In the Fulness of Time/Part 102

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2008
Lessons in faith from a Gentile – the Syrophoenician woman, who brought her daughter to Jesus in spite of race and religious barriers, and had her faith rewarded.

Previous Article

Grace to the Gentiles-Matthew 15:21-39

Casting out a Demon from a Gentile Girl. Matthew 15:21-28

Her mother came to Jesus in spite of her race and religion. Matthew 15:21-22

Matthew 5:21-22 “Then Jesus went from there and departed into the borders of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same borders, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, the Son of David; my daughter is grievous vexed with a demon.”

A number of reasons have been suggested for the departure of Jesus from Galilee to the northwestern section of Palestine bordering Phoenicia. One of the most likely explanations is that He wanted to go with His disciples to a place away from all the official opposition to His ministry. Mark actually tells us that He “entered into a house and would have no man know it; but he could not be hidden” (Mark 7:24). As far back as Matthew 4:24 “his fame went throughout Syria” so it is not surprising that the word got around to this woman of Canaan, or as Mark calls her, “a Greek, a Syrophoenician by nation.

Just when and how she learned the significance of the Messianic title, “Son of David” is not revealed; except that at the end of Matthew 4 He did preach the “gospel of the kingdom” in addition to His miraculous healing ministry. It is logical to suppose that there were Gentiles among those who were brought at that time. Yet, the question of her use of the Davidic title remains somewhat curious. Certainly she had no claim on Him as such, not being related to the Jewish covenants, but she may have heard about, and had possibly even seen, the casting out of demons by Jesus on His previous visit to Syria. At worst, Jesus could refuse her request; but at best, He might respond to the request for mercy to her demon-possessed daughter.

Her mother persisted in spite of the silence of Jesus. Matthew 15:23-24

Matthew 15:23 “But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.”

Apparently the woman turned to His disciples for help after receiving no answer from Jesus. Her persistence in approaching the disciples is shown in their request to Jesus for some kind of action. The word “besought” is an imperfect participle (eroton,they were beseeching” him) inferring that it was a repeated request. Further, the present tense of “she crieth” emphasizes continuous action as well. Did they want Jesus to send her away without answering her daughter’s need? It would seem just the opposite because they themselves no doubt would have cast out the demon to stop her loud crying, (kradzo, to shout, cry aloud).

Taking all these thoughts into consideration, it would seem fair to conclude that the disciples were unable to cast out the demon just as they failed to do so after descending from the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17:16-20).

15:24 “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

This answer is directed to the disciples to explain His silence. Jesus was not necessarily testing her faith nor rebuking the disciples; He was merely emphasizing why He did not accede to her request. His mission to the house of Israel would not be concluded until His crucifixion and resurrection, even though He had been opposed and rejected by them.

Her mother appealed in spite of reproof. Matthew 15:25-27

Matthew 15:25-27 “Then came she and worshiped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not right to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to the dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the master’s table.”

Once more the scene shifts to the woman who continues to follow Jesus and falls before Him in worship. This time however, she does not use the title “Son of David” but simply “Lord,” and asks for His help. Though He does no give an answer this time, it is still within the confines of His mission to Israel, calling them “children” as opposed to the Gentiles who are designated as “dogs.” The Syro-phoenician woman manifested a unique comprehension of those words of Jesus, yet she was not to be denied her part as a “little pet dog” (kunaria). Both Jesus and the woman use the diminutive word for dog, signifying a pet house dog rather than the wild scavenger dogs of the land. It is no secret that hatred existed between Jews and Gentiles even to an extreme degree. But Jesus showed compassion to all who came to Him in faith.

Her undaunted faith was well rewarded; her daughter was made well. Matthew 15:28

Matthew 15:28 “Then 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 well from that very hour.”

Though she could not appeal to Him as “Son of David,” the fulfiller of the Davidic Covenant, the woman could ask for help from Him as “Lord” on the basis of the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant: “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Whether or not she knew of that promise is beside the point; Jesus did, and ministered to many Gentiles in Decapolis soon after this occasion. Like the Roman centurion in Matthew 8:5-13 she was commended for “great faith” and was rewarded by the healing of her daughter in that very hour! “In the fulness of time,” many millions of Gentiles would believe in a crucified, resurrected Lord and be ready for heaven!

Read Part 103

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