Series 23


by Francis Dixon

(Scripture Portion: Matthew 15:21-28; Commendation: Verse 28)

This study is about a Canaanite woman with a demon-possessed daughter, who longed for her child to be set free. One day she heard that Jesus was nearby, and although she was a Gentile, she went to Him and pleaded for His mercy and help. Apparently He took no notice of her (Matthew 15:23) and even likened her to a “dog” (verse 26). At first sight His treatment seems to conflict with His welcoming word in John 6:37; but in spite of His attitude towards her the woman continued to plead with Him until she received His gracious commendation – “Woman, you have great faith!” (verse 28). In fact, she not only received His commendation, but also the answer to her prayers, in the healing of her little girl. She had “great faith”. Why was her faith so great?

1. Her faith was great because of who she was.

Mark 7:26 tells us she was “a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia”. So she was a Gentile, not a Jew, and from the Jewish standpoint she was an outcast, “a dog”. Look up John 4:9; but notice the contrast between these two women. In the case of the woman of Samaria it was Christ who approached her; in the case of the Syrian Phoenician woman, she came to the Lord. She (a Gentile) came to Him (a Jew), and as a Gentile had no claim whatever upon the Messiah. She was outside the privileges of the Jewish race to whom our Lord first came; “a foreigner to the covenants of promise” (Ephesians 2:12); yet she believed that if she came and cast herself upon His mercy Jesus would heal her child. How glad we must be that today no race of people has prior claim upon our Lord for His salvation! – look up Romans 10:12-13.

2. Her faith was great because it came from the right source.

Mark 7:25 tells us that this woman “heard about him”. Faith begins when we hear the word of the Lord – look up Romans 10:17. What did she hear? She heard about His power to heal, cast out demons, open blind eyes, cleanse lepers and make the deaf hear and the dumb speak. Who told her these things? We do not know, but when she heard, she believed. She accepted the testimony of those who had spoken of Jesus. Then she reasoned, “If He is able to cast demons out of others, He is able to do the same for my little girl! He is mighty and loving, and I’ll ask Him to do it. He can, and I believe He will!” You have heard of all that God is able and willing to do. Have you trusted Him to do it for you – to save you (Hebrews 7:25), cleanse you (1 John 1:7), and make you His child (John 1:12)?

3. Her faith was great because it did not waver in the face of tremendous testings.

What testings they were! We need to remember that faith will always be tested – look up 1 Peter 1:7. This woman’s faith was tested in four ways:

  1. The silence of Christ. In Matthew 15:23 we are told that she went to Him and made her plea and “Jesus did not answer a word.” He practically ignored her – yet He was testing her faith. He knew what was in man, He knew that she had faith. He was waiting for her faith to find full expression. Notice she was not discouraged to the point of giving up by our Lord’s apparent denial. She waited and held on, believingly.
  2. The attitude of the disciples. The disciples said, “Send her away; for she keeps crying out after us!” (Matthew 15:23). How sad that they thought more of their own comfort than of this woman’s need; but then she was only a Gentile! Yet their attitude made her more determined than ever! She determined to hold on until she received the blessing she needed so much. Great faith persists.
  3. Our Lord’s words. His words, recorded in Matthew 15:24, must have seemed to shut the door to blessing – and yet she did not accept that. Jesus meant that His primary ministry was to the Jews, whereas the woman was a Gentile; but she wonderfully reacted to His words (verse 25). She uttered a quick “telegram” prayer – “Lord, help me! All that you say may be true, but please help me!” What weak faith ours sometimes is!
  4. Our Lord called her “a dog”. Matthew 15:26 tells us this. Surely this was enough to quench her faith? – yet it did not do so. What did our Lord mean? He meant that the “children” were the Jews, and the “dogs” were the Gentiles; in effect He said, “You are not one of My children, and My message and My power are only for them. It wouldn’t be right to give My blessing to you!” Does this sound strange from the lips of our Lord? He was testing her faith, and she passed the test well. See her reply to His words – Matthew 15:27.

4. Her faith was great because she turned all these obstacles into stepping-stones.

Matthew 15:27 really means this. The woman said, “It is quite true what you say, Lord; I am a dog, but I’m not a wild wandering dog any more. I am with your ‘children’, and although it wouldn’t’t be right to give me the food meant for them, surely you will not refuse me the privilege of picking up the crumbs that fall under the table?” She accepted our Lord’s verdict of herself, but she turned it to good account.

5. Her faith was great because it was so richly rewarded.

The rewards she received are mentioned in verse 28, the greatest of which was our Lord’s commendation. “Woman, you have great faith!” When He spoke these words, immediately the woman knew He was going to heal her child, but she also had the reward of hearing Him promise His healing, for He said, “Your request is granted.” She then had the joy of finding that her prayer was answered, for she arrived home and found her child perfectly well.

It is remarkable that Jesus came a journey of fifty miles over very rough mountainous country to Tyre and Sidon, met this woman of faith, and immediately after bringing blessing to her appears to have gone on to Galilee. What a long way the Saviour will go to bless one soul! He was willing to go all the way to Calvary to save us all!