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The Canaanite Woman

Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute, unworthy and unclean, yet because of her faith, she was graciously grafted into the Hebrew nation (Hebrews 11:31). And even though she was a foreigner, alien to the Jewish people, she is named in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5).

Ruth had a similar story. She was a Moabite. An alien. A foreigner. And by God’s grace, the great grandmother of King David. The great, great, great... grandmother of Jesus.

In the New Testament, Jesus “had to pass through Samaria” (John 4:4, ESV) because He had a divine appointment with a Samaritan woman.

As we continue our review of the “messed up people in Mark’s Gospel” we come to chapter seven where we find the story of another foreign woman (Mark 7:24-30).

Jesus and his disciples travelled far northwest of Galilee, outside Jewish territory, to the twin cities of Tyre and Sidon, Mediterranean port cities. It appears that Jesus went all that distance to meet a Gentile woman.

The cities were not so far removed that Jesus’ reputation as a compassionate miracle worker hadn’t preceded Him. In fact, people from the area had travelled into Galilee to seek Jesus’ healing touch (Mark 3:8-11). They had, no doubt, returned to Tyre and Sidon proclaiming Jesus’ tender mercies.

Mark tells us that in Tyre and Sidon, Jesus “entered a house and did not want anyone to know it” (Mark 7:24, CSB). I suspect that Jesus took His small band of disciples on a retreat. They were tired. Jesus needed time to mentor and teach the twelve so He took them away to a quiet place where they could spend quality time together.

However, “he could not escape notice. Instead, immediately after hearing about him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit came and fell at his feet” (Mark 7:24-25, CSB). “ ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David!’ ... ‘Lord, help me!’ ” (Matthew 15:22-25, CSB).

At first, it seemed, Jesus ignored her. “Jesus did not say a word to her. His disciples approached him and urged him, ‘Send her away because she’s crying out after us’ ” (Matthew 15:23, CSB). Sadly, like the disciples, I have ignored the plight of the needy and wished that Jesus would send them away... But you would never do that. Right?

Jesus’ response to the pleading mother appeared harsh, even rude. “He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, because it isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs’ ” (Mark 7:27, CSB).

Dogs? Jews referred to Gentiles as dogs, wild scavengers. Jesus used a different word referring to a pet puppy. Jesus pictured the family seated around the dining table. Obviously, the children would be fed before the pets under the table.

Feed the children first? Jesus’ mission was first to the Jews... then to the Gentiles (Romans 1:16). First, but not exclusively. Jesus came to “seek and save the lost ... all the lost (Luke 19:10) and He left instructions for us to go beyond Jerusalem to the ends of the earth ... to all (Acts 1:8).

She must have understood His point, because her faith was undaunted. “She replied to him, ‘Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs’ ” (Mark 7:28, CSB). Humble! Faithful! She seemed to say, “Lord, give me the smallest scrap of your grace! That would be enough!” She was certain that Jesus could heal her daughter!

He did! Amazingly! “Woman, your faith is great” (Matthew 15:28, CSB).

Jesus had mercy on the foreigner, the alien, the Canaanite... and me!

South Georgia Baptist Church

Amarillo, Texas

Mike Martin, Pastor


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