Lessons In The Life Of The Syrophoenician Woman
The Persistent Woman
This week we have another no named woman coming to Jesus. She is coming to Him on behalf of her daughter. This Syrophoenician woman is a Canaanite. Her people group affiliation is actually a huge part of the story that we will get to in a bit. These scriptures tell us that Jesus has just left Galilee. He is coming to Tyre and Sidon which are Gentile areas. He now is being approached by a Gentile woman.
A little history for you is that the Canaanites and Jews did not mix. The Jews looked at the Gentiles as “dogs”. They were unclean. They did not mix. When this no named woman approaches Jesus the disciples are a little taken back with her. They want Jesus to send her away. After all, they are “dogs” right. They are less than..right?
The disciples are not looking like Jesus here. Nothing new. I just want to note. But we see Jesus be… well be Jesus and teaches and heals all in the same story.
I hope that gives you a little backstory about this woman but the story really begins with her daughter. You see her daughter is demon possessed. She is desperate for healing. So desperate that she will approach Jesus to heal her daughter.
There are so many historical dynamics at play.There are so many religious dynamics at play. What we are going to see most of all is that Jesus exposes that a relationship with Him is available to all people. We are going to see Jesus is going to heal her daughter. And most of all I see Jesus show His disciples that a relationship with Jesus was open to all. Did they understand it fully in that moment? I don’t know but I am sure they were paying attention at how Jesus handled this Canaanite woman.
We will learn from Jesus.
We will learn from the disciples.
We will learn from this no named woman.
THE WILLINGNESS and PERSISTENCE TO APPROACH
A LESSON IN REDEMPTION
THE FOCUSED WORSHIPPER
KNOWING YOUR PLACE
THE HUMILITY OF THE CRUMB
THE WILLINGNESS and PERSISTENCE TO APPROACH
Matthew 15: 21-23
As we hit in the overview of who this woman is. She shouldn’t have been approaching Jesus. For you see these groups of people didn’t mix with each other. Yet the demon possession of her daughter compelled her to approach Him. She approaches Him and seems to be persistent about it. Matthew 15:22 says she cries out to Him but also in Matthew 15:23 we see the disciples urge Him to send her away because she cries out. It kinda makes me think she continues on and on. Even Mark 7:26 tells us she kept asking Him to cast the demon out.
A simple point but oh how true that often times our prayer life isn’t consistent or persistent. We give up way to easy on a move from God. She doesn’t seem to give up. Don’t give up my friends.
Sometimes we pray about it ten or so times and loose faith that God can and will move on our behalf. When you know He is the only provider or sustainer and the only answer to your brokenness, you will be persistent like this Gentile woman was.
We know as Christians that we can boldly approach The Lord, because Jesus death has paved the way. Don’t give up on a consistent and a persistent prayer life.
A LESSON IN REDEMPTION
In Matthew 15:21 this gentile woman cries out “Oh Lord, Son of David. This would have been huge for the disciples to hear. This term Jewish people understood clearly. This woman was in effect calling Him Messiah. Which they understood. But because of their background and view that Gentiles were unclean dogs, maybe they dismissed what she said. Perhaps they dismissed her because they believed this term didn’t apply to her. I don’t know but there’s no acknowledgement from the disciples that She has used that term. They even request she be sent away in verse 23. This is not a shining moment for a disciple of Christ.
In the previous verses Jesus was just trying to explain to them that what goes in a man isn’t the thing that defiles him, defilement is a thing of the heart.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man
Moments are building on top of each other for the 12 disciples to understand that salvation was for all. Now Jesus is having this encounter with a known “gentile” woman that was unclean. As Jesus has this conversation with this woman down in versus 26-28, her heart is exposed as a true believer in Christ. She’s still a gentile but a believer as well. As He engaged with this woman, Jesus would also stepped into teaching the disciples a few things.They would have been privy to this conversation and learning as they listened and watched. There is just a lot in this moment going on. Understanding the complexity of these relationships is big so understanding just a little bit of the background is good for this moment.
The disciples although had such intimacy with Christ knew so much of what was going on but didn’t understand the big picture. This moment with this Syrophoenician woman was building on the bigger picture they had yet to see. This broken gentile mom is coming for healing for her daughter and she gets the healing but the disciples also get a lesson in redemption.
In Matthew 15:23, The disciples didn’t fully understand the complete picture of Gods plan. They didn’t understand at this moment that salvation had come to the Gentiles.
I am not explaining this in depth but salvation came to the Jews first then the Greek and so on. Romans 1:16 will help give some clarity to what scripture has to say about Jews and Gentiles is a really simple form just to get you on the right track. They understand the “Greek” to be filthy. They still have this mindset.
So let’s get the chain of what’s happened in perspective…
She’s come to Jesus.
The disciples have done a decent job at rebuking her.
Jesus responds and a wonderful conversation of faith ensues.
He doesn’t send her away.
Yet He turns to her and speaks directly to her.
I want to do a little application as we peek into this moment. It is so heavy on my heart and I’m sure if you have studied with me before you have heard it before but this is such a great example directly from Christ.
I am reminded how we look much different in our culture when it comes to “teaching” moments than how Jesus did during His “teaching” moments. Jesus actually sat with the dirty, the broken and the outcast of the world instead of shunning them.
We live in a christian society that loves to stand in the limited knowledge they we have about how God works. Just like the disciples did. We stand we find a megaphone and we blare it out. Listen everyone is limited knowledge of who God is. We are all growing. I am standing on the limited knowledge I have about Him right now. Y’all we have all done it, but I love how Jesus must have been gently teaching the disciples through this moment that they were wrong. He was teaching them through having a relationship with her and not dismissing her.
Did they dismiss her because of her status as a Gentile?
Did they dismiss her because she was a woman?
I don’t see any answers….But Jesus is leading by example that the love of Christ and relationship with Christ was for all.
He is engaging with this Gentile woman and the disciples are learning as they encounter this moment. A divine teaching if you will. Such a wonderful example of loving the “dirty”. Church, we need to get back to this.
I love the example of Christ here that I believe the body of Christ needs to get ahold of. When the disciples were incorrect in how to handle this “dog” that approached Jesus, Jesus didn’t rebuke the disciples publicaly. These two groups did not mix so perhaps this would have been common to send her away…..
Instead Jesus gently lives out the correct response in front of the disciples. I want to say that again.. Instead Jesus gently lives out the correct response in front of the disciples. It’s better to live a life thats an example than to spur rebellion. I believe in our “need to correct” our culture we spur rebellion not Godly living.
Yes I know the world will rebel against Godly principles but we don’t have to be beasts about how we share His message. We have hit on it before in our teachings, but gosh dog it the church is such a tyrant these days. Listen! Yes stand for what’s right but gosh we can come across as a people filled with hate. We cloak it under “hate for sin.” Often times I just don’t buy it.
God knows your heart but sometimes our horns of arrogance, pride, self appointment and religiosity kill our potential witness for the kingdom.You may not agree with me but it’s my stance.
I want to encourage you to stand for what is right but make sure it is clothed in humility, brokenness and love for those you speak to. It’s super easy to get in the flesh and condemn rather than to show love.
The flesh loves to shine my friend.
We don’t mind speaking truth but it rarely sounds like the examples we see of Jesus and how He spoke.
Let’s be real a lot of the world isn’t gonna turn no matter how you represent Him but church let’s at least look like Jesus while we represent Him. I hope that is an encouragement to you.
I know I ran a rabbit trail but I I just want you to be accountable for how you deal with a lost world. Sometimes our examples of “disciples” around us aren’t the best. They weren’t in that day and they aren’t today.
Instead of being a peculiar people we have become a hateful people.
When you are around the ones you feel are “less than”, do a heart check on yourself against feeling “better than”. I just love how Jesus stands and engages with this “less than” woman of society when the disciples wouldn’t.
In the process Jesus teaches His disciples.
Just like the disciples of that day, as disciples of Christ today. We all need to sit and watch the life of Christ is full technicolor and mimic his actions.
Often times we mimic the actions of disciples instead of mimicking Christ actions. That didn’t seem to work well in Biblical days nor does it today often times. We are to follow Christs example.
THE FOCUSED WORSHIPPER
Matthew 15: 25
Jesus answers her in verse 24. He was to minister to the Jews and that was that. The disciples didn’t require any additional explanation. She does.
You get the sense that she just begs for Jesus to help her. Have you ever begged as you prayed? I have begged as I worshipped.For me it usually involves an “ugly cry” or a “battle cry”. It’s always one of the two.
When I have exhausted all other ways to “fix” a situation that’s often when I “beg”. I say beg because she has already had the gumption to approach Jesus and she’s asked already…
Been chastised by the disciples…
Set straight by Jesus (or so it seems)…
And she doesn’t give up
She asks again….
The importance of the focused worshipper to inquire right to the heart of the Lord to ask, and ask again, and ask again.
Maybe there is a prayer you’ve just given up on. I want to encourage you to ask again. Keep inquiring of the Lord. This Gentile woman does.
KNOWING YOUR PLACE
As you read this scripture you might think Jesus was doing a “slam” toward the Gentile people but I don’t believe so. Jesus speaks to her and says “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. This is true but the redemption Christ would bring would ultimately be for all. Jesus was simply stating that in fact the Jews were Gods chosen people ….his “family”.
It wouldn’t be right to throw bread or “the word” to the dogs when the family needed it.
Does that make sense?
Some theologians wonder if Christ was testing her faith in bringing this up in this moment. I can’t really speak to that. All I know is that He is all knowing. He knew the conversation that would ensue after. He knew the healing that would take place. He knew the teaching the disciples would receive from this moment.
But this statement Jesus makes is in fact true
Jesus knew the conversation would happen. I just love it. He knows how to spark growth within us. His conversation seems to have sparked a faithful statement from this precious Gentile believer.
THE HUMILITY OF THE CRUMB
Matthew 15:27-28 tell us she says “Yes Lord yet even the little dogs eat crumbs which fall from their master’s table”. “Oh woman, great is your faith!” Let it be to you as you desire.
Scripture tells us that her daughter was healed from that very hour. Without faith it is impossible to please God. She was asking for something she understood that was not rightfully hers. She wasn’t a Jew. Jesus had come for the Jews first. She knew it wasn’t hers to have but she asks anyway. This blesses my heart.
How many times have I asked for something from God that I know I haven’t earned yet in His mercy He gives it?
I see myself in this moment.
There is so much I love about Matthew 15:27.
I love her relational engagement with Jesus.
I picture this is what prayer is to look like.
She just speaks her heart. Not some fancy prayer just truly a conversation from a heart of faith. Even in the verbiage of verse 27 there is such richness. I love how she says “their masters table”. She has already called Him, “Lord”, “Son of David” and now she is calling Him “Lord” again. She is a Jesus girl all the way.She says, “ I just need a crumb”. What humility!!
What faith to think that Him healing her daughter of demon possession was a crumb!!!
She wasn’t asking for grandeur.
She knows He can heal her daughter.
This precious Gentile woman and her faith in the Messiah is all summed up in really one passage. That passage is Mathew 15:27. So often I want big things from God. Yes healing her demon possessed daughter was a big thing but she knew this wasn’t hard for God.
I just need a crumb Lord….
I know I sit at His banquet table as His child but a crumb would do for me. This is all she asks for. Is a crumb from the Master’s table enough for you? I’d say it is…
What a blessed thing to realize…
What a woman of faith to go the extra mile to desire a touch from Jesus.
No matter her status.
No matter her position.
No matter what “followers” thought of her as she approached
She knew Jesus was the Messiah and she pressed forward.
HOT SHOT POINTS I LEAVE WITH YOU FROM GLEANING HER LIFE
Tell Jesus my needs and tell Him again.
I am never “less than” in the eyes of Christ.
My intercessory prayer matters. She goes to Jesus directly. We go directly to Him in prayer. Her daughter may have never been healed had she not persisted.
I need to see myself as Christ sees not how the world sees me not how other believers see me. I need to see myself as Christ sees me.
Make sure I have my ear turned to voice of Christ not the voice of others. Sometimes they line up with His voice. Sometimes they do not. Have some discernment about yourself to know the difference.