Jesus left the area of Galilee and journeyed out to the region of Tyre. Tyre was a large city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This was Gentile land. The Lord was putting distance between Himself and His Jewish enemies. Yet His fame had spread so broadly that He couldn’t do anything without being noticed. He couldn’t even go into a house without the crowds attending to His every move. Everyone was watching Him.
A Canaanite woman heard about Jesus and went in search for Him. Her little girl was demonized by an evil spirit. She was desperate for her daughter to be set free. The rumors about this Jesus had given her hope. Even though she wasn’t a Jew, she longed for the blessings Jesus brought.
When the woman found Jesus, she began to cry out, “‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon- possessed.’” What courage it took for a Gentile woman to approach a Jewish holy man! He could have easily rejected her. Instead of taking that risk, she could have allowed her daughter to suffer in silence. She could have hidden her to keep from being embarrassed or sent her away to some other place where she no longer had to live with her daughter’s shame. Instead, she brought her daughter’s suffering to Jesus…and unlike the Jewish leadership, she recognized Him as the Messiah.
The Lord Jesus didn’t answer the woman, and He and His disciples continued on their way. The woman kept following Him and crying out for help. She was so annoying that the disciples finally said, “‘Send her away, for she is shouting after us.’”
Jesus turned to the woman and said, “‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’” Jesus had come to bring the Good News to the Jews. The amazing outpouring of miracles was a fulfillment of God’s promised blessing to His covenant people. It was part of a very specific, laid out plan. God has special times planned for when He will introduce His blessings to different people groups, and the time had not come for the Gentiles yet. As a Gentile, this woman had no right to ask Him for this unimaginably great favor. She wasn’t a member of the family of God!
But the woman came and bowed down at His feet, begging “‘Please, Lord help me!’”
Jesus said, “‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’”
Ouch. Jesus was saying His miracles were for the Jewish people…they were the children’s bread. The time for the Gentiles had not yet come. But the woman was determined and spoke back to Jesus, “‘Yes, Lord,’ she said ‘But even the dogs may eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’” It was true that the blessings of God went to the nation of Israel first, but that did not stop her from wanting them! Would Jesus allow the blessings meant for the nation of Israel to flow to the Gentiles?
Jesus was delighted with this brave woman’s reply. “‘Woman,’ He said, ‘You have great faith! Your request is granted.’” At that very hour, the woman’s daughter was healed.
It is interesting that this story comes right after the story about how the religious leaders were rejecting Jesus. What a difference between this Gentile woman and the leaders of God’s chosen people! Isn’t it stunning that the Jews had been given the holy privilege of being the children at God’s table, yet they didn’t even want the Bread of Life He offered them? This Gentile woman was willing to take that Bread, even though she was getting the leftovers of what the Jewish people wouldn’t take. In the end, the Jewish leadership would find that they had missed the great treasure. But this precious soul found healing for her girl.
Isn’t it interesting…or even troubling…that the Lord Jesus made this woman persevere so hard for the healing? Why did He let her cry out for so long? Why didn’t He answer her immediately?
Jesus had more in store for this woman than the healing of her daughter. In the process of crying out and declaring her need for Christ, she was being given a chance to express her faith…and to strengthen in it. She was getting the chance to be a shining example of what following hard after God looks like. In doing so, she highlighted the difference between those who would have true faith…and would receive the blessings of God…and those who God would leave behind. And because of her faith, Jesus delighted in her.
The disciples witnessed Jesus’ delight and were so moved by it that they made sure to record her story in the Word of God. She had no idea on that remarkable day that she would be honored in Scripture for the next 2,000 years (and counting). But such is the way of God. The proud who elevate themselves and force their own agenda on the world…such as the religious leaders of Christ’s day…are brought low. And the humble, the sincere…the truly poor in spirit…are lifted up. They are given blessings and honor they would have never sought or imagined.