Summary: It matters not your heritage nor your race nor anything in your background to be counted a son or daughter of Abraham. All that matters is your faith in Jesus Christ.
Matthew 15:21-28 A Bold Woman
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
You perhaps recognize the quote from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are telling the children about Aslan. It is a good description for Jesus, as one mother discovers in our passage.
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.
This district is just north of the territory of Galilee. Jesus has gone there with his disciples, not to minister but to take a retreat from ministry. Mark tells us in his gospel that Jesus did not want anyone to know where he was. And yet, as a celebrity it is difficult to escape notice.
22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”
So again we have an interaction between Jesus and a woman. It is not the same scandal as before with the Samaritan woman in that this woman knows Jesus as a healer and is coming to him for that purpose. Note the humble way in which she approaches him. First, she cries out for mercy. The term for cry denotes great emotion such as wailing. She does not demand her rights. She does not insist that Jesus ought to help. She appeals, not to justice, but to mercy.
She also addresses him with great respect. She calls him “Lord,” not an unusual way to address someone of a higher position. It is the second title that catches attention – “Son of David.”
Matthew’s gospel opens with these words: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1). The title will appear a number of times, some with people asking the same thing as this woman – for the Lord, Son of David, to have mercy. According to the religious authorities it was the title for the Messiah. Jesus asked them: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David” (22:42).
How then did this non-Jew hear of the title, and what possessed her to use it? Likely she heard of it as the news got around about Jesus’ miraculous powers. That is why she has come in the first place. Jesus is a celebrity. Though Jesus is outside of his native land, still this Gentile district borders Galilee and word spread. So perhaps the woman is merely using the term that she has heard associated with Jesus, and no more significance should be attached to it. Perhaps. Still, there is the title, which not everyone coming to Jesus uses. Jairus, the Jewish synagogue ruler, addressed him merely as Rabbi.
This mother then presents her need – “my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” Her daughter’s suffering is terrible. You mothers can imagine how awful it would be to see your daughter in such anguish. What then does Jesus do? With the father Jairus, he immediately went to his home and along the way encouraged him to have faith.
23 But he did not answer her a word.
He ignores her. It gets worse.
And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”
Ah, the kind hearted disciples. “Get rid of her; now she’s coming after us!” It brings to mind the time they rebuked parents for bringing their children to Jesus to be blessed. Don’t those parents realize that a man from God cannot be bothered with little kids! They would certainly have the same attitude here, for this is a woman outside of the covenant. She is a pagan, an idolater. The nerve of her for even showing up. And Jesus, finally, seems to share the same attitude.
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
It seems that Jesus is answering the disciples in verse 24. He may be speaking to the woman or even to both. We are not there and cannot see whom he is looking at. He affirms his mission as the Son of David, the Messiah. His mission is to the house of Israel. He has come to save the lost covenant people of Israel. As noted before, he had not come into the Gentile district as part of his mission; rather, as a respite from his mission.
25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”
The woman is not repelled. She draws closer and kneels. “Lord, help me.” She does not argue; she knows her position, that she is outside the house of Israel and that the only appeal to make to this Jewish Man of God is to his compassion.