Crumbs From the Table
away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a
Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, 'Have
mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.' But
He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying,
'Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.' But He answered and said,
'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.' But she came and
began to bow down before Him, saying, 'Lord, help me!' And He answered and
said, 'It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.'
But she said, 'Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from
their masters' table.' Then Jesus said to her, 'O woman, your faith is great;
it shall be done for you as you wish.' And her daughter was healed at once."
(Matthew 15:21-28; cf. Mark 7:24-30).
Jesus withdrew from the region of Galilee and went into the region of Tyre and
Sidon. It was His first visit to a Gentile nation. Tyre and Sidon were located
just to the north of Galilee.
There, a Canaanite woman sought help for her demon-possessed daughter. She
indicated that the effects were particularly cruel, but did not elaborate. But
it was recognized as something different than a physical illness. When the
cause was physical, the Lord would say so. It is not true that they were just
superstitious and thought every sickness was caused by evil spirits. But some
Jesus' disciples asked Him to send her away. They did not care much for
Gentiles. Jesus explained to her that He was sent only to "the lost sheep of
the house of Israel." This refers to His personal ministry on earth, that He
had been sent to preach unto Israel. The prophet Ezekiel had spoken of this:
"Therefore, I will deliver My flock, and they will no longer be a prey; and I
will judge between one sheep and another. Then I will set over them one
shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself
and be their shepherd." (Ezekiel 34:22-23). Other references also discuss the
coming of the Messiah to Israel as a Shepherd (Jeremiah 50:6,7). When sending
His apostles out to preach during His lifetime, He gave them strict orders
about this: " These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: "Do not go
in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but
rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
"And as you go, preach, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' (Matthew
His death on the cross, however, would be for all nations, and His gospel
would go forth unto all the world following His resurrection and ascension
back into heaven. (Matthew 28:18-20).
Perseverance and Humility
This woman persevered, bowing down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me." Jesus
replied, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the
dogs." What a stunning thing for Jesus to say! But there was a point to be
made behind it all.
She replied, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from
their master's table." Just as stunning was her reply. It is as if she does
not care about anything other than that this Prophet can help her daughter and
she will not be dissuaded.
A number of things happen at this point. here. First, the woman's faith is
certainly tested. It will indeed take great courage and commitment to put up
with this! This fine woman is going to learn something here. She is going to
learn what a strong faith she has!
How much had she heard about Jesus? She was a Gentile living in a foreign
land, but she addressed Jesus saying, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David;"
(vs. 22). The term "Son of David" is a Messianic term. This tells us she knew
something of the promise of God to send a Savior. She addressed Jesus as that
Messiah. We are not told where she had learned this, but she is correct.
It would have been easy for her to turn away in anger or sorrow or pride. But
she saw Jesus as the only hope for her daughter. She would not turn away!
And certainly His disciples would not have expected such faith from a Gentile.
Their perceptions and views of Gentiles will have to change; and in time they
will. As Peter, for example, would one day realize: "I most certainly
understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the
man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him." (Acts 10:34,35).
Later, all would recognize the fact that the gospel is for all "When they
heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, 'Well then, God has
granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.'" (Acts
Reward of Faith
Jesus answered, "O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you
wish." Jesus certainly knew this about the woman's faith. Great faith brings
great rewards. This took courage. It took commitment. It took a spirit that
refused to be deterred. Her faith was tested and passed the test. The apostles
received a lesson that they would remember.
Our faith needs to have endurance as well. To endure, we must have the
confidence in Jesus as this woman had. We are told, "Therefore, do not throw
away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of
endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what
was promised. " (Hebrews 10:35-36)
When that day was over, and this mother held her daughter in her arms, free at
last from the cruel bondage she had suffered, and reflected on the events of
that day, how do you suppose she felt? The Messiah had pronounced her faith as
"great". He had answered her request for her daughter's healing. She had not
let the others persuade her to give up. And, even at that darkest moment when
it seemed as if she would not find the answer she desired, she pressed on. So,
how did she feel at day's end? She had only asked for crumbs from the Master's
table. She instead had received a feast. You can be sure she felt fine. It had
been a very good day.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 14.2; February 2007