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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Barcus

April 28th, 2024: Faith of a Canaanite- Matthew 15:21-28

Several lessons now have been about faith, demonstrated in different ways by different kinds of people.  We have seen the faith and hearts of sinners, of leaders, of Jews, of Gentiles, and now we see the faith of another woman.  She is a Canaanite, an unclean pagan by the religious standards of the day.  Similar to our lesson last week, she should not even approach Jesus. But that is ok.  Jesus is good at breaking down the barriers between people and groups.  He is on a mission, He is rescuing everyone who will call upon His name.


Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.


Immediately prior to our lesson, Jesus has been teaching about the traditions of men versus the commandments of God.  They have taken what was given to Moses and convoluted it to the point that they no longer recognize the truth of God’s law.  He has pointed out the hypocrisy in their actions and declares yet again, that they say one thing with their mouth but their hearts are far from Him.  Along comes yet another example of the heart He is looking for as our Syrophoenician/Canaanite woman approaches. 


And, behold, 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.


Some commentators speculate that this woman has traveled at least 50 miles to get to Jesus.  Matthew calls her a woman of Canaan, referencing the long tradition of distrust and bad will between her ancestors and his own.  But she has a need and she is seeking out the one who can fix it. Where did she hear?  How did she hear?  We can speculate but does it matter? She heard, she traveled, and she sought the Master. In fact, scripture says Jesus went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon.  Jesus traveled to meet her in her territory.  As hard as we might try, we cannot find an instance where Jesus does not respond to a sincere seeker. 


But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.


This seeker is not asking for herself but for her daughter. Yet Jesus pauses here. He didn’t immediately answer. The disciples seem annoyed and just want Jesus to “fix” her problem so they can move on. She has boldly reached out, cried out in fact, without regard for her ancestry or the animosity between the cultures.  Is there something stopping you from crying out to God about your situation? She didn’t have to pay money, or do penance, she simply believed and cried out. Have you fully used your access to the creator of the universe just by calling out? What is stopping you?


He answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.


She seems to be asking out of turn. Jesus mission is to the house of Israel. He is not sent to the gentiles although He has healed gentiles. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan. (Matthew 4:24-25).


Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.


If we could wrap our heads around worship, true adoration, respect, and devotion.  Worship is not a feeling (although there are feelings involved). Worship is a verb, an action of praise, respect, honor, and giving thanks.  Her heart is revealed in her words.  Lord, Help me.  This prayer, short, to the point, and in faith can be used anytime and anywhere by anyone.  God does not require long, polished, pre approved prayer.  He looks for and responds to sincerity, honesty, and faith.  Although she is asking for her daughter’s health she cries out, Help me. 

  

But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dog.


When He does speak, it is not what we expect to hear.  He can’t share with her what belongs to someone else!  We can’t hear the tone of the words, but know they were not harsh and mean.  Commentators indicate that the word for dogs here is not talking about a ravening pack of wild dogs but rather a house puppy.  Something softer and beloved.  


And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.


Notice that she recognizes her place in the family at this point. She understands and does not storm off at Jesus’ comment. She does not appear to be offended.  But insistently, she answers that even the puppy in the house, eats the crumbs from the family table continuing to show her faith.  She knows something the religious leaders of the day have not figured out.  Jesus is not taking anything away from the Jews. He is there to give them the bread of life.  


Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.


And as we expect, Jesus is pleased with her faith.  Though not a Jew, she demonstrates her faith by her action and her words. Can we say the same?  Does our faith show in our actions and our words?  Do we allow things to stop us from coming boldly to the throne of God?  Do we give up our requests before our answer comes?  Jesus rewarded her faith and called her faith great.  So, what makes great faith? Would you like to have more faith?  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17). We can speak to Jesus directly through prayer. He speaks to us directly through His Word and the Holy Spirit.  


Thank you for studying with us! God bless!


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