Instead, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit soon heard about Jesus, and she came and fell at His feet.
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.
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.)
(A. Farindon, D. D.)
(A. Farindon, D. D.)
(A. Farindon, D. D.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
(W. A. Butler, M. A.)
(W. A. Butler, M. A.)
(W. A. Butler, M. A.)
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.)
1. The suppliant.
2. The title she speaks to our Lord by — "O Lord, Thou Son of David."
3. The request.
I. THE TRIALS AND DIFFICULTIES THIS SUPPLIANT'S FAITH MET WITH.
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.
II. PRAYER IS ITS OBJECTS.
1. It ought to be personal. "Lord, help me," is the language of true prayer.
2. It ought to be intercessory.
III. PRAYER IS ITS DISCOURAGEMENTS.
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."
(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.
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.
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.)
(H. M. Luckock, D. D.)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.
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