Matthew 15:21-28 ESV
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 was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed 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 out 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 right 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.
One of life’s great blessings that not everyone experiences is to have a loving, caring mother that seeks the good of her children. In a culture that used to be influenced by the gospel, a mother’s tender compassion for her children was always expected. But now that our people have rejected God, we see that traditional Christian values (Ti 2:4) are being tossed aside, and we see a growing disinterest and lack of love for children among young women. For this reason, if you had or have a tender, loving mother, thank God for her, and thank her if you can.
Our passage presents a mother who cared deeply for her daughter. By her words, she clearly had some level of belief in Jesus as the Messiah (Mt 15:22). If we are curious about how she gained such knowledge, the answer is that either she personally or her friends and neighbors had heard Jesus previously (Mk 3:8). We often do not know what is happening when God’s word is given out. But now, this woman’s daughter has a serious affliction, and only Jesus can help her. Let’s see how God worked in her life.
I. This woman had many things against her.
A. The suffering of her daughter (15:22) – I mention this first because we ought to be merciful people (5:7) and be stirred by the plight of suffering people first, before we begin sorting through other issues.
1. A demon was severely tormenting her daughter. She doesn’t state the exact nature of their oppression, but when the Gospels do talk about it, we hear of anguish, pain, physical affliction, and despair.
2. We see the reality of the spiritual forces of evil. They are agents of destruction, seeking to wreak havoc everywhere among all people. They are moved by a hatred of God and people, and they delight in causing misery.
B. Her status during the time of the law or old covenant (15:21)
1. She was a Canaanite—from a people group that the law commanded to be destroyed (Deut 7:1-5; 20:16-17).
2. She lived in the region of Tyre and Sidon—long-standing enemies of Israel. They were the objects of prophetic denunciation because they were enemies of God and Israel (Is 23:1-17; Ezk 26-28).
Apply: People of true faith can often be found where we least expect to find them. Jesus lived long in Nazareth and did many mighty miracles in Capernaum, but this woman with great faith comes from a despised Gentile area. God’s grace, not a person’s place, makes a person a believer in Jesus. Don’t think, “Oh my neighbors are such and such and so will never believe.” Rely on God’s grace, not a person’s place.
C. The initial lack of concern from Jesus and his disciples (15:23)
1. Although she cried out for mercy, at first Jesus did not say anything to her. She might have expected an immediate answer. (Every modern American would!) But that is not how the Lord usually acts. To mention two examples among many, think of how Jesus delayed answering Jairus’ request about his daughter, and how Jesus waited two days after hearing that Lazarus was very sick before he went to Bethany. The Lord is God, and people were made to serve him. Yet people like to pretend that they’re the master and God is their bellhop or butler. God makes us wait to help us understand his glory as Lord of all.
2. The twelve disciples simply wanted Jesus to get rid of her. To them, she was just a nuisance. As the full account shows, Jesus did care about the woman and her troubles. But the disciples have a lack of compassion in this event. They should have been glad that she was crying out after them. But they were too self-absorbed to see her real need.
Apply: Let us understand that Christ’s disciples can show far less grace, mercy, and compassion than the Lord Jesus himself. Far too often we fail to reflect the glory of our Master. But learn that Jesus is always better than his followers.
II. The woman dared to approach Jesus with her need.
A. Jesus presents another obstacle to her request (15:24). This seems very unlike the way we are accustomed to think of Jesus—warm, welcoming, and winsome. It ought to make us think about what we know of the Biblical Jesus. By the way, this is another reason to be reading the Four Gospels through four times this year. It will, by the Spirit’s help, cause you to grow in your knowledge of the Lord. It’s time to have more than a nursery school view of Jesus.
1. From our recent study in John 17, we ought to know that Jesus was intent on fulfilling the mission the Father gave to him. He was not on a three-year vacation trip around Palestine. Christ was sent to accomplish certain things, and he was not distracted by other possibilities, however good they might be. He acted according to God’s purpose for him. This is what we must do together. We have enough to do if we pursue the purposes of worship, service, fellowship, discipleship, and evangelism. How are you acting to help all of us fulfill these five purposes together?
2. Jesus explains his visit to the area of Tyre and Sidon. The Father had not sent him on an outreach or evangelistic trip to her people. The Father sent him to seek his lost sheep in Israel. Jesus is in Tyre and Sidon for other reasons, which he doesn’t tell her. This was a time for taking his disciples aside from the growing conflict with the Jewish religious leaders. All that this Gentile woman needed was a clearer understanding of his mission at that time.
B. The woman remains intent on her mission—the rescue of her daughter from demonic oppression. Here is a tender example of a mother’s love for her suffering child. She will not give up until she has tried everything! Who knows how many tears a godly woman sheds over her children and their spiritual welfare? Thank God for your mother’s care for your physical health. If your mother is a believer in Jesus Christ, praise God for her prayers and tears for you.
1. She came to Jesus, bowed before him, and prayed the simplest of prayers (15:25), “Lord, help me!” In this simple prayer, faith and humility join forces. When was the last time you were face down before the Lord? Has there been a first time? God hears the humble (1 Pt 5:5-6). He hears those who refuse to quit praying (Lk 18:1-8). Yet many professing Christians gave up on prayer years ago. Mention that we need to pray and they’ll give an amused smile or roll their eyes or start to offer up reasons why prayer is insufficient. If you want to find God, try looking for him in a prayer meeting. He likes to meet his people when they pray together.
Apply: Let us imitate the persevering faith of this woman. If she had given up at the first obstacle, her daughter would not have been set free. The will of Christ is for us to keep on asking, to keep on seeking, and to keep on knocking (Mt 7:7-8).
2. Jesus answered her with words that would cause most people to quit (15:26). To some it looks like a flat denial. “If that’s how Jesus talks to people, then I don’t want him,” someone might say. But Jesus had a reason for speaking as he did. As the Word of God, he came as the Light to make God known (John 1:1-18). And he makes God known to her by drawing out from her a fuller and deeper confession of faith. So he speaks words that would humble her further.
3. This mother would not give up (15:27)! She seizes Jesus, not by grasping his coat, but by using his words for her advantage. “Yes Lord, I am a Gentile dog. But you will show mercy because even dogs eat crumbs that fall beneath the master’s table. So, just drop a crumb of mercy; that will be sufficient!”
Apply: Since Jesus in the Master and Lord of all, you only need a crumb of mercy from him. Beg him for that crumb!
III. Jesus grants the woman’s request (15:28).
A. He tells her the reason that he is granting her request.
1. As we saw in our series on “Steps to Glory”, to call her “woman” was not a term of disrespect. He holds his distance in a way, as he had from his mother and Mary Magdalene. But he was showing respect by talking this way. What is remarkable here is that he adds a word of wonder: “O”. Jesus only spoke this way on two other occasions: when he was filled with amazement at the unbelief of many after he came down from the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 17:17; Mk 9:19; Lk 9:41), and when he was amazed at the unbelief of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:25). Here is the only time he uses it in a way of affirmation.
2. He grants her request because of her faith. He also honors her by telling her and his disciples that her faith was great. Imagine how she must have felt at that moment! The Lord, the Son of David, the Messiah said that she had great faith! Imagine how the disciples should have felt, because they had asked Jesus to send away a woman of great faith, when he had told them other times that they little faith. Beware of looking down on others, because you might find yourself looking up at them someday.
B. He heals the daughter.
1. He healed her by simply speaking the word. Compare this to the healing of the centurion’s servant (Mt 8:5-13). Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven now, but he is still able to speak the word and heal you right where you are.
Apply: If you are not saved, you may turn from your sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and be declared right with God. Christ died to save sinners, and he invites you to trust him and live.
2. He healed her immediately. There was no need for longs months or years of recovery. No, she was instantly delivered.
Apply: When you repent and believe in Jesus, you are immediately saved. You are in Christ; you’re in the new creation; you are declared right with God, set apart to God, adopted into God’s family as an adult son and heir, and given the Holy Spirit. Rejoice in a full deliverance!
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.