I love the story in Mark 7:24-30 & Matthew 15:21-28 about the Greek (Gentile woman) who fell at Jesus’ feet for Him to heal her daughter. To give you some background: at this time, Gentiles were ‘unclean heathens’ according to Jewish ceremonial laws and beliefs – and women were considered property, so she is considered by the Jewish people to be an ‘unclean heathen non-person’.
More background, in Mark 7:1-21, Jesus had just left the Pharisees and was trying to secretly get away and find some quiet when this woman approached him. Jesus had just been questioned by the Pharisees about why His disciples didn’t follow the ceremonial cleaning and washing of hands before eating. Jesus told them that Isaiah had prophesied about them (Pharisees) when he said:
“These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.” (Isaiah 29:13 NIV)
Jesus continued to explain to the disciples that the outside doesn’t cause the unclean heart, it’s from the inside that causes one to be unclean. These Pharisees were empty of God, but full of religious rituals that meant nothing because they were without an honest, thoughtful heartfelt praise to God.
In the Book of Matthew, the disciples just received this lesson from Jesus, but when this ‘unclean’ woman is crying out for help, the disciples still don’t understand.
“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.” (Matthew 15:22-23 ESV)
It’s easy to be confused by Jesus’ response, I believe He was testing this woman’s faith and perhaps He knew His disciples still needed some lesson reinforcement. Or maybe this would serve as an example after Jesus had ascended, for the disciples to recall that Salvation wasn’t just for the Jew but for the Gentiles as well (Romans 11:17).
Here this ‘unclean’ woman is begging Jesus to heal her daughter, Jesus tells her that he has come for the Jews – at this moment, Jesus is basically putting her in ‘her place’ (testing her faith, is she really willing to give her heart for her daughter?). This doesn’t stop her – she’s not ashamed, she continues to beg for mercy for her daughter. As a parent, I can relate to this, there is nothing we wouldn’t do for our children, we would risk humiliation and pride to do whatever is needed for our children.
He (Jesus) replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matthew 15:26-28 NIV)
Jesus doesn’t hold out on a miracle for a woman who wasn’t accepted, a woman considered an unclean heathen – no Jesus saw her heart, Jesus saw the truth inside of her that the world could not see, Jesus accepted her and her faith. God wants everyone to know His love, to experience His mercy and grace, and to know that His salvation is freely given to all, it’s a gift that only needs to be received, your faith is the key that opens the door.
“Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20 LIVING)