Mark 7:25
An atmosphere of publicity about Christ: crowds follow him wherever they hear of his presence, and even in strange regions his fame anticipates him. The many who took advantage of his power to heal are forgotten in the special ease which now presented itself. This may have been the spiritual result of many unsatisfactory cases in which the cure only affected the body; the rumor of them awoke at least one heart to a new sense of spiritual power. Speaking about Jesus and his work in this place or that, to one soul or another, may be a blessing in unthought-of quarters. Jesus "could not be hid" for other reasons; his disciples were with him, and, more than all, he carried about in himself a revelation of love and pity that spoke to every heart. Spiritual influence is a mysterious thing, and yet there are some conditions of its exercise which are only too plainly declared. Matthew has a fuller account, but our evangelist gives us the chief details. The Saviour was touching the great world outside of Judaism, the scene of his greater ministry in the future through the Holy Spirit. The incident is remarkable, as suggesting this universal relation of him who as yet was but a Jewish Rabbi. It tells us the nature of the limitation which hemmed in his work, and how that limitation was to be removed, when he "should open the door of faith to the Gentiles."

I. AT THE DOOR OF MERCY. (Vers. 25, 26.)

1. The motive. It was not for herself, but her child, whose distress she sought to relieve. The nature of this "unclean spirit." Moral parallels. A mother's instinct: how near the human affections and family obligations bring us to the gospel! The instinct is a natural one, but tending to the spiritual. She was in the school of sorrow, noble and unselfish sorrow, which searches the heart and awakens the latent forces of the spiritual nature. How many have been brought by such sentiments and experiences to the cross!

2. The attraction. She had heard of him and his merciful works. We all stand in need of mercy, and are insensibly affected as we hear of its exercise upon others. Make known the Saviour, and proclaim his saving grace! The most unlooked-for will come. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." But now she saw and heard himself. Her great yearning, grieving heart read the lineaments of his countenance, and the character they expressed. "He will not turn me away." Christ, by his spiritual presence in the Word, ever touches human hearts thus, awaking by what he is the deepest longings and most instinctive trust.

II. THE DOOR AJAR. (Ver. 27.)

1. It sounds like a rebuff. What claims has she upon him? But:

2. Is really a trial of her faith. It sounds logically conclusive, yet is it intended to call forth the inmost spiritual nature. Delays and adverse experiences in prayer should not all at once be accepted as final Prayer is not a mere asking; it is a discipline. Remember Abraham's importunity.

3. Encouragement is given even under the appearance of refusal. Matthew: tells us of a silence that preceded this; for Christ to speak was itself an omen not to be despised. "First" is a word that hints at postponement, not ultimate rejection. And the picture he sketches is not to be taken literally, but is for the spiritual imagination. As the reasoner, in making an induction, introduces an clement into his reasoning that is not in the facts in themselves, so the petitioner at Heaven's throne must learn to interpret his experiences, and to sift the rejections that he may discover the elements of hope. Here the petitioner answers the objection by completing the picture in which it is couched. True, it would be wrong to cast the children's "loaf" to the dogs; but that is not the only conceivable way in which the dogs may be fed. Her Greek experience comes to her assistance. Whilst the Jews hated dogs as "unclean," and could not tolerate them in their houses, the Greeks had a peculiar affection for them, and tamed and trained them to feed from the band. In many a Greek home the dog had its place beside the table or beneath it. And the "crumbs found their way there in various ways, either by intention or accident. The term she uses is a diminutive of endearment. The twenty-eighth verse is full of dimmutives - "little dogs," "little children's," and "little crumbs" - which are full of subtle, tender appeal. This is her argument, then. It is a self-humiliating one, for she is willing to take the dogs' place. She is not a Jewess - a "child;" she is only a Gentile, and her daughter is "a little dog." And here is the children's loaf - the Bread of life - at the very edge of the table. May not some "little crumbs" fall over? To such humility, such faith, there can be no refusal; and there was never intended to be one. This is how we must all come to Heaven's door - vile, miserable sinners, with no claim save upon the mercy of God!

III. THE DOOR OPENED. (Vers. 29, 30.)

1. It is opened to faith. "For this saying." It was an inspiration of faith. She had found the master-key for all time, and as she used it the door flew open. If we but "ask in faith, nothing wavering," all our petitions will be granted.

2. It is opened by Divine grace. We are not to suppose the request granted because the feeling of Christ was wrought upon. The yielding has only a superficial appearance of being due to constraint. In reality the delay was but interpolated that the faith of the woman might be developed in her own soul and manifested to the Jewish spectators; and so the final answer would be justified on every hand, and prove a blessing to others beside the recipient. The cure is already effected when she returns home.

3. It stands open for ever to such petitioners. The ground of assent to her appeal having been "evidently set forth," she becomes a precedent for all believers to plead. She is the pioneer of all who, not being Jews according to the flesh, are nevertheless children of faithful Abraham according to the spirit. To all who thus believe the invitation is given, "Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." - M.

The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by nation: and she besought Him that He would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.
Through her natural affections she had mounted up, as it would seem, to higher and spiritual things; for to a wonderful degree did she enter into the secrets of His mysterious nature; "she worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me!" She pierced, as though by the intuition of some blessed instinct, through the veil in which He was shrouded. Her faith laid its hold at once upon His very Godhead, and on His true humanity. As God, she fell before Him — she worshipped Him; as man, she appealed to His feeling for the sorrows of man's heart, crying to Him, "Lord, help me!" She reached on to that entire sympathy which was to be the fruit of His being "perfected through suffering." "Thou that art the Man of Sorrows; by Thy man's heart, and by the covenant of Thy suffering, help me in my woe." Twice more, we know, she seemed to be refused; and yet she persevered. He had but tried her faith, and perfected her patience. There was in her heart a hidden treasure which was thus brought forth; there was in it the fine gold, to which this hour of agony had been as the refiner's fire. Her importunity had won its answer; for indeed it was itself His gift. The fire upon the altar of her heart had been kindled by the beams of His own countenance; her cleaving to Him was His gift; her love the reflection of His love to her; He had put the words into her mouth, and He had strengthened her to speak them. And so the end was sure: she had knocked, and the door had opened; she had asked, and she received: "O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." Such is the narrative; and in all its parts we may read that which concerns ourselves most closely. For what else are our lives, with all their varying accidents and issues, than, as it were, the shadows cast forward into all time by these dealings of the Son of God with man? He has come nigh unto us; yea, He stands amongst us — He, the Healer of our spirits; He, our heart's true centre — He is close beside us; and we, have we not each one our own deep need of Him? Have we not each one our own burden? — the "young daughter who lieth at home grievously afflicted," whom He only can heal? And then, further, do not characters now divide off and part asunder even as they did then? Are there not those who, like the Jews, know not the office of this Healer; who hear all His words, and see all His signs, and languidly let Him pass, or angrily murmur at Him, or blasphemously drive Him from them; from whom He passes, even to the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, to pour on others the blessing they refuse? But then there are also those who do seek Him with their whole heart — unmarked, it may be, by any of the outward appearances which catch the eye of man.

I. There is the lesson taught us by the Jews, that He does pass away from those who will not stay Him with them; that He goes on and heals others: and that they die unhealed, because they knew not "the time of their visitation." And the root of this evil is here pointed out to us: it is a want of faith, and, from this, a lack of the power of spiritual discernment. Such men are purblind: the full light of heaven shines in vain for them. They do not intend to reject the Christ, but they know Him not; their gaze is too idle, too impassive, to discover Him. They know not that they have deep needs which He only can satisfy. They yet dream of slaking their thirst at other streams.

II. But there is also here the lesson of the woman of Canaan; and this has many aspects; of which the first, perhaps, is this, that by every mark and token which the stricken soul can read, He to whom she sought is the only Healer of humanity, the true portion and rest of every heart; that He would teach us this by all the discipline of outward things; that the ties of family life are meant thus to train up our weak affections till they are fitted to lay hold on Him; that the eddies and sorrows of life are meant to sweep us from its flowery banks, that in its deep strong currents we may cry to Him; that for this and He opens to us, by little and little, the mystery of trouble round us, the mystery of evil within us, that we may fly from others and ourselves to Him.

III. And, once more, there is this further lesson, that He will most surely be found by those who do seek after Him. For here we see why it often happens that really earnest and sincere men seem, for a time at least, to pray in vain; why their "Lord, help me!" is not answered by a word. It is not that Christ is not near us; it is not that His ear is heavy; it is not that the tenderness of His sympathy is blunted. It is a part of His plan of faithfulness and wisdom. He has a double purpose herein. He would bless by it both us and all His Church. How many a fainting soul has gathered strength for one more hour of patient supplication by thinking on this Canaanitish mother; on her seeming rejection, on her blessed success at last! And for ourselves, too, there is a special mercy in these long-delayed blessings. For it is only by degrees that the work within us can be perfected; it is only by steps, small and almost imperceptible as we are taking them, yet one by one leading us to unknown heights, that we can mount up to the golden gate before us. The ripening of these precious fruits must not be forced. We have many lessons to learn, and we can learn them but one by one. And much are we taught by these delayed answers to our prayers. By them the treasure of our hearts is cleared from dross, as in the furnace heat. He would but teach us to come to Him at once for all, and not to leave Him until we have won our suit.

(Bishop Samuel Wilberforce.)

1. Here is, first, the Saviour leaving the usual scenes of His ministry, and passing into a land to which He had as yet no message. As soon as He reaches it, He makes it plain that He did not come there for purposes of public ministration. He came there, I think we may say, for the sake of one soul. He would leave on record just one example of His care for those who were not yet His own. Thus would He warn the Jews that God's blessing might escape them altogether, if they gave not the more earnest heed. When and as He will, such is the law of His working. And they who would find Him must watch for Him. Into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon He comes but now and then, or He comes but once.

2. Again, how many are the heart's sorrows! How often are they connected with family life? Happy they whose family sorrows bring them to the same place for healing — to the feet of Christ.

3. But at all events, if the home be ever so bright, if the life be ever so cloudless, there is a want deep down within, which is either keenly felt, or, if not felt, tenfold more urgent. If not for a child whom Satan hath bound; yet at least for ourselves we have all need to approach Christ with the prayer, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David." In some of us there is by habit a possession of the evil one: in all of us there is by nature a taint and an infection of sin.

4. Thus then we have all of us occasion to approach Him who has turned aside to visit our coasts. We have all a malady which needs healing, and for which He alone, alone in heaven or in earth, even professes to have a remedy. The less we feel, the more we need. My brethren, we do not believe that any real prayer was ever cast out for the unworthiness of the asker.

5. And doubt not, but earnestly believe, that as this miracle describes us in some of its parts, so shall it describe us also in all. It was written to teach men this lesson — that refusals, even if they were uttered in words from the heavenly places, are at the very worst only trials of our faith. Will we, that is the question, pray on through them?

6. And assuredly, this morning, we may take the history before us as a strongly encouraging call to Christ's holy Table.

(G. J. Vaughan, D. D.)

I. A COMMENDATION OF THE WOMAN'S FAITH. But now what is it that Christ commends and admires? It is the greatness of the woman's faith. Now faith may be said to be great either in respect had to the understanding, or to the will. For the act of faith proceeds from them both; and it may be said to increase and be great, either as the understanding receives more light, or the will more warmth: as the one doth more firmly assent, and the other more readily embrace. In the understanding it it raised by certainty and assurance, and in the will by devotion and confidence. This woman's faith was great in both respects. She most firmly believed Christ to be the Lord, able to work a miracle on her daughter: and her devotion and confidence was so strongly built, that neither silence nor denial nor a reproach could shake it. And because we are told that "the greatness of virtue is best seen in the effects;" as we best judge of a tree by the spreading of its branches, and of the whole by the parts; we will therefore contemplate this woman's faith in those several fruits it brought forth, — in her patience, in her humility, in her perseverance; which are those lesser stars that shine in the firmament of our souls, and borrow their light from the lustre of faith, as from their sun.

1. We must admire her patience. She endured much; misery, reproach, repulse, silence, and the name of a "dog." Her patience proves the greatness of her faith.

2. Next follows her humility, a companion of patience. "She worshipped Him." Not a humility which stays at home, but which "comes out of her coasts" after Christ. She cries after Him; He answers not. She falls on the ground; He calls her "dog." A humility that is not silent, but helps Christ to accuse her. A humility, not at the lower end, but under the table, content with the crumbs which fall to the dogs. Thus doth the soul by true humility go out from God to meet Him, and, beholding His immense goodness, looks back unto herself, and dwells in the contemplation of her own poverty; and, being conscious of her own emptiness and nihility, she stands at gaze, and trembles at that unmeasurable goodness which filleth all things. It is a good flight from Him which humility makes. For thus to go away from God into the valley of our own imperfections, is to meet Him: we are then most near Him when we place ourselves at such a distance; as the best way to enjoy the sun is not to live in his sphere. We must therefore learn by this woman here to take heed how we grace ourselves. For nothing can make the heavens as brass unto us, to deny their influence, but a high conceit of our own worth. If no beam of the sun touch thee in the midst of a field at noonday, thou canst not but think some thick cloud is cast between thee and the light; and if, amongst that myriad of blessings which flow from the Fountain of light, none reach home to thee, it is because thou art too full already, and hast shut out God by the conceit of thy own bulk and greatness. Certainly, nothing can conquer majesty but humility, which layeth her foundation low, but raiseth her building to heaven. This Canaanitess is a dog; Christ calls her "woman:" she deserves not a crumb; He grants her the whole loaf, and seals His grant with a Fiat tibi. It shall be to humility "even as she will."

3. And now, in the third place, her humility ushers in her heat and perseverance in prayer. Pride is as glass: "It makes the mind brittle and frail." Glitter she doth, and make a fair show; but upon a touch or fall is broken asunder. Not only a reproach, which is "a blow," but silence, which can be but "a touch," dasheth her to pieces. Reproach pride, and she "swells into anger;" she is ready to return the "dog" upon Christ. But humility is "a wall of brass," and endureth all the batteries of opposition. Is Christ silent? she cries still, she follows after, she falls on her knees. Calls her "dog?" she confesseth it. Our Saviour Himself, when He negotiated our reconciliation, continued in supplications "with strong crying" (Hebrews 5:7), and now, beholding as it were Himself in the woman, and seeing, though not the same, yet the like, fervour and perseverance in her, He approves it as a piece of His own coin, and sets His impress upon it. And these three, patience, humility, perseverance, and an undaunted constancy in prayer, measure out her faith. For faith is not great but by opposition.

4. I might add a fourth, her prudence, but that I scarce know how to distinguish it from faith. For faith indeed is our Christian prudence, which doth "innoculate the soul," give her a clear and piercing eye, by which she discerns great blessings in little ones, a talent in a mite, and a loaf in a crumb; which sets up "a golden light," by which we spy out all spiritual advantages, and learn to thrive in the merchandise of truth. We may see a beam of this light in every passage of this woman; but it is most resplendent in her art of thrift, by which she can multiply a crumb. A crumb shall turn this dog into a child of Abraham. To our eye a star appears not much bigger than a candle; but reason corrects our sense, and makes it greater than the globe of the earth: so opportunities and occasions of good, and those many helps to increase grace in us, are apprehended as atoms by a sensual eye; but our Christian prudence beholds them in their lust magnitude, and makes more use of a crumb that falls from the table, than folly doth of a sumptuous feast. "A little," saith the Psalmist, "which the righteous hath is more than great revenues of the wicked" (Psalm 37:16). A little wealth, a little knowledge, nay, a little grace, may be so husbanded and improved that the increase and harvest may be greatest where there is least seed. It is strange, but yet we may observe it, many men walk safer by starlight than others by day.Many times it falls out that ignorance is more holy than knowledge.

1. Shall we now take pains to measure our faith by this woman's? We may as well measure an inch by a pole, or an atom by a mountain. We are impatient of afflictions and reproaches.

2. But next, for humility: who vouchsafeth once to put on her mantle?

3. Lastly: For our perseverance and fervour in devotion, we must not dare once to compare them with this woman's. For, Lord! how loath are we to begin our prayers, and how willing to make an end! Her devotion was on fire; ours is congealed and bound up with a frost. But yet, to come up close to our text, our Saviour mentions not these, but passeth them by in silence, and commends her faith.Not but that her patience was great; her humility great, and her devotion great: but because all these were seasoned with faith, and sprung from faith, and because faith was it which caused the miracle, He mentions faith alone, that faith may have indeed the preeminence in all things.

1. Faith was the virtue which Christ came to plant in His Church.

2. Besides, faith was the fountain from whence these rivulets were cut, from whence those virtues did flow. For had she not believed, she had not come, she had not cried, she had not been patient, she had not humbled herself to obtain her desire, she had not persevered; but having a firm persuasion that Christ was able to work the miracle, no silence, no denial, no re. preach, no wind could drive her away.

3. Lastly; Faith is that virtue which seasons all the rest, maketh them useful and profitable, which commends our patience and humility and perseverance, and without which our patience were but like the heathen's, imaginary, and paper patience, begotten by some premeditation, by habit of suffering, by opinion of fatal necessity, or by a stoical abandoning of all affections. Without faith our humility were pride, and our prayers babbling. For whereas in natural men there be many excellent things, yet without faith they are all nothing worth, and are to them as the rainbow was before the flood, the same perhaps in show, but of no use. It is strange to see what gifts of wisdom and temperance, of moral and natural conscience, of justice and uprightness, did remain, not only in the books, but in the lives, of many heathen men: but this could not further them one foot for the purchase of eternal good, because they wanted the faith which they derided, which gives the rest τὸ φίλτρον, "a loveliness and beauty," and is alone of force to attract and draw the love and favour of God unto us. These graces otherwise are but as the matter and body of a Christian man, a thing of itself dead, without life: but the soul which seems to quicken this body, is faith. They are indeed of the same brotherhood and kindred, and God is the common Father unto them all: but without faith they find no entertainment at His hands. As Joseph said unto his brethren, "You shall not see my face except your brother be with you" (Genesis 43:3); so, nor shall patience and humility and prayer bring us to the blessed vision of God, unless they take faith in their company. Yea see, our Saviour passeth by them all: but at the sight of faith He cries out in a kind of astonishment, "O woman, great is thy faith!" And for this faith he grants her her request: "Be it unto thee even as thou wilt:" which is my next part, and which I will touch but in a word.

II. Fiat tibi is A GRANT; and it follows close at the heels of the commendation, and even commends that to.

(A. Farindon, D. D.)

No wind so powerful to drive us from Tyre and Sidon to Christ, from the coasts of sin to the land of the living, as calamity.

(A. Farindon, D. D.)

Here is a cloud drawn over her; yet her faith sees a star in this cloud; and by a strange kind of alchemy she draws light out of darkness, and makes that sharp denial the foundation of a grant.

(A. Farindon, D. D.)

"Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt." Before, silence; now, admiration: before, a reproof; now, a commendation: before, a "dog;" now, a "woman:" before, not a crumb: now, more bread than the children. She cried before, and Christ answered not; but now Christ answers, and not only gives her a crumb, but the whole table; answers her with "Be it unto thee even as thou wilt!"

(A. Farindon, D. D.)

If God's chastisements make you better, thank God for them. Those unfeeling words, that cold look, and that indifferent way of Christ — what gush of feeling they brought out of this woman's soul! That pushing away — how it brought the pleading hands out, as it were! How it caused every tendril and fibre of her heart to clasp and cling to the Saviour, and made her refuse to let Him go! It was out of the apparent winter of His face that her summer came. It was out of His repulsion that her blessing came. Any dealing that makes you better inside is beneficial. And do not feel when God is dealing with you severely that He has forgotten you. It takes a great while to answer some prayers. One day an acorn looked up and saw an oak tree over it, and did not know that this tree was its father, and pleaded with Nature, saying, "Make me such a one as that." So the squirrel took it, and raced off with it towards its nest; and on the way he dropped it on a ledge where there was a little soil, and lost it. There it germinated, and its roots struck down. And after a year the little whip cried, "I did not pray to be a little whip; I prayed to be like that oak tree." But God did not hear. The next year it grew and branched a little; but it was not satisfied; and in its discontent it said: "O Nature, I prayed that I might be like that voluminous oak, and now see what a contemptible little forked stick I am." Another year came, and the winter froze it, and the summer storms heat on it, and it tugged away for its life, and its roots ran out and twined themselves around rocks and whatever else it could get hold of, and fed on the hillside. So it grew and grew till a hundred years had passed over it. Then behold how on the hillside it stands firm, and defies the winter storms and tempests. Then behold how it spreads itself abroad, and stands an oak indeed, fit to be the foundation of a prince's palace, or the keel of a ship that bears a nation's thunder round the globe! You cannot he transformed in an instant. You cannot be changed between twilight and sunrise. When, therefore, you pray that God will regenerate your nature, will you not give Him time to do such a work. When you pray for the reconstruction of your character, will you not wait till God can perform such an act of mercy? If, looking at the interior, He sees that the work can be expedited, He will expedite it; but you must be patient.

(H. W. Beecher.)

If it be through the special virtue and dignity of the grace of faith that the new dispensation is enabled to make itself commensurate with the world, it seems peculiarly appropriate, that the chief examples of that grace, which was thus to equalize the claims of all the races of mankind, should have been selected from among those who were to gain the advantage in this equalization.

(W. A. Butler, M. A.)

Nor, perhaps, is it altogether unworthy of notice in this point of view, that when the Church was indeed to be declared a Church of Gentile no less than Jew, the first believer — the common ancestor of the world of evangelized heathen — was a man holding the same office, and, it would appear, similarly connected in habits and disposition with the Jews: for as it is said of the Centurion of the Acts, that he was "one that feared God, and gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway" — so it is likewise said of the Centurion of the Gospel, that "he loved their nation, and had built them a synagogue." And I may add that this respectful attachment to the ancient people of Jehovah is very discernible in the language of our immediate subject, the believing Canaanite; for she not only addressed her Redeemer in her supplication as "the Son of David" (a title which could appear honourable only to one who sympathized with the feelings and prepossessions of a Jew), but even acceded to the justness of our Lord's strong expressions when He classed her nation as "dogs" in comparison with the long. adopted "children" of God. However this may be, the choice of the previous friends and revelers of Israel, as the special instances of Gentile faith in Christ, may be considered in a view beyond this; not merely as a striking exemplification of that law of gradual transition which seems to pervade all the works of God, spiritual no less than physical — the heathen being partially Judaized before he be comes wholly enlightened, but also as manifestly rendering these instances more appropriate types of the entire work of Gentile conversion — externally, of the preaching of the gospel to the heathen in all ages, which in all ages must include so large a Jewish element, must build itself upon Jewish history, authenticate itself by Jewish prophecy, and proclaim its great Subject the fulfilment of Jewish types; internally of the parallel story of the gospel life in the soul, which, perhaps, finds every man more or less a Jew in heart, in pride, self-reliance, spiritual ignorance, and formality — before it conducts him into the humility, the faith, the illumination, and the liberty of the gospel.

(W. A. Butler, M. A.)

"I am not sent but to Israel," said Jesus. "She came," not with an argument, but a prayer that involved an argument, "and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me!" She no longer calls Him Son of David, for her object was to rise from the Son of David to the Son of God, from the Messiah of the Jew to the Messiah of the world — to "the Lord" in the simple majesty of the name, yea, to "the mighty God, the Father of the everlasting age, the Prince of peace." She, therefore, designates Him by the vaster and ampler title, and adds to her designation "worship." She insinuated that "the Lord" had power above His commission; that this plenipotentiary of heaven could at will transcend the terms of His instructions; and by that omnipotence which ruled the world it had created, she invoked Him, "Lord, help me!" But even this is ineffective. Faith must see more than power; and the Canaanite must pay a price for being the model of the Church to come. Like Him she implored, she must be "made perfect through sufferings." For, alas, omnipotence acts by mysterious and often exclusive laws; though the agent be almighty, the object may be unfit for its operation; the same power that bade Carmel blossom left Sinai a desert. "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs;" "Let the children (St. Mark adds) first be filled!" But now for a bolder flight of the eagle wing, and a keener glance of the eagle eye of faith. She springs from the supreme control to the benevolent equity of providence. She rises above the clouds of the Divine power, often, to us who can only see them from below, dark, disturbed, and stormy, into the holy serenity beyond them. She sees the calm Sovereign of the universe, partial, yet impartial too; preferring some, yet forgetting none. She knows that "His care is over all His works," and — deepest wonder of her heaven-sent enlightenment — she can see that He loves her, and yet accord His unquestionable right to love, if He please it, others more; allows she can ask but little, yet believingly dares to pronounce that little certain! She will permit (would to God we could always follow her in our speculations!) no mystery of dispensation to contradict the truth of the Divine character. "Truth, Lord," is her retort, for the calmness of her settled convictions left her power to point her reply: "Truth, Lord! yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table." Everything is here. All Christianity is concentrated in one happy sentence. She believes in her own lowliness: she believes in God's absolute supremacy; she believes in the secret propriety of the apparent inequalities of His providence; she believes that those inequalities can never affect the true universality of His love. God is all, yet she is something too, for she is God's creature. Men from deep places can see the stars at noon-day; and from the utter depths of her self-abasement she catches the whole blessed mystery of heaven: like St. Paul's Christian, "in having nothing, she possesses all things."

(W. A. Butler, M. A.)

We may learn from this narrative —

I. That misfortunes and calamities, however severe and painful they may appear, are the best, and often the only means of leading us to a sense of religious duty.

II. That no want of present success should ever lead us to despair.

III. That the lowest station, and even the vilest in heart, are still within the reach of the sanctifying mercies of their Redeemer. This woman belonged to an outcast race.

(R. Parkinson, B. D.)

1. Her faith had a good foundation. She called Jesus "the Son of David."

2. Her faith made her very diligent to seek out Christ, when she heard that He was in the country.

(E. Blencowe, M. A.)

"Jesus went thence." The persons and places that have been favoured with Christ's presence and instructions may not be always so; having delivered His message, and done His work, He will remove. The day is going away, and night will succeed. Happy they who, while they have the light, know how to use it; and, having Jesus with them, make sure of an interest in Him, before He go from them.

1. The suppliant.

2. The title she speaks to our Lord by — "O Lord, Thou Son of David."

3. The request.


1. Though she cries, Christ is wholly silent. How great a trial is this, to speak to the only Saviour, and have no return; to cry to a merciful Saviour, and meet no regard. Prayers may be heard, yet kept in suspense. A bitter aggravation of affliction (Lamentations 3:8; Song of Solomon 5:6; Psalm 22:2; Psalm 69:3; Psalm 77:7, 8, 9). This a trial, considering the encouraging character under which God is made known to His people (Psalm 65:2; Psalm 50:15; Isaiah 65:24).

2. Christ seems to intimate that He had nothing to do with her. He was able to save, but salvation was not for her.

3. When her request was renewed, Christ seems to answer it with reproach.

II. Having spoken of the trial of this woman's faith, I COME TO CONSIDER HOW IT WAS DISCOVERED, AND WORKED THROUGH ALL.

1. Though Christ was silent she did not drop, but continued her suit. The eternal Word would not speak to her, the wisdom of the Father would not answer her, the compassionate Jesus would take no notice of her, the heavenly Physician would not yet help her; but all this does not discourage or sink her. How does the earnestness of this heathen in crying after Christ reproach the ignorance and ingratitude of the Jews, who generally made light of Him; and invite all that hear it, to admire her faith thus discovered, and the grace of God in general wherever it works. Faith enabled her to read an argument in Christ's silence, and by it she continued her suit. The same words that bid us pray, bid us wait too (Psalm 27:14).

2. When Christ speaks, and seems to exclude her out of His commission to give help and relief, she passeth over the doubt she could not answer, and, instead of disputing, adores Him, and prays to Him still. Two or three things are here implied, as what she kept her eye upon, and by which she was quickened and helped on in praying to Christ amidst so many discouragements, which otherwise would have been enough to sink her.(1) Upon her deep necessity. It was a deplorable case her child was in, being grievously vexed with a devil, from subjection to which she earnestly desired to see her set free.(2) Upon Christ's power, and His compassion joined with it, that He and He only could, and, as she hoped, would relieve her. Her faith as to this is manifested by her coming to Him, and by the title she gives Him, of Lord — "Lord, help me."(3) Upon Him, as the Messiah promised of God, the great Deliverer, and so worshipped Him, and east herself upon Him, with this strong cry, uttered by a stronger faith, "Lord, help me." This was the discovery of this supplicant's faith under trials. Now followeth —

III. THE HAPPY ISSUE OF THIS, in her faith's triumph. "Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt." To how blessed an issue is the struggle brought! Christ's answer before was not so discouraging as this was comfortable. What consolation is it fitted to convey, as it is the testimony of one that knew the heart, and given after a manner most fit to revive it?

1. Her faith was owned, commended, and admired by the Author of it, whose words are always spoken according to truth, most clearly and certainly.

2. The reward of her faith was ample, as large as her desires were, to have it to be, "Be it unto thee even as thou wilt." And how fast and far will a sinner's thoughts and desires fly after good things? What a compass will they take? Looking downward he will say, I desire to be delivered from the bottomless pit, that my soul may not be gathered with sinners, nor my portion be with them in their place of torment; and Christ will say, "Be it unto thee even as thou wilt." Looking inward, his language will be, O that I may be delivered from this body of death. Looking upward to the mansions of glory, the believer cries, O that heaven may be mine.

(D. Wilcox.)

I. PRAYER IN ITS OPPORTUNITIES. Some are more highly favoured with opportunities of prayer than others. Many are early instructed in its nature, etc., others are destitute of such instruction: such was the ease probably with the Canaanitish woman who so urgently presented her suit to our Lord.

1. Seasons of affliction furnish opportunities for prayer.

2. The special presence of Christ, either at times of public worship, or in the influence of His Spirit in private, furnish opportunity for prayer. It was the presence of the Saviour in the immediate neighbourhood of the Canaanitish woman that induced her to come to Him.


1. It ought to be personal. "Lord, help me," is the language of true prayer.

2. It ought to be intercessory.


IV. PRAYER IN ITS SUCCESS. Prayer to be successful —

1. Must be persevering.

2. Must be offered in faith. "O woman, great is thy faith."


is emphasized by the Evangelists with a variety of expressions. She is characterized vaguely as "a Greek," not in the limited sense with which we are most familiar, but as a genuine term for non-Jewish people, very much as the Turks and Asiatics adopt the designation of "Frank" for any European. Her personal name has come down through tradition as Justs, and that of her daughter as Bernice. She is called by St. Matthew "a woman of Canaan" — an inhabitant of the region into which those who escaped extermination had been shut up; and the title may have been selected to enhance the loving kindness of the Lord, not without reference to her inheritance of the ancient malediction, "Cursed be Canaan." She is also called here a Syro-Phoenician by descent, probably to distinguish her from those Libyo-Phoenicians in the northern coasts of Africa, whom the fame of Carthage had made so widely known. She was, no doubt, in religion a heathen, but was possessed by principles which, when called into active exercise by the Great Teacher, served her in better stead than the orthodox creed did not a few of its professors.

(H. M. Luckock, D. D.)She was a heathen in religion, an alien in race, a dweller in a city hardly surpassable for antiquity, enterprise, wealth, or wickedness. She had been doubtless a worshipper of the Syrian goddess whose worship covered the Levant; the deity who personified the fulness of Divine life which fills the world; who was loved by the purest because they deemed her the giver of their children; and yet worshipped with loathsome devotion by the vilest because she was supposed to sanction all action of human lust. A Hindoo mother, worshipping Doorga, in her brighter aspect, reproduces exactly the sort of feeling and devotion in which this woman had been reared. She was thus ill placed, for the favourite deity corrupted the morals of the people exactly in the degree they worshipped her. Yet her faith receives a tribute of highest praise from her Saviour, and she is, I suppose, the first heathen converted to the faith and the salvation of the Son of God.

(R. Glover.)

Faith is a great mystery. To doubt, nothing is needed but weakness; to believe, requires great energy or great necessity. Observe the creed which has grown in this woman and now shows itself.

1. She believes in miracles. The lukewarm, who are rich and increased in goods, are unbelieving; for, needing nothing, they cannot believe in what they see no need for. But the needy, whose case is desperate, have other thoughts. All the afflicted tend to settle in this creed, that there must be somewhere a cure for every trouble. So the miracle of healing a demoniac child seems quite possible to her.

2. She believes, in some measure, in the Divinity of Jesus — viz., that he can do what mere man cannot do; that He is omnipotent to save.

3. She believes in the love of Christ. Her mother love has given her a new idea of God's love. If she were God, she thinks, she would succour the wretched and bind up the broken heart. And she feels that Christ's heart must be full of love — even to a helpless heathen.

(R. Glover.)

This story places before us a pattern of meekness and perseverance rarely equalled.

1. How many, even with privileges of teaching and education to which she was a stranger, would have taken offence at the apparent insult of such a reception as she met with. But with all the forbearance of the meek and quiet spirit, which disarms opposition, she discerned a smile beneath His frown, and won her petition.

2. How many, if not offended and full of resentment, would have turned away discouraged. To have hoped, as she had done, against hope, and then to have heard that there was One who could give her relief, and to have flung herself at His feet in the agony of supplication, and to be so received! Could we have been surprised if despair had taken possession of her, and she had hurried from His presence?

3. But faith triumphed over all disappointment, and her desire was granted. Whether it was given to her to understand it we cannot tell; but the seeming harshness of her Saviour's conduct was but a new revelation of his unfailing love. The same love which, when faith was weak, prompted Him to go forth to meet it, led Him to hold Himself back when faith was strong, that it might be yet further purified and made perfect through trial.

(H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

She had often heard her people characterized as "dogs." It was a title by which the Jews, whose first care it was to hate, to mock, and to curse all besides themselves, disgraced the Gentiles. The noble nature of the dog finds no recognition in the history of the Old or New Testaments. Among Jews dogs were regarded as wild, savage, undomesticated animals, which prowled about cities as the scavengers of the streets, with no masters and no homes. But Jesus, by the use of a diminutive not to be expressed in English, softened not a little the harshness of the comparison, implying that the dogs to which He likened this woman were not excluded from the house. And the woman with the instincts of a Gentile, with whom the dog was not only a favourite but an almost necessary companion, having its place at the domestic hearth, turned it at once into an argument in her favour, and replied, "Yes, Lord, I accept the position; for the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs." What she meant to convey must have been something like this: "I do not deny that the Jews are the first object of your care and ministration. They are the true children, and I am far from asking that they should ever be superseded in their rightful prerogative; but the very fact that you should speak of their being first fed seems to imply that our turn will come after them, and your mitigation of the harsh unfeeling byword which the Jews adopt, encourages me to persevere in my petition. Let the full board, then — the plentiful bread of grace — be reserved for the Jewish children; but only let me be as the dog under the table, to partake of the crumbs of mercy and comfort that fall from it."

(H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

Compare with the testing of the Syrophenician woman's faith, God's trial of Abraham (Genesis 22:1-19), and note the rich reward which triumphant faith won in both instances. Pure gold loses nothing in the testing for alloys; the diamond shines all the more clearly for being rid of the rough surface which hid its light.

Duff, the African missionary, was about to begin a gospel service in a Boer farmer's house, when he noticed that none of the Kaffir servants were present. To his request that they might be brought in, the Boer replied roughly: "What have Kaffirs to do with the gospel? Kaffirs, sir, are dogs." Duff made no reply, but opened his Bible, and read his text: "Yes, Lord; yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs." "Stop," cried the farmer, "you've broken my head. Let the Kaffirs come in."

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