Read: Matthew 15:21-28
This text gives us a glimpse into Jesus’ teaching methods. While this passage records the story of the healing of a Canaanite woman’s daughter from demon possession, it’s, actually, more about Jesus’ attempt to instruct his followers. If I were Matthew, I’d have been embarrassed to leave it in my story. However, Matthew’s whole purpose of writing this gospel is to re-present Jesus to a bunch of legalistic Jews. Undoubtedly the faith of this woman tendered his heart, taught him a bit about compassion, and reminded him that, as with Rahab, God’s out-stretched hand is not just limited to a select few. Besides this, Jesus told the woman she had “great faith.” Nowhere else in Scripture does Jesus quantify the faith of a woman! While we could spend a significant amount of time on what was going on behind the scenes in Christ’s style of education, for our purposes we want to look at the faith of the Canaanite woman. What makes her faith so great?
It’s important to note the woman’s heritage and from where she hailed. This was a “daughter of Jezebel;” her forefathers had worshipped at the altar of Baal. Who knows, maybe her great, great, great, great grand-father had been one of those priests who’d danced around the altar, cutting themselves and trying to call down fire from heaven. They failed, of course, and the One True God of Elijah proved himself, once again, to be All Powerful. Even if she hadn’t been related to one of the priests, she knew the story…and she knew the outcome. The God of the Israelites was worthy to be worshipped (see 1 Kings 18).
Because she was a Canaanite woman, she was lowlife. Lower than low, in fact, she was an unholy, unclean dog in the eyes of the apostles. She annoyed them. They were so annoyed that these wimps came to ask Jesus to send her away. If you’re like me, you think that Jesus’ response to them was very un-Christ-like. So much so we’re shocked by his answer. Loudly enough for her to hear, Jesus tells his twelve to send her away; after all, he has only come for the lost sheep of Israel. Right? Wrong. They know better (or should). Jesus has already told them that his mission is to seek and save all who are lost. He’s already saved a questionable woman at a well in Samaria. No, Jesus is giving his disciples a test. However, before they can take the test, let alone pass it, the woman falls at his feet. Remember she knows the God of the Israelites is worthy to be worshipped, and this man has claims to be God.
Now, Jesus stoops even lower (I wonder if he’s wondering when the disciples are going to step up?), and literally calls her a dog. Ah, but she’s quick, and her faith is GREAT! Even the dogs can eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table. Here’s what she’s saying, “You’re right. I am not worthy. I am a sinful woman. Yet I know that even I can benefit from your leftovers. Even your crumbs are powerful enough to deal with a cruel demon.” Immediately, the compassionate nature of Jesus kicks in, and the lesson is forgotten. The woman’s daughter is immediately healed.
Great faith. There it is again. The One True God shouldn’t even give us the time of day. However, when I’m willing to take my chances in his presence, then there is absolutely no God like Jehovah. He immediately steps onto a cloud and rides to my rescue! Listen, I know I say this with my mouth; but the question is this: do I act on it with my life? When my actions match my words, I, too, show a great faith. Like the Canaanite woman, I walk away from Jesus with my prayers answered.
Faith always leads with humility.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time (1 Peter 5:6)!