Friday 18 August 2023



                         M A T T HE W 15. V 21-28


The faith of a Gentile woman

Jesus has completed a very hectic ministry in the region of Galilee in the area of Capernaum. He knew He was nearing the end of His earthly ministry, and wanted to rest and teach His Apostles for the future work they would have to do.

Jesus has left the area of Galilee completely, and withdrawn into the area of Tyre and Sidon, two places on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in what is now Lebanon.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.

 The cities were outside the boundaries of Israel, and the people were largely Gentiles, but there was a Jewish community. 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 to enable the gospel to be taken to the whole world.

I have found that quite a number of people found this story hard to understand, as Jesus appeared to be doing something which seems contrary to the image they have of Him, especially in the way He spoke to the woman.

Today many people are anti-Israel and wish to separate from the Jews, but they 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, and much more.

Never overlook the fact that we worship a Jewish Saviour, born into a Jewish family, and our God is the God Israel. We teach, (or are meant to) from a Holy Book written by 40 men, 39 of whom were Jews, under the divine inspiration of God. Our faith is not man-made, and is recorded in history by witnesses, which negates any justifiable call for joint worship with other faiths.  We respect their right to hold their own beliefs, but they do not acknowledge the divinity of Jesus..

The story revolves around a "Canaanite" woman turning from her idols to seek the help and mercy of Jesus to cure her daughter’s illness.

This is a woman of Canaanite heritage, who were ancestral enemies of Israel, and thereby of Jesus. She has no understanding, or even knowing of 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 as miracle worker in the land of Israel, from those who were now passing through her land, 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 crying out, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." . 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.

The woman responded that extended blessings were mentioned by Abraham to the promised Gentiles, that God’s plan was to bring salvation to His chosen people Israel, and then to Gentiles. The woman was showing an attitude of humble faith, which allowed Jesus to answer, for God responds to all who call on Him in true faith.

Jesus was testing her faith for it was His way to help all people.  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.

I read once a story about a boy brought up in an Institutional home and was never taught how to read or write, but he did know the letters of the alphabet. One day the local Vicar talked to the children and told them if they prayed to God real hard, He would hear and answer them.  The boy grew up and was given a hard time by his employer. So decided to do what the Vicar had said.

One day a man was passing a hedge when he heard the a voice from behind the hedge saying ABCD, and he saw the boy on his knees.  He asked the boy what he was doing, and the boy replied  that he was praying.  The man said that is not praying, you are just saying letters.  The boy answered that a Vicar told him if he asked God in prayer he would get help, but as he didn’t know how to pray he thought if he just said the letters God would take them and make them into a prayer and give him what he wanted. That was faith for sure.

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 woman in this tory remains unknown, we are not told who she was, but she will remain in history for all time.  We do know she was not Jewish of course, but she went to Jesus desperate, for her daughter’s life was at stake for there was no medical cure. The mother persevered begging for help from Jesus to cast out the devil in the girl.  Another praying mother, which again reveals how God gave women that loveliness that distinguishes and enables them to be such wonderful carers, and a worthy contrast to, and for men.

The Bible has many instances of such answered prayer, but how many mothers today (or fathers) would seek the help of Jesus in the present age?  Parents can give children many goods, but can also give that which fewer parents do give, the teaching about Jesus.

A lot of parents will be worried as they see their sons, and more so daughters, going away from home to Universities and Colleges in other places of learning and who will face much temptation. Young people are so vulnerable at all ages, and young women especially, are seen by many men as being there for the express purpose of fulfilling their lusts.

.This Gospel passage wants us to have faith.  Our hearts can so easily be turned off, and we may feel discouraged. and that speaking to God is a waste of time, especially if we don’t get an immediate response that we expect.

Remember that God is a Father to all His family, and just at times we earthly parents do not give what our family expect ,because we know it is not in their best interest to do so.  God is responding in the same way, foreseeing what lies ahead.

Remember this unknown woman who never gave in, and was rewarded. Resolve to follow her example and trust God in His grace to answer you, even if not in the way you would have liked.

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.

May it be a resolution with us in the case of religion. Our hearts shall be the main thing. Let us not attend to Church and accept false teaching, but go deeper and have a heart in God’s sight.  A heart, touched by the blood of Christ, and   renewed by the Holy Spirit and purified by faith.[1]


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