Jesus did not want to be found. He “entered into an house and would have no man know it” (Mark 7:24). This seems a little out of character for the Lord, who was always among the multitudes teaching and working miracles, which by their very nature were designed to bring attention to Himself. But there were occasions when it was necessary for the Lord to keep a lower profile (e.g., Matt. 14:12,13,23). In this instance, the Pharisees had been offended at His teaching and He had withdrawn, perhaps so as not to provoke a confrontation with them just yet (Matt. 15:12).
The house into which Jesus secreted Himself was in the coasts or borders of Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 15:21; Mark 7:24). However, Jesus’ fame and reputation had already preceded Him into this land of the Gentiles (Mark 3:8; Luke 6:17). One of those from those same coasts who knew of Jesus was “a certain woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit” (Mark 7:25). This young girl had been grievously vexed with a devil (Matt. 15:22) and this sad situation must have vexed her loving mother sorely, as well.
She had heard of Jesus’ healing of the sick and His casting out of the devils and she believed He could do the same for her daughter (Mark 7:25). Perhaps she had been among the thousands who had went out to see Jesus do these things and to hear Him teach. When she learned that Jesus had retired to her own region, she sought Him out and, in faith and humility, fell at His feet and asked for His mercy (Mark 7:25; Matt. 15:22). Her love for her daughter and her faith in the Lord must have been great, indeed. As a testimony to her faith, the Holy Spirit records Jesus’ commendation of her “great faith” (Matt. 15:28).
This woman was not a Jewess. She was, in fact, descended from the mortal enemies of the Jews, the Canaanites (Matt. 15:22). She is called a Greek and a Syro-phenician woman by nation (Mark 7:26). While her heritage was of pagan origin, she seems to have had some knowledge of the Messianic hope and placed those hopes in Jesus for she calls Him “Thou Son of David” (Matt. 15:22), a Messianic title. Furthermore, she seems to have some knowledge of Hebrew theology for she attributes her daughters malady to a demon. But Jesus’ response to her indicates she was not a proselyte (Matt. 15:26).
When Jesus did not answer her immediately, the apostles wanted to send her away (Matt. 15:23). Jesus’ response to the disciples request to send the woman away was to say that He was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24). This may sound, at first, as though it was intended to grant their request. Though she was not a descendant of Abraham by birth, yet by faith she was (cf. Gal. 3:7). She had the faith of Abraham in the Lord’s ability to grant her request. Thus, though she was rebuffed, she persisted in her quest.
While at first she had apparently called to the Lord from some distance (Matt. 15:22), she now came closer and worshiped Him (Mat. 15:25). Her request was simple: “Lord, help me.” Her request was repeated for she “besought” Him (Mark 7:26 – “besought” is in the imperfect tense, indicating she kept at it). The scriptures teach that we should pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17). Perhaps she had heard Jesus teach the need to continue instant in prayer (e.g., Luke 18:1-18). Maybe it was just her faith and desire to see her daughter healed that kept her asking. But she persisted!
When Jesus responded that it is not “meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it unto the dogs” (Mark 7:27), she answered yet again and said, “Yes, truth, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs which fall from the master’s table” (Matt. 15:27; Mark 7:28). Jesus’ use of the word “dog” here was not as uncomplimentary as at first might be imagined. The word for “dog” here means “little puppy.” Even the little puppies are allowed a few crumbs and scraps that fall from the table, she said.
The Lord was so impressed with her observation, which revealed her faith, that He acknowledged the greatness of her faith and granted her request (Matt. 15:28). From that very hour her daughter was made whole (Matt. 15:28). The woman obviously believed the Lord’s statement for she ceased to request help and returned back home (Mark 7:30). God does not always answer our requests immediately. He allows us room to grow and for our faith to be revealed. This Gentile woman was and is great example of a loving parent, faith in the Lord and persistence in prayer.
Eric L. Padgett