Sunday 27 September 2020

Matthew 15 v 21/28


Jesus has completed a very hectic ministry in the region of Galilee in the area of Capernaum. For Jesus He was nearing His end and to rest and teach His Apostles for future work.  In verse 21 we find that Jesus has left the area of Galilee completely and withdrawn into the area of Tyre and Sidon, two places on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in what is now Lebanon. Tyre is about fifty miles south of modern Beirut, and Sidon was halfway between the two. He had gone there for peace and quiet whilst He taught His Apostles, who would carry His message when He had departed.


The cities were outside the boundaries of Israel, and the people were Gentiles. This was the only occasion when Jesus left Jewish territory, and had on His present journey crossed geographical, ethnic, gender and theological boundaries. Later it would mean removing barriers and enable the gospel to be taken to the whole world.


Today many people are anti-Israel and wish to separate from the Jews, but forget the specialness of Israel in the purposes of God. Jesus never implied anything different, but Paul was specially commissioned to bring Gentile and Jews on equal terms.  Many of the wonders of technology which we all enjoy so much, were first discovered and developed in Israel, and given to the wider world in medicine, wireless communication, agriculture and much more.


In verse 22 we find a "Canaanite" woman turning from her idols to seek the Lord and crying out, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." . This is a woman of Canaanite heritage. The Canaanites were ancestral enemies of Jesus.  She has no heritage in understanding or even knowing God’s revelation in the Old Testament. She is not even in a place where she would be in regular contact with those who did. It is likely that she had heard of Jesus from those who were now passing through her land as miracle worker in the land of Israel, and now she finds that Jesus is in her area. She will go to Him and plead for His mercy which is further evidence that she does understand something of who Jesus is, for by definition, a person who asks for mercy, asks for something that they know that they do not deserve. She turns her back on the idols of her own culture and turned to Jesus.

 She pleaded with Jesus to help her as her daughter had demon possession.   Jesus turned His back on her, refusing to answer and His Apostles urged Jesus to chase her away.  He then said to her, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel’. Whilst this was in contrast to Jesus’ last commission to His Apostles to go into the world and make disciples, at the time of this incident it was in the plan of God to focus on the Jews and their spiritual needs.

She then knelt before Jesus and begged Him to help her. His reply was that it would not be right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs. She seems to accept the insult and Jesus’ judgement on her, but still pleaded and said even dogs eat the crumbs from the table  In Palestine dogs were wild scavengers and Canaanites were referred to as such by the Jews who were ancestral enemies of each other. Jesus was testing her faith for it was His way to help all people and had in mind the domestic animals. 

The woman was displaying greater faith in Jesus than many of His own people, and Jesus responded by telling her faith  was so great and granted her request with the result her daughter was healed.

She was persistent and such perseverance should be the mark of every Christian, but sadly it is not. Too often we give up when we do not receive a quick reply to our requests. We may even get discouraged thinking the Lord is no longer listening to us or is ignoring us as He was this woman.


What a beautiful example of the humility and faith, and what a contrast she was to the pride and unbelief of those Jesus had been with in Galilee. She responded in complete humility which is the way each of us should respond.

 What can we learn from this story? This passage encourages us to keep praying even when the temptation is to give up. Be specific in your prayers and when praying for others name them before the Lord

 An important element in prayer is faith, which unlocks the door to heaven.  New life begins with faith and then we must build on that foundation.  Often when we cry to God it is more in hope than faith.  It is like a child who cries for something to eat but then goes on playing and you know it is not hungry.  If he puts his play thing away and pulls at his mother’s clothes you know he is in earnest.  God knows when we are in earnest.

 The Bible states, if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God and it shall be given him, but let him ask in faith, not wavering. Faith is the key that unlocks the treasures of heaven The Bible states, whatever things you desire, believe you receive them and you shall have them,

 Dwight Moody, an American evangelist second only to Billy Graham in the history of great preachers, asked at one of his meetings for all who wished to pray to become Christians to step forward.  Amongst those who went forward was a woman, and Dwight felt by her demeanour she was already a Christian.  He challenged her and asked why she went forward and she said it was for her son who had gone far away, so she thought she would take his place and see if God would bless him.

 We have to thank God for mothers like that.  The tragedy of our time is that there are few mothers, and certainly fathers, who are interested enough in the spiritual welfare of their children.  A Jewish father will devote much time teaching his sons the Commandments, just as a Muslim will teach his children the Koran, but too many men  in this country feel it beneath their masculinity to be religious.

When my two sons were growing up I had to spend many hours away from home in my previous occupation, and my wife was forced to care, largely on her own; to her eternal credit both became youth leaders at our local Church and subsequently have become very successful Vicars.

 The mother in this story showed how deep her faith was in Jesus, and her story will be told as long as this world exists. Such golden chains of faith link us to the throne of God.  When we are in earnest God will respond, and we will be answered just as this woman was. 

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