Matthew 15:21-28 (ESV)
21 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.
Jesus traveled to Tyre and Sidon, located in the coastal region of Phoenicia. This was Gentile territory, as Sidon was 60 miles away from Galilee. Jesus and the disciples were far from home, and some say the round-trip journey could have taken months. The woman who approached Jesus was a Canaanite. The Canaanite culture went back thousands of years and had a long history of problems with the people of God. The text says this woman was literally shouting again and again, pleading with Jesus to have mercy on her or take pity on her. She never says she deserves help from Jesus, but instead, she appeals to his compassion. What’s fascinating is that this Canaanite woman calls Jesus the “Son of David” and the “Lord.” Why would she acknowledge Jesus as the King of the Hebrew people, with whom she had nothing to do with? She heard about Jesus, his teaching, and his work, and she realized that he was the promised Messiah. Jesus firmly told her he came for the nation of Israel. Then he said Israel was like a family gathered for dinner, eating food provided by the father. The Canaanite woman acknowledged that while she didn’t belong at that table, she could still, like a dog, partake some of the crumbs that were discarded by the family.
Jesus was impressed with the woman’s faith. She believed in him, and she trusted in his compassionate nature. He said “no” to her in order to make a point to his disciples and to us. The kind of faith this Gentile woman had was what Jesus was looking for. And he expected the same from the leaders in Israel, but he didn’t find it. She was determined to get Jesus’ help. Do you believe that if Jesus is saying “no,” it is so that he might be glorified? She could have just said, “Forget it” and walked away. When our circumstances don’t make sense, or when things work out differently than we anticipate, we can become discouraged and even tempted to give up. Pray that God would increase your faith today and continue to cry out to him with full trust in the character of Jesus. God can do whatever he wants, when he wants, and he is good. He promises not to withhold one good thing from those who walk uprightly before him. Believe that he knows what’s best.