Summary: Miracle of Faith, Pt. 5
NOT TOO PROUD FOR CRUMBS (MATTHEW 15:21-28)
The story of the Canaanite woman and her demon-possessed daughter is ridden with tough questions, negative overtones and hard feelings. A scholar said, “It is difficult to find a harsher and more unfeeling reply in the four Gospels than that which our Lord made to the Canaanite woman. In our present climate, if someone just overheard the first part of this Gospel reading, Jesus would be finished. Jesus of Nazareth would be called an anti-feminist, and I doubt if He would ever have been able to re-establish himself again for the highly considerate and sensitive man He was.” (Richard McCullen)
The Canaanites were a loose company of tribes who were already occupying and terrorizing the land of Palestine before Abraham’s arrival there (Gen 10:15). Their checkered history with the Jews was understandable. Noah had cursed his son Ham, the ancestor of Canaan, to be a slave to his brother Shem, ancestor of the Jews (Gen 9:25-26). After entering the Promised Land, the Israelites suffered the Lord’s wrath for mingling with the nations, adopting their customs and worshipping their idols, including sacrificing their sons and their daughters to the idols of Canaan (Ps 106:38). The last Old Testament prophecy concerning the Canaanites was a damning exclusion of the Canaanites in the house of the LORD Almighty (Zech 14:21).
In this passage, the Canaanite woman not only survived the obstacles, opposition and odds in her path, but more importantly, she succeeded in the most unlikely place of Judah in the most unlikely fashion and with the most unlikely ending.
How did she triumph amidst the adversity? She sidestepped her misfortune in life with her rousing appeal to Jesus, then combated opposition from the disciples with her relentless aim for Jesus’ feet, and stated her deposition of faith with real admiration from Jesus.
How do we face and approach obstacles on the way to Christ? Should we give up, be angry or become bitter? Why is faith unafraid of roadblocks, ridicule and rudeness?
Send the Message
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." (Matt 15:21-22)
In a Peanuts comic strip Charlie Brown was playing catch with Lucy to prepare their old hapless losing team for the new baseball season. Charlie Brown proceeded to throw a high ball across the field to her. Lucy was ready for the ball to fly into her mitt. She lifted her head up to the sky, her hands were ready to field the ball, but not only did she not catch the ball, it hit her on the head instead. Then she suffered the ultimate indignity of the clueless Charlie Brown yelling at her: “Lucy, you’re the worst player in the history of the game!”
Of course, Lucy would not accept that from Charlie Brown or anyone else, for that matter. She shouted defiantly to Charlie Brown across the filed: “You can’t prove that! You should never say things that you can’t prove!” That made Charlie Brown think. Charlie Brown corrected himself and hollered back: “In all probability, you are the worst player in the history of the game!” Hearing that, Lucy whispered quietly and meekly, but triumphantly: “I can accept that.”
The Canaanite rose above her outsider status with her rousing appeal to Jesus.
The woman’s appeal to Jesus was the turning point not only for the well-being of her demon-possessed daughter, but also for the promotion of Jewish-Canaanite ties and for the inclusion of Gentiles in God’s kingdom. Her story was more compelling when readers realize she was the first pagan in a non-Jewish terrain to publicly embrace Jesus and the first and only woman to cry publicly for a hearing from Jesus. The verb “cry out” means scream, shrieking even, a very unlady-like outburst!
It was shocking enough for a Jew to believe in Jesus, rare for a Gentile to welcome the Jewish Messiah in Palestine, but scandalous for a Gentile woman to acknowledge Jesus before fellow Canaanites outside of Palestine. Therefore, the confession of the woman in distant Tyre and Sidon, a city 100 miles northwest to Capernaum, was extremely challenging, controversial and courageous.
Previously, the only Jews that made the attempt to approach Jesus were all healed, from men who were demon-possessed (Mt 8:29, 9:32) to the crippled (Mt 9:2) and the blind, who could walk (Mt 9:27) and see (Mt 14:26), but this was the first and only time a Canaanite, a Gentile and a Jewish adversary was healed. Further, she did not make things easy for herself or Jesus by asking in foreign territory. Even the Gentile centurion, whose sick servant was unidentified by race, made his request to Jesus in the friendly confines of Palestine when Jesus entered Capernaum (Matt 8:5).