Matthew 15: 21-39, The Showing up of Faith.
General Idea: A women desperately cries out to our Lord for healing for her daughter who is possessed by a demon. Jesus seems to ignore her and goes on His way, and His disciples become increasingly bothered by her pleadings, as well as perplexed as to why Jesus is ignoring her. The disciples try to get rid of her, but they are wrong in their assumptions by asking that she be sent away. They did not want to deal with the problem. Possibly calling her names from their frustrations, they turned to emotions and anger. They did not consider, how do I learn from this and how do I deal with this. But, Jesus was not ignoring her; He was drawing out her faith, seeking to know who she follows and who she trusts. He was also challenging the disciples to exercise their faith, and used the faith of the woman, a foreigner, to show them up.
The disciples continued to show their deficiency in memory and faith. Here are many less people who need to be fed than Jesus fed in a prior event. They somehow forgot, or did not apply to their mindsets what Jesus did before; they did not wait for His lead, but relied solely on their own power. If only they could see where they had been with Jesus, and learn from it; they would have been ready and prepared for their crisis.
1. Tyre and Sidon were pagan territories, populated by the leftover Canaanites who held the land prior to the Jews. They were driven there by the conquest of Joshua. They were evil, sacrificing their children to false gods, so God took their land away and gave it to the Jews (Book of Joshua).
a. This was also the home of Jezebel, perhaps the most evil person in the Bible. (1 Kings 16:31).
b. The Jews had to pass though this territory to go from Galilee to Caesarea. Archeologists have discovered that many Jews settled there.
c. Canaan, the woman's home, was 50 miles north of Jesus' territory of Capernaum. She was a Phoenician (Mark 7:24-31). This was the same place Elijah went to raise the Sidonian woman's child from the dead, and performed the miracle of the endless oil and flour containers, and the Shunammite woman with Elisha (1 Kings 17:8-24; 2 Kings 4:1-28).
i. Both of these women showed their faith in the same way-persistence; they would not take no for an answer, as the Canaanite woman did not with Jesus.
ii. Son of David. The women recognized that Jesus was the Messiah-perhaps before the disciples did!
2. Send her away, Jesus uses this woman to confront the disciple's lack of faith and racism. The disciples did not want her around mainly because she was from their "hated" neighbors. Jesus takes the suffering for all of us, Jew and Gentile, all of humanity. Jesus comes to reconcile, and there is no place in His Kingdom for those who are racists (Isaiah 40:11; 42:6; 49:6-7; 53:6-9; 56:11)!
a. Little dogs refer to house pets, not the mangy wild dogs. In English, it would read "dog." Jesus was not name calling, saying she was a dog; rather, He was echoing the disciple's frustration so they could hear what they were saying, and thus be convicted that persistence and humility, with faith, have great rewards.
b. I was not sent. Jesus was using the cultural idioms to point out prejudice and hypocrisy. The woman was healed after she admitted she did not deserve it. There was apartheid of segregation separating the Jews from the rest of the world. God set them up as His ambassadors; when they followed God, they were successful; when they were in apostate, they failed (Gen. 12:1-3). But the apartheid was erased at the cross when the Gentiles became the graft, the people to proclaim His News (Eph. 2:11-22).
i. The woman did not deserve God's grace, as none of us do; she is an example of God's unfolding plan of redemption and how we can do nothing to gain it except have faith.
ii. Even far off, prayer and faith are at work. We do not have to be close, but it helps; He will use us for His mighty works (Psalm 107:20).
iii. If you look on a Bible map, you will see in Matthew, chapter fifteen, that Jesus walked over one hundred miles to heal this woman!
3. Great multitudes came to Him, Jesus was curing the incurable, helping those who were refused help by others, or had been given up on. These were serious diseases that today's medicine would not help. We cannot replace eyes or ears, nor can we grow people's limbs back. This was extraordinary, and people from all over, who were desperate and in need, came through great traveling difficulties to see if He was the One to help them. Jesus took His time and provided for them, negating His own rest and provision.
a. Jesus fed another huge group; 4000 was the count of the males-not including the wives and children-perhaps twenty thousand people. This was further proof that Jesus' miracles were not flukes, coincidence, or happenstance; you cannot repeat happenstance!
b. Magadan was the home town of Mary Magdalene, and where the fishermen worked.
c. Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah by His extraordinary miracles (Isaiah 35:5-6; 29:18-23).
We often cry out to our Lord and He seems to ignore us; we cry and cry, we plead and plead, and nothing seems to come about. Our situation has not changed; our plea is unanswered. We wonder if Jesus may be too far out for us-unconcerned with me. He seems to play His favorites, and I am not among His favorites. But, we have to realize, this is not true; you are His favorite; we all are. He came to serve the "nobodies" in life! He is not ignoring you, just as He was not ignoring that woman. His delays to us are not His denials to us! There comes a time when we must realize, our situation may not change until we change. The women had to make a pronouncement of her faith. She had to grow from her situation by exerting and increasing her faith.
A crisis comes. How often we forget how He got us though the last one. We always need to see where we came from to see where we need to go; we need to see how He guided us before in order to have the assurance that He will guide us through again. They did not wait for Jesus' intervention; they jumped into the crisis without Jesus (Psalm 106:13). We have to see where He has led us before so we can know He will help us again. Each problem that is solved in our life is an increase in our faith storage; let us use that storage and not keep it so tightly shut that we do not even remember it when we need it again.
1. What would you walk over fifty miles in a harsh desert for?
2. Why does Jesus seem to ignore the woman?
3. Why were the disciples bothered by her pleadings? After all, they were used to lots of great crowds.
4. Why do you suppose that the Disciples did not consider that learning from what Jesus did in the past would enable them to know how to deal with this situation?
5. What causes you to turn to emotions and anger to face your present problems instead of looking at what Christ has done for you in the past?
6. What examples are in your life, or that of others, that showed the faith and persistence that this woman showed?
7. How do faith and persistence balance each other out? How can you know when persistence overwrites faith, and you are relying on your efforts and not Jesus-as the Disciples did?
8. Read Eph. 2:11-22. Why does God hate prejudice so much?
9. How do you suppose the Disciples felt when the woman recognized that Jesus was the Messiah, perhaps before they did?
10. How can you realize, in a deeper way, that even far off prayer and faith are at work? What does that mean? What can it mean in your life and church?
11. How do you deal with needy people? What about your church?
12. When there is a problem in society, Evangelical Christians tend to complain and boycott-and for very good reasons. But, how effective would it be to become more actively involved instead of boycotting a company for doing something stupid like prompting pornography? How about buying stock in a bad company and using that influence for change?
13. Jesus was curing the incurable, those that today's medicine would not help. How does this compare to the healings you may have seen or heard about?
14. What causes people to refuse to help others, or give up on helping them?
15. What are some possible reasons the Disciples exercised such little faith?
16. Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah, and performed extraordinary miracles. How do these facts testify to who He is?
17. Have you ever cried out to our Lord, and He seemed to ignore you? How so?
18. What would it take for you to fully realize that Jesus does not ignore you, that you are precious?
19. How can you grow from your situations by exerting and increasing your faith for the next round of problems?
20. How have you developed your assurance in faith? How can you do a better job?
© 2003, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org