“Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” (Matthew 15:21-28, KJV)
Jesus didn’t often leave the land of Israel when He walked the earth, but this is one occasion when He did. He had finished feeding five thousand people and had told His disciples to get into a boat, push off the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and go “before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away”. (Matt. 14:22b KJV)
When Jesus arrives at the other side of the sea, after having walked on it, and calming the wind and the waves, He winds up in Gennesaret in the area of Galilee. From there, Jesus travels northwest to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea up to Phoenicia where we find two coastal cities; one Tyre and the other Sidon both located in the Province of Syria.
While Tyre and Sidon did fall within the boundaries of the land promised to Israel from God, the tribe of Asher never really conquered all the people within this territory, and therefore it was even now inhabited by Gentiles. It is here somewhere in this area that we find our Lord having entered into a house where apparently He wanted to hide His presence, but alas, He could not do so. (Mark 7:24).
While inside this home, a woman of Canaan (also called a Syro-Phoenician woman in Mark 7:26 clearly indicating she was not a Jew, but a Gentile) finds Jesus there. How did she know He was there? Scripture doesn’t tell us. But what we do know is that this woman is in complete distress. Something has grabbed her emotionally and physically and she is a wreck. As soon as she sees Jesus, she falls at His feet (Mark 7:25) and cries out, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” (v. 22)
And isn’t this how we are to come to Jesus when in trouble or distress? To fall at His feet and cry out to Him asking for His mercy upon us? That’s exactly what this Gentile woman did. And in addition, she cries out to Him by His rightful names: “O Lord, thou Son of David”, for He is both Lord and Son of David. But may I say that His response to her is quite amazing, even perhaps alarming when first read. For “He answered her not a word”.
What! A woman comes to the only One who can heal her young daughter (Mark 7:25), falls at His feet in a distinct form of humility, adoration, worship, and as a sign of her unworthiness, and Jesus answers her not? What must have been going through that woman’s mind right now? Might it have been, “Well He must not be God or He’d heal my daughter”, or perhaps, “He can heal her, but He simply doesn’t want to”, or “He’s not taking pity on me”, or perhaps she’s thinking even He doesn’t have the kind of power needed to heal her daughter from this demon possession. Does she feel ashamed, hurt, embarrassed, disregarded, like a second class citizen, or some other feeling of being disparaged by Him? We shall see.
In the meantime, the disciples essentially ask Jesus to do what she asks and send her away because she’s causing quite a disruption. You see, her pleas on behalf of her daughter were not whispers; they were not even spoken to Jesus in a normal tone of voice. No, she was yelling, perhaps even screaming through her tears and torment, when she came to Him. And this scene that she was apparently causing, forced the disciples to want her to leave such that they would no longer be bothered or embarrassed by her erratic, frenetic behavior.
Now when the disciples asked Jesus to send her away, He answers them and says, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Ouch! Jesus tells the disciples and the woman hears, that He came for the Jews. And by the next verses we know that the woman knows exactly what Jesus is saying. He is saying that He came for His own people, and with that, the woman may have thought her case was hopeless. But again, quite to the contrary, she is neither undaunted nor discouraged by the Lord’s reply to His disciples.
Verse 25 tells us, “Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.” Because of her faith, she does not give up. Quite the opposite, she came and worshipped Him. We don’t know exactly how she worshipped Him, because the verse doesn’t directly tell us, but I believe her worship consisted of the display of her incredible faith; a faith that led her to say once again, “Lord help me!” (Notice this time she drops the “Son of David” label as that is primarily a Jewish term essentially meaning “Messiah” or the chosen One of Israel. She acknowledged that she was not a Jew and therefore calls Him only “Lord”. But indeed, that is who He truly is!)
You might be thinking, OK Jesus, she’s proved herself and her faith. Come on now, please save her daughter! But to prove again that His ways are not our ways, He replies, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” What!? You mean Jesus is saying to her, well I’ve got the power but it is being reserved for the House of Israel? And beyond that, did you catch that He is calling her a dog? Jesus? Calling anyone a dog? I don’t understand. I don’t comprehend. I’m even taken back a bit by all of this. Can this really be what the Lord said to this woman who is in such deep duress?
But Jesus knew exactly what He was saying and doing; we now find out why. It is her response and it is absolutely incredible and extraordinary. Read this carefully and meditate on it for a moment. Here it is: “And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” She says, “Truth, Lord”! She exclaims, what you have said Lord is true; it is true that I am a dog. I am unworthy to be in your presence. I am unworthy to be asking you this favor. I am unworthy to be at your feet. I am a dog. When I compare myself to you, calling me a dog is probably giving me more credit than I deserve!
Now let’s put ourselves in the woman’s shoes. Who wants to be called a dog? Whether it’s a family dog or a dog of the street, that’s a downright demeaning and degrading term. And I would suggest that we would take offense to anyone saying that about us. Our anger would rise, our emotions would take over, and we would almost immediately get into an emotional and physical pose as to be quite ready to fight back and fight back hard.
You see, in our sinfulness, we have a tendency to bring God down to be a little (or a lot) lower than He actually is and we also have a tendency to place ourselves a little (or a lot) higher than we really are. The end result of this sinfulness is that we think we are closer to God in our very being and in our ways than we truly are. In reality, we are worse than dogs in light of His holiness, majesty, power, omniscience, and character.
But not this woman. She knows exactly who she is and she tells Jesus, it is true Lord, “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” In other words, “Lord I am completely and utterly unworthy of your mercy or grace ever! I know that! But perhaps you might have some mercy left over after having dispensed what you determine to freely give to your people; and if so, I am here willing to take even the leftovers of your grace”.
This is unbelievable! This in incredible faith! This is undoubting faith! This is unwavering faith! This is “I’m digging my heels in and not moving” faith! This these are the words Jesus was looking for. Did He not know the profound faith she had before she exclaimed it? Certainly not! For He knows everything. No, this event was not for His ears, it was for the disciples and for all of those who have read this and will ever read it; to be certain of these truths: a) Jesus came for both the Jew and the Gentile, b) salvation is for both Jew and Gentile, c) both Jew and Gentile are welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven, d) that faith in Jesus, not faith in anything or anyone else, will bring us to Him and keep us with Him (solely by the grace of God), and e) anything that is asked in Jesus’ name, that is according to His will, shall be done.
Now that Jesus has worked with this woman to allow her to display the faith He knows she has, He responds to her by saying, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” And true to His word, displaying His all-encompassing power and overarching love, “her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”
Wow! This is an absolutely amazing event that upon reading, studying, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, has opened my eyes to so many things about me (not good) and my precious Savior (who becomes even more and more incredible to me as I understand more and more of what He has done for me).
I am reminded that I too am a dog. I too am completely unworthy. I too have no business in His presence. I too have no right to ask Him anything. He is holy; I am a dirty dog. He is powerful; I am a weakling dog. He is majestic; I am a mangy dog. He is King; I am a lowly dog. He is sovereign; I am a dog in need of constant help. He is unchanging; I am an impressionable dog, ready to go in any evil direction that will comfort me.
As Isaiah said after seeing the Lord sitting on His throne, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5, KJV) Yes, woe is me, for I am a dog in the presence of God Almighty!
Through this passage, I am reminded that in light of my evil, sinful, and disgusting mind and heart, Jesus came to save me from my sins. He came to set me free from the punishment that I so richly deserve. He came to give me the right to be called a child of God. He came, died, and rose again, that I might have life eternal in His Kingdom, with Him. How precious my Savior is to me!
And even if He has determined that I should only receive an amount of mercy that is “left over”, mercy that has “fallen to the floor” from what He has given to others, that intended amount is perfect, and right, and is exactly what I need, according to His love and grace for me. I would be grateful for one morsel of mercy (or at least I hope I would!), but if each mercy would be measured as one molecule in this universe, the mercy He has provided for me fills more than the astronomers have discovered so far.
I know that I do not even deserve the crumbs that have fallen from the table. But in my Savior’s love for me, He stored up grace and mercy for me from before the foundation of the world. And as He determines to lay them upon my head, I am forever taken back by His love for such a dog as I.
Flee to the Cross sinner! It is there you will find His grace and mercy unmeasurable! It is there where you will find salvation and life everlasting. Cry out to Him. See the blood He has shed for the remission of your transgressions! Repent of your sins and ask Him to be your Lord and Savior, and on the promise of Scripture, He will turn no one away. Oh what a God! Oh what a Savior!
Lord, I am so grateful for the mercy you have shed upon me in my life; in my past, in the present, in the future, and forever more. Your grace and mercy have simply never run out on me. And for that I am eternally in debt to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
To God be the glory; great things He has done!