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Mary Elizabeth Baxter :: The Syrophenician Woman—Matthew 15:21-28

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Jesus never took a journey by chance, nor because of any choice of His own. All His movements were guided from above. "I do always those things that please Him" (Jhn 8:29). Thus we find that there was no repetition in His ministry. Every case of healing was a typical case; every soul He dealt with was also typical-that He might teach evangelists who should follow Him and win souls in His name, how they should deal with such cases when they came across them.

Leaving the neighbourhood of Capernaum, and the land of Gennesaret, Jesus went into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. Just as His mission, when He sat at Jacob's well, was to one individual, so this journey beyond the limits of Palestine was for the sake of a single individual; both of these were women. Numbers do not count much with God. He is truly the Lord of hosts, but He is the Father of His children, He knoweth them all by their names, He knows them individually, and has individual love for each of them.

"A woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto Him, saying:

"Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil." To this mother her child's case was as though it were her own.

Such a heart could not pray indifferent, superficial prayers, which can neither honour God, bless the petitioner, nor obtain an answer. The woman was intense in her desire and intense in her appreciation of Jesus.

"Have mercy on me; my daughter is grievously vexed." Such is the cry of a persevering parent.

But Jesus "answered her not a word." This was unusual with the Master. Generally, with Him, to hear a petition was to answer it, to see a sick one was to heal him, but those who understood Him best were put to the proof by Jesus; and those who understand Him best now are always a tested people.

"Send her away; for she crieth after us."

Such was the disciples' request. Some believe that it meant: "Do what she asks for, and dismiss the case quickly." Others think that the disciples were impatient at the interruption, and wanted Him to dismiss a Gentile, as unworthy of notice.

It matters little; but His answer is full of import:

"I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

Here was the hindrance. It was not part of Christ's vocation to undertake for a Gentile woman, and the words might have fallen like a funeral knell upon the woman's ear. But instead of giving way to despair, she looked away from her trouble to the face and the person of Jesus, and considering fully His hand of might and His ear of love, she pursued her plea:

"Lord, help me."

It is just this getting away from the thing prayed for, and dealing with the character of the God to whom we pray, which strengthens our faith for the answer.

"It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs."

Dead to herself in her earnestness for her child, and in her confidence in the Master, she said:

"Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."

How often in answering prayer God has to pull us up, short and sharp, just because we have not yet learnt our nothingness in His sight; He has to show us that we are dogs-nothing and nobody-and we must needs learn humbling lessons before our prayer can be answered.

But when the woman took her place, she demanded all that belonged to that position: "Truth, Lord, let me be a dog, but give me the dog's portion, for 'the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.' The healing of my daughter is but a tiny crumb of the grace of power and love which belongs to One like Thee."

The test had done its work, the lesson was learnt, the example of faith and humility was manifest, for Jesus was teaching His very disciples a lesson of faith which they had not yet learnt, through His dealing with this Gentile woman.

"O woman," He said to her, "great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt."

Great faith receives a great answer; "her daughter was made whole from that very hour."

Answers to prayers are not obtained by an impatient clamour, or a constant repetition, as though the power lay in the prayer itself. Real faith is an appreciation of Jesus, and a persevering dependence upon His doing that which becomes His character. This will prevail, and God is glorified by it. Every believer's faith which is tried, and stands the trial, raises the standard of faith higher throughout the whole body of Christ. "Blessed is she that believed." (Luk 1:45.)


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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