Matt. 15:21-28-This is in the area of Phoenicia (Tyre and Sidon were coastal cities of the Mediterranean in the northern part of Israel). Canaanites were Gentiles. She approached Jesus and began to “cry out” (cry out aloud, speak with a loud voice…she was desperate; v. 23-“shouting”) because her daughter was “cruelly” (causing her to be miserable, ill) demon-possessed. Jesus did not initially acknowledger her. Only when the disciples began to get embarrassed and ask Jesus to do something did He speak to her. His response is that He had been sent only to the Jews…Israel. But she continued to press Him for help…telling him that she wasn’t asking Him for much, something that for Him would require virtually no effort, at all. Jesus responds that before you feed the dogs, you first feed the children. This was not meant to be demeaning…only an illustration that He had a mission and a priority that could not be deterred. Again, the woman will not stop. Her answer is very intuitive…showing that she understood His mission. She says that when the children are fed, a few crumbs are allowed to fall to the dogs that are at the child’s feet. The master’s first concern was to feed his children…but he also cared for the dogs. So, in the process of feeding the children, he would also feed the dogs. This is the way that it is with God’s plan. Jesus had come to fulfill God’s plan for the provision of salvation. To do this, He had come first to the Jews (He was feeding the children first). But, in the process of providing salvation for the Jews…salvation would also be provided for the Gentiles, as well (the crumbs would fall to the floor). This encounter with the Canaanite woman initially makes Jesus appear to be uncompassionate, unconcerned for her. However, His own words reveal that to not be true. His intent was to not be drawn away from the primary purpose for which He was sent (:24). There were numerous distractions, and opportunities that presented themselves to Jesus that, while having appeal and even perhaps some validity, they were not truly the primary purpose that God had sent Jesus. Jesus says, “O woman, your faith is great…” What a contrast between this woman and the disciples of Jesus. Their faith was little…but hers was great. As we found before…it wasn’t the size of her faith that Jesus was speaking of. But, the size of the One in whom she placed her faith. She believed with determination that would not quit that Jesus could heal her daughter…so, she pursued Him with faith. Jesus healed her daughter…at once. What a moment it must have been when this mother returned home and found her daughter cured and free of demonic possession. It is interesting that the two times that Jesus speaks of people having great faith they are both Gentiles (15:28; 8:10-centurion).
Matt. 15:29-31-Jesus now returns to the Sea of Galilee. He healed many people and they were glorifying God.
Matt. 15:32-39-Jesus tells the disciples that the people have been with Him for three days and are hungry…He feels “compassion” (to be moved in one's bowels or stomach, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion…the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity) for them. The disciples realize that He is looking to them to do something about it. They tell Him that there is nowhere for them to get food. Jesus them asks them how many loaves of bread they have with them and they tell Him they have seven loaves and a few small fish. As he had done previously, He takes what they have, prays, then begins to divide it up among the disciples. The disciples then start handing it out to the people. There are 4,000 men (plus women and children)…and they all eat their fill. Afterwards, they pick up seven large baskets, full with leftovers. Jesus sent the people away…then He and the disciples got into a boat and went to Magadan (the exact location of this city is uncertain, but it is thought to have been located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, about 3 miles north of Tiberias).
How many times has God been leading His people to do something...and they failed to respond because all they could see were either their own resources, or abilities...and did not rely on God. As has been often said, but seldom practiced: where God is leading, God will provide.
Prayer: Lord, help me to realize that just like You were aware and sympathetic towards the situation of the people that followed Jesus...You are totally aware and sympathetic with my life. And, as in the case of Your disciples...help me to see beyond myself, what I have to offer, to what You are doing, how You would do it, and the resources You will provide. Please...do not let me live by sight, but by faith! And Lord, I have prayed so many times for You to heal and provide...and often have not seen any immediate results. Could it be that my prayer is backwards? Could it be that instead of my trying to convince You to do something that I want, my prayer should help me to discover what it is that You want and are doing...and to join You in that? You tell us to pray for our needs. You answered the prayer of the Canaanite woman because she had faith in You. Are our needs a starting place…a place that You allow in our lives to motivate us to pray? Sometimes what we pray is what You desire to do…and we realize that when You answer the prayer. And sometimes what we pray is supposed to involve us in conversation with You, so that You might lead us to a different place, a different understanding. Whichever it may be, please lead me to pray in such a way that I will discover Your desire and find the answer to my prayer, there.