Gospel Words: the Canaanite Woman

Matthew 15:21‑28  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 4
It is in the First Gospel we find this most instructive incident, which reveals the Lord, not merely as minister of circumcision for God's truth, but as the display of His sovereign grace where God's curse lay, and Satan's power.
“And Jesus going forth hence retired into the parts of Tire and Sidon; and, behold, a Canaanite woman coming” out from those borders cried out, saying, Pity me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is grievously possessed by a demon. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and asked him, saying, Dismiss her, for she crieth out after us. But he said in answer, I was not sent save to the lost sheep of Israel's house. And she came and paid him homage, saying, Lord, help me. But he said in answer, It is not good to take the children's bread and cast [it] to the dogs. But she said, Yea, Lord; for even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters. Then Jesus in answer said to her, O woman, great [is] thy faith: be it done to thee as thou wiliest. And her daughter was healed from that hour” (Matt. 15:21-2821Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. 22And, 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. 23But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 24But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. 27And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. 28Then 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. (Matthew 15:21‑28)).
The Lord withdrew from the proud religionists of Jerusalem, who made void the law of God for the sake of their tradition. He also laid bare to the disciples that only the plants of His Father take root, while all that issues from man's heart is defiled and defiling. The sinner needs God's grace to save him. This is shown in the otherwise desperate case of the Canaanite, and her daughter sorely possessed of a demon.
Here may many a soul learns why the Lord does not accede to its appeal. Hers was deep and earnest; yet He answered her not a word. What claims on the Son of David had a Canaanite woman? When He reigns, there shall be no more a Canaanite in the house of Jehovah of hosts (Zech. 14:2121Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts. (Zechariah 14:21)). When the two blind cried early or late, saying, Pity us, Son of David, He touched their eyes, which were then opened according to their faith (Matt. 9:27-30; 20:30-3427And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. 28And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. 29Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. 30And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. (Matthew 9:27‑30)
30And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. 31And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. 32And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? 33They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. 34So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him. (Matthew 20:30‑34)
). But repentance has its place as truly as faith; and God will have the soul to judge itself aright. “Cursed be Canaan” is the word from of old; and yet was she not now asking His pity Who is to avenge and deliver Israeli How many to-day have said the words, “Father,... forgive us our sins”! Yet they too have received no answer; nor would they assert, any more than they believe, that their sins are forgiven. They have gone on ground wholly untenable. They are not His sons by faith in Christ. They are not born of water and Spirit. They stand on law, supplemented by ordinances. They are unrenewed, serving divers lusts and pleasures, a prey to the power of darkness. They do not cry to God in the truth of their estate, but imitate the language of disciples, which they might own they are not in heart. Have we not experienced it ourselves? Our state was below the Canaanite's.
The woman of Canaan evidently knew that no Israelite ever appealed to Christ in vain. She had faith in Him; but she had overlooked her own dismal position. Theirs were “the promises “; but what had she? Not promise, but curse. And He Who is the truth would have her feel it. Not so the disciples; they would have Him dismiss her. This was far from His heart. They disliked the discredit of her importunity, and wished to be rid of her. He meant to bless her; but it must be in the truth as well as the grace of God. For this He waited, and she as yet had no answer; but He answered them, “I was not sent save to the lost sheep of Israel's house.”
Now faith where real perseveres; and the woman came and did Him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He is indeed Lord of all: this is truth without assumption of privilege. To such an appeal He does reply, “It is not good to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs.”
Thus does His grace help her to see where she was lacking. The light of God shines into her heart; and she bows at once. For she said, “Yea, Lord; for even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters.” She apprehends where and what she really was, and takes her true place before God. She had forgotten that she was not a “sheep” to claim the succor of Israel's Shepherd. She was truly a “dog” before Him, no better than a little dog or whelp. Yet while no longer hiding this from her soul but confessing it freely, she rejoins, “Yea, Lord; for even the whelps eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters.”
Oh! what refreshment did such faith give to our Lord Jesus! She savored the things of God. She appreciated, believed, and enjoyed the grace of which she was the object. And the Lord owned her “great faith,” and gave her all she wished.
How is it with you, dear reader? Have you learned that you are no better than a dog before Him? Or are you, while in your sins, claiming to be His sheep? Own yourself a sinner, and Him the only Savior, that you may be saved. He is the same Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon Him. Why should you stand without? A better voice than Laban's invites you to come in and be blessed. All depends on Him; but it is not yours save by repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Till then we have no known divine answer to our cry.