Matthew 15:21 – 28
No one would be more unwelcome to a Jew than a Canaanite. They were notoriously evil and superstitious and a traditional enemy and bad influence upon the Israel of God. What is more a Canaanite woman would be unbelievably daring and exceedingly presumptuous to suppose that she might be able to gain an audience with Jesus. She would be considered the ultimate outcast. Not only her ethnicity but her demeanor would disqualify her from access to the Lord. Very suddenly she emerges from within range of Jesus and emits a loud howl of anguish: “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession”. Its a moral situation that a Jew would almost expect from a despised pagan and the woman is creating an embarrassing public scene. But Jesus neglects to respond to her. The disciples are indignant and insistent that Jesus should firmly dismiss her. Her wailing is uncouth and disturbing. Jesus addresses her with a discouraging statement: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”. It was if he was intending to brush her aside. But the woman was not put off by this negative reply to her plight. Kneeling before Jesus she continues to plead with strong emphasis,“Lord, help me!”
Again, Jesus is seemingly not moved by the urgency of her approach. His answer is based on a matter of strict principle ostensibly at the heart of his divine assignment. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” Jesus holds to the fact that he is the prophesied Messiah promised to Israel. What entitlement to his favor has as a member of a disgraced and degenerate people? - the Canaanites! Moreover, whether as a pet or unkempt mongrel it is not pleasant or complimentary to be addressed as a dog. Such a saying would have turned many away instantly. But Jesus has his purpose. Suddenly, the amazing faith of an unworthy and undeserving Gentile is revealed. The woman has already manifested an appreciation of the status and ministry of Jesus way in advance of his own people. She acknowledges him as “Lord” and “David’s Son”, very close to a recognition of his divinity, if not so.
She turns an apparent rebuke into an utterly persuasive request that cannot be refused by the donor of divine compassion for it is the expression of sincere saving faith that God grants and seeks. “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Jesus congratulates her before both skeptical onlookers and his immature friends: “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” The demon possessed daughter is healed without delay.
So much is disclosed in this reported eye-witness incident. The miracle performed is of great power. Satan’s reign in a blighted human life is overthrown. Enormous kindness has been shown to two lost wretches - pagan mother and daughter that Jews would not have been regarded as candidates for sovereign grace. From a social outcast a magnificent confession has been made - Jesus is Lord and David’s heir, i.e. Messiah King. Great faith has been exercised from an unexpected source - someone outside the confines of Israel. The elect are found beyond the nation. Great clues are given as to how we are to reverently argue with God in persistent trust and appeal.