Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”
But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”
Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”
But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”
Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”
She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”
“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.”
Matthew 15:21-28 NLT
My Thoughts: If you will remember, although we know Jesus came to offer salvation to everyone, it was for the Jew first (see Matthew 10:5-42 blog: https://tinyurl.com/y65opd79).
“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Romans 1:16
Jesus left Galilee and went to Tyre and Sidon which was primarily Gentile territory and known for a long-standing reputation of wickedness (see Matthew 11:20-24 blog: https://tinyurl.com/y48bzz3r). So, why did Jesus go there if his message was for the Jew first? We aren’t told but in our last blog we learned that Jesus had been approached by the Pharisees and teachers of the religious laws claiming he and the disciples weren’t following Jewish traditions and laws. Maybe Jesus simply wanted to get away from these religious fanatics who were wearing him out with silly accusations? Maybe he chose these cities because he knew these powerful leaders wouldn’t dare sully their reputation by following him to such a wicked place?
Maybe, just maybe, Jesus knew there was a Gentile woman who had a pure heart and a deep faith and she needed him?
Let’s look at her dialogue to see what we can learn about her:
- She came pleading for her daughter
- She came in humility (have mercy on me)
- She knew Jesus was Lord and also from the line of David which implies she had some knowledge of Jewish teachings (O Lord, Son of David)
- She came believing that Jesus could heal her daughter
In spite of all of these good and noble qualities, we see Jesus do something a little surprising: But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Matthew 15:23a
At this point who was Jesus testing more with his silence, the Gentile woman or his disciples? Perhaps it was testing for both of them?
Assuming his silence was an indication of disapproval of the woman, the disciples immediately ask Jesus to get rid of her because the begging was bothering them. They had no compassion for this Gentile woman and her cries for help.
Yikes Moment: Hmm, how many times have I been ‘bothered’ by someone who clearly has a real need and pretended I didn’t see them or neglected to exhibit compassion by leaving or ignoring their need? (I’m squirming uncomfortably in my chair right now.)
Jesus completely ignores his disciples and directly addresses the woman telling her that he was there to only help the people of Israel (Jews).
I love what happens next; she didn’t whine, she didn’t get mad, she didn’t warn Jesus that if anything horrible happened to her child it would be his fault for refusing to help her.
She came and worshiped him.
Oh that I would be that woman when I am faced with a time of testing!
Sadly, my reaction when I am faced with opposition isn’t always praiseworthy. Am I alone with this confession? I really do want to remain steadfast and be able to say that I continued to worship Jesus in faith then humbly ask him again, but it requires I stay intentional about praying and worshipping. I can say I don’t turn against God anymore because I didn’t get my prayer answered the way I wanted, but I know I haven’t always honored him with my behavior when I didn’t get my way! Yikes! The lessons I can learn from this woman are innumerable!
To make matters worse, Jesus seems to use some very harsh words against the woman: “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”
I wonder if Jesus spoke the words the disciples were actually thinking. I also wonder if those very words made the disciples uncomfortable when they rolled off the tongue of Jesus. Isn’t that sometimes what happens to us? Inside we think something mean and we feel justified about our feelings until someone else actually speaks them and we hear them for the ugliness they truly are. Make no mistake about it this is a specific lesson that relates to the verse I share regularly:
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 NLT
FYI, my NIV Study Bible says this about the use of the word dog: “Dog was a term the Jews commonly applied to Gentiles because the Jews considered these pagan people no more likely than dogs to receive God’s blessing. Jesus was not degrading the woman by using this term he was reflecting the Jews attitude [perhaps the disciples attitude too?] so as to contrast it with his own. The woman did not argue. Instead, using Jesus’ choice of words, she agreed to be considered a dog as long as she could receive God’s blessing for her daughter. Ironically, many Jews would lose God’s blessing and salvation because they rejected Jesus, and many Gentiles would find salvation because they recognized and accepted him.” (Words in brackets are mine)
At the end of their exchange Jesus rewards the woman with the desires of her heart. This woman’s steadfast desire was to save her child; she didn’t approach Jesus as if he was a magic man who could provide her with treasures or perform magic tricks. She approached Jesus with humility and the full belief that he was who he said he was and he could save her child. The meditations of her heart and her words were absolutely in alignment with the word and will of God.
Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:21 NLT
Closing Prayer: Father God, this was a hard lesson that made me take a very close look at my response when I am struggling with trials. I ask for your forgiveness Lord for where I have failed you. I pray that I bury the words of this lesson in my heart as a strong reminder that you always bless your children and that often means that when I don’t get my way, it’s because your way is better. Thank you, Lord, for this important lesson that reminds me to be faithful and to worship you in every circumstance. I love you so much and ask for your favor in making me constantly aware of these lessons as I go about my day. In the name of Jesus I pray, amen.