Summary: The canaanite woman has a lot to teach us about faith, mercy, and prayer.
A Woman of Faith
Danny was born without ears. He could hear all right, but he didn’t have the outer folds of skin and cartilage of normal people. All his life, Danny endured ridicule and rejection because of his deformity. But he learned to live with it. Thankfully, he had loving parents and a strong family to sustain him.
When Danny was in high school, his doctor told him of a new procedure that made it possible to transplant ears from one person to another. That meant Danny could get new ears if someone who was compatible to him ever donated theirs. This was exciting news. After all, people donated body parts all the time—hearts, lungs, kidneys. But Danny soon found that donor ears were extremely scarce.
Danny didn’t give up hope, however. He knew that someday he would get new ears. He graduated from high school with honors and was accepted at a major university thousands of miles away. He kissed his parents good-bye and began his life as a college student. Again, though, he found it hard to make friends and fit in because of his lack of ears.
One day he got a phone call from his father. “Go to the hospital near your University tomorrow, Danny. A donor has been found.”
The very next day Danny checked into the university hospital where doctors were ready to perform the surgery. A few hours later, Danny had new ears. When the bandages came off, Danny gazed into the mirror for hours. He finally had ears like normal people. For the first time in his life, he wasn’t ashamed of the way he looked. He not only had new ears, he had a new life.
A few weeks later, Danny received another phone call from his father. “Son, your mother is very ill,” his father said. “She may not live through the night.” Danny was on the first plane home. When he arrived, his father gave him the sad news that his mother had died during the night.
Together they went to the funeral home, where Danny was able to see his mother for the last time. He leaned over to kiss her cheek. Brushing her hair back from her face, he noticed that her ears had been removed.
We are always amazed when we hear of the sacrificial love of a mother for her child. It reminds us of the amazing compassion and love that God has for each and every one of us. He is willing that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance and faith. He suffered and died in our place upon the cross. And through His death we have been given life.
Love drives men and women to attempt difficult things. When we love someone, we are willing to do anything to help them.
This morning, I want to look at an amazing woman of faith. We sometimes call our women’s ministry – Women of Faith – and I believe that is a wonderful name. But what does it mean to be a woman of faith? How is that demonstrated in our lives?
In order to help us understand this I want to look at a very confusing encounter between Jesus and a Canaanite woman found in Matthew 15:21-28. As we read this passage, I believe your first reaction will be to ask some difficult questions:
- Why did Jesus act this way towards this woman in need?
- Why would He use such harsh language to address her?
- What purpose was gained by His seeming indifference to her request for help?
Let’s begin by looking at the passage:
Jesus then left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading: "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter has a demon in her, and it is severely tormenting her."
But Jesus gave her no reply—not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. "Tell her to leave," they said. "She is bothering us with all her begging."
Then he said to the woman, "I was sent only to help the people of Israel—God’s lost sheep—not the Gentiles."
But she came and worshiped him and pleaded again, "Lord, help me!"
"It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs," he said.
"Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even dogs are permitted to eat crumbs that fall beneath their master’s table."
"Woman," Jesus said to her, "your faith is great. Your request is granted." And her daughter was instantly healed.
At first glance this encounter seems so harsh, so out of character for Jesus. He remains silent to her plea for help, He tells her that He was not sent to help Gentiles, and He calls her by the derogatory name used by the Jews when they spoke of the Canaanite people – dogs. Is this the same Jesus who would die for the sins of the world? Is this the same Jesus who never denied a request for help?