone, not just the Jews. His gift of salvation is available to anyone who believes in Him and accepts it.
Also in this statement in verse 24, Jesus is testing the woman’s faith. Will she be offended and leave thinking Jesus will not help her because she is not from Israel or will she persist? The woman is not deterred. The woman does not give up. She kneels before Jesus and says again, “Lord, help me!” She knows the power of Jesus and that He alone can bring healing for her daughter. Jesus tests the Canaanite woman again in verse 26. Jesus tells her “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs“. She fully understands this analogy from Jesus. Jesus is saying that the children, the lost sheep of Israel, are to be fed the promised gospel first. The woman responds “Yes. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table”. The Canaanite woman humbly responds she is more than willing to accept seconds. She is willing to accept the crumbs. She knows one crumb from Jesus is more than enough the heal her daughter. What an example of faith – knowing that one crumb from Jesus is more than enough to fill any need. Jesus responds by saying, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” Jesus heals the woman’s daughter on the spot. Her great faith enables her daughter to be healed. And the disciples get another first hand lesson from Jesus to see His healing power and to see that Jesus came to help and save everyone, not just the people of Israel.
Faith Gauge Questions:
Do you have the level of faith of this Canaanite woman to know that one crumb from Jesus is more than enough to fill any need you may ever have?
If you were in the woman’s shoes, would it have been easy to become offended by the statements Jesus made during the testing? Is there a chance you would have walked away from Jesus? Would you have persevered and kept strong faith?
Do you have any questions or comments? I would love to hear them – please leave a reply below or email me. Thanks.