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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

JESUS HEALS THE CANAANITE'S DAUGHTER

Matt 15:21-28 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. 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. But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and besought Him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But He answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me. But He answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs, which fall from their masters' table. 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. (Also see Mark 7:24-30)

Tyre and Sidon are both coastal cities located on the Mediterranean Sea, sometimes called the Great Sea. They are sister cities simply because they are often mentioned together, and both were commercial in nature and almost entirely dependant on merchant shipping trades. Geographically, Tyre is located approximately 25 miles south of Sidon. Both are ancient cities that were founded some 2700 years B.C. These cities were originally built, inhabited, and ruled by the Phoenician government, but during the time of Christ were, like Palestine, were under Roman rule, and was primarily inhabited by Gentiles of Greek heritage known as Syrophenicians (See Mark 7:26).

Coming into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus met a woman of Canaan. Recognizing Him as the Son of David, she pleaded to Him, have mercy on me, ...my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. Mark told this same story in a slightly different manner. He said that, when Jesus arrived into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, he entered into an house. It was there that a certain woman, whose daughter had an unclean spirit came to Jesus and, because she had heard of Him, ...fell at His feet, ...and she besought Him that He would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. By her plea, it is evident that this woman had heard of Jesus, recognized Him as the promised Messiah, and knew of His compassionate healing power.

At first Jesus did not respond to her plea, which prompted His disciples to request that He send her away; for she crieth after us. No doubt Jesus heard her request for the healing of the woman's daughter, but for unrevealed reasons, He did not immediately answer her. One possible reason for His delay could have been to test her faith in Him. Surely the test of our faith is the same reason God does not immediately answer some of our petitions - He wants the sincere earnestness of our desires expressed in faith that He is able to fill our needs as He sees fit. Another reason for Jesus' delay in answering the woman was to teach a lesson to all assembled on that day. The second reason is insinuated in verse 24 when He answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. This answer was to teach the Jews present at this time the command of God, which was taught by our Lord to His apostles as he commissioned them to go and teach His gospel message (Matt. 10:5-6). It was also designed to teach the Gentiles that were present the same message - the hope of eternal salvation through Christ Jesus would first be offered to the Jewish nation, and then, as promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to all nations. This was exactly carried out by Paul and Barnabas according to Acts 13:46.

During His earthly ministry it was necessary for Jesus, as a devout Jew, to abide by God's written law given to the Jewish nation through Moses. Although the gospel of salvation was to be extended only to the Jewish people during His life on earth, the Law of Moses was nailed to the cross and the wall that separated the Jews from the Gentiles was broken down at Jesus' death on the cross of Calvary. Then, prior to His ascension back into heaven, Jesus gave His apostles the "Great Commission," inviting all to come to Him and accept God's plan of salvation. His instruction to them was: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Matt. 28:19-20).

Still acknowledging Jesus to be the empowered Son of God, she continued worshipping Him and pleading, Lord, help me. Jesus continued to test her faith with this instructional analogy: It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. Using language customary to the Jews, the word “children” always meant the Israelites, and “dogs” represented the Gentiles, when these nationalities, in the eyes of God, were compared to each other. It is evident that this Gentile woman also understood this analogy, because she demonstrated her faith in Jesus when she emphatically replied that Jesus spoke the truth, but she added this continuation of His analogy: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs, which fall from their masters' table. She did not deny the superiority of the Jews in God’s sight. She readily acknowledged that Jews deserve to be first to receive the physical and spiritual blessings offered by Jesus. But if the dogs truly represent the Gentiles, then she, like the dogs, would gladly accept the remnant blessings, which fall from their masters’ table.

This Canaanite woman requests only one thing, and that was the healing of her daughter from devil possession. No doubt this Gentile woman regarded this one miraculous blessing as a mere crumb from the bountiful table spread with the miracles Jesus had compassionately granted to diseased and ailing Jews. Realizing her humble, sincere desire, 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. Mark adds this thought: And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed (Mark 7:30). Through many obstacles and hindrances, the faithful perseverance of this Canaanite woman found mercy at the feet of Jesus. How wonderful it would be if all men and women of the world would seek the physical and spiritual healing with the same true, dedicated faith in God through His Son Christ Jesus!