And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 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.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
(Matthew 15:21-28 ESV)
We come to a very interesting passage today in our study of Matthew. Jesus had been spending most of His time in Galilee, which was part of Israel. But pressure was mounting on Him from the Jewish leaders, who wanted to kill Him, and the general population, who wanted to make Him their king. So He went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. These cities were not in Israel, they were in the Gentile territory of Phoenicia (what is now southern Lebanon). He was thus beyond the reach and jurisdiction of the Jewish authorities who would never set foot on Gentile soil and therefore, would not follow Him there.
With just under a year left to live, Jesus still had much to teach His disciples and getting away to a secluded place would have helped that. But He wasn’t there very long before a Canaanite woman came to Him pleading for mercy because her daughter was severely oppressed by a demon
The Canaanites were bitter enemies of the Jews from the time Joshua lead them across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. For one of them to seek out Jesus and put their faith in Him was not a small statement. The fact that this Gentile woman came to Jesus, a Jewish teacher, indicates how disillusioned she was with the religions she had known.
It is no coincidence that Matthew places this story right after the one about the Pharisees rejection of Jesus. They refused to place their faith in Jesus and instead placed it in their own man-made religion. This woman, on the other hand, rejected the man-made religion she had been taught and placed all her faith in Jesus. For faith to be effective it must be placed in a trustworthy object. Man-made religion is useless. It cannot save. Jesus is God. Only He can save.
But notice it was tragedy that brought her to Jesus. Her daughter’s condition was severe and we can see the mother was distraught and probably had been for some time. I’m sure she tried all the remedies of her religion to cure her daughter. None of them worked.
People often wonder why God allows trouble in this world. Hardship has one purpose: to turn us away from the world and to send us to Jesus. Health is a good thing. But sickness is far better, if it leads us to God. It is better to have difficulty in this life and find Jesus as a result, than to live a life of ease and die without knowing Christ [Psalm 119:17; Matthew 7:21-23; 2 Corinthians 4:17].
This woman left her religious system behind because it could do no good for her. By publicly coming to Jesus she was affirming His power over the gods she had known all her life. She realized that they were useless and false. She realized that only Jesus could help her.
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