• Welcome to Talk Jesus

    A true bible based, Jesus centered online community. Join over 13,000 members today

    Register Log In

Crumbs from the Master's Table

Users who viewed this discussion (Total:0)

Staff Member
Matthew 15
The Faith of a Canaanite Woman
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Study Notes

15:24 only to the lost sheep . . . of Israel. Prior to the resurrection, the “wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14) still stood. Jesus came as the Messiah and heir to the throne of David. Jesus graciously responds only after it was clear that the woman had no presumption of deserving the blessing promised to Israel; rather, she hoped to benefit from the overflow of those blessings.

15:26 throw it to the dogs. The context indicates that house pets rather than strays are in view. The expression is not equivalent to the common insult “Gentile dog.”

IVP Commentary

A Canaanite Woman's Faith (15:21-28)
Placed immediately after a discussion of purity in both Matthew and Mark, Jesus' encounter with this Gentile woman brings out the implications the Evangelists find in his view of purity: Gentiles will no longer be separated from Israel (compare Acts 10:15, 28; 11:9-18). Like an earlier Gentile in Matthew's Gospel (8:10), this woman becomes an illustration of faith. Also like the centurion, this outsider's faith compares favorably with that of some religious insiders among Jesus' contemporaries (15:1-20).

Matthew reinforces this point by specifying exactly what Mark's Hellenistic Syro-Phoenician woman (Mk 7:26) means. She is a descendant of the ancient Canaanites, the bitter biblical enemies of Israel whose paganism had often led Israel into idolatry (compare Jub. 22:20-22). "Yes," Matthew seems to reply; "God's compassion extends to all Gentiles." If Tyre and Sidon (15:21) lead some readers to recall Jezebel, others must recall instead the widow who supported Elijah (1 Kings 17:8-24; Lk 4:26). The narrative thus constitutes another of Matthew's invitations to the Gentile mission (like 2:1-11; 8:5-13), reinforcing the message of 11:21-24 (where Tyre and Sidon were more open to repentance than Galilean towns were).

The Woman Will Not Take No for an Answer (15:21-25)
In our culture we might consider this woman rude, but ancient Mediterranean judges were sometimes so corrupt that among the poor only a persistent, desperate, otherwise powerless woman could obtain justice from them (Lk 18:2-5; Bailey 1980:134-35). Both men and women in the Old Testament (Gen 18:22-32; 32:26-30; Ex 33:12-34:9; 1 Kings 18:36-37; 2 Kings 2:2, 4, 6, 9; 4:14-28) and in the Gospel tradition (Mk 5:28-29; Jn 2:3-5) show courage by refusing to take no for an answer to a desperate need. When we recognize that we have nowhere else to turn, clinging to the only One who can answer us is an act of faith.

Jesus' Mission Is Specifically for Israel (15:26)
Jesus had left Jewish territory because the masses crowded him and he needed a short vacation to rest with and teach his disciples (v. 21; compare 16:13); but this stage of his mission was for Israel alone (compare 28:19). Thus when his disciples ask him to send the woman away (15:23), he notes the limitation of his mission (v. 24; compare 10:6; Rom 15:8). Yet he did not send her away as his disciples requested, which may have encouraged her to persevere (compare 19:13; 20:31). To her own insistent entreaty (15:25) Jesus responds with almost equal firmness (v. 26). Some Jewish teachers would have reached out to the woman, hoping to make her a proselyte (see, for example, Jos. Ant. 20.34-36; Apion 2.210; m. 'Abot 1:12; Goppelt 1964:54); Jesus simply snubs her.

The language in Mark is somewhat milder: that the children must be fed "first" (Mk 7:27) allows for the possibility of a later healing and a window for the coming Gentile mission (Hurtado 1983:103), but even in Mark the woman's need is too urgent for that. Jesus probably refers to children's pet dogs; well-to-do Greeks, unlike Jews, could raise dogs as pets and not view them merely as troublesome pests (compare Lk 16:21; Ex 22:31). The image is thus simply one of children's needs (compare 7:9) taking temporal precedence over those of pets (Lane 1974:262; Anderson 1976:191). Such an admission, however, hardly transforms the image into a compliment (compare 7:6).

Jesus is not cursing the woman, but he is putting her off (compare 8:7). It is possible that he is testing her, as teachers sometimes tested their disciples (Jn 6:6; Lev. Rab. 22:6), but he is certainly reluctant to grant her request and is providing an obstacle for her faith (compare Jn 2:4). Perhaps he is requiring her to understand his true mission and identity, lest she treat him as one of the many wandering magicians to whom Gentiles sometimes appealed for exorcisms. Yet he is surely also summoning her to recognize Israel's priority in the divine plan, a recognition that for her will include an admission of her dependent status. (One may compare Elisha's requirement that Naaman dip in the Jordan despite Naaman's preference for the Aramean rivers Abana and Pharpar in 2 Kings 5:10-12, ultimately leading to Naaman's acknowledgment of Israel's God and land in 2 Kings 5:17-18.) For one of her social status (an elite "Greek" citizen of Syro-Phoenician race, in Mark's account) this was a dramatic reversal indeed (see Theissen 1991:66-80); but by calling her a Canaanite, Matthew's account mutes the class issue, properly focusing instead on the racial issue, which is more relevant to his own audience.

Matthew Henry Commentary

The dark corners of the country, the most remote, shall share Christ's influences; afterwards the ends of the earth shall see his salvation. The distress and trouble of her family brought a woman to Christ; and though it is need that drives us to Christ, yet we shall not therefore be driven from him. She did not limit Christ to any particular instance of mercy, but mercy, mercy, is what she begged for: she pleads not merit, but depends upon mercy. It is the duty of parents to pray for their children, and to be earnest in prayer for them, especially for their souls.

Have you a son, a daughter, grievously vexed with a proud devil, an unclean devil, a malicious devil, led captive by him at his will? this is a case more deplorable than that of bodily possession, and you must bring them by faith and prayer to Christ, who alone is able to heal them. Many methods of Christ's providence, especially of his grace, in dealing with his people, which are dark and perplexing, may be explained by this story, which teaches that there may be love in Christ's heart while there are frowns in his face; and it encourages us, though he seems ready to slay us, yet to trust in him. Those whom Christ intends most to honour, he humbles to feel their own unworthiness.

A proud, unhumbled heart would not have borne this; but she turned it into an argument to support her request. The state of this woman is an emblem of the state of a sinner, deeply conscious of the misery of his soul. The least of Christ is precious to a believer, even the very crumbs of the Bread of life. Of all graces, faith honours Christ most; therefore of all graces Christ honours faith most. He cured her daughter. He spake, and it was done. From hence let such as seek help from the Lord, and receive no gracious answer, learn to turn even their unworthiness and discouragements into pleas for mercy.
Thread starter Similar threads Forum Replies Date
C Christian Counseling 3
Coconut Prayer Request 7

Similar threads