The Second Unveiling = Her Great Faith is Tested in v. 23-26. Here we see the second veil removed, and we see the genuine quality of her faith. This section is a difficult section to read because it looks like Christ was treating her with disrespect. Yet what He was doing was testing her faith. We all know that you cannot really know the quality of someone or something unless it is thoroughly tested. That’s why we test products to see what they are made of before we purchase them. So also this woman’s great faith could only be known through testing. Proverbs 17:3 tells us, “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests hearts.”
Her faith was tested in three ways:
First, her faith was tested by Christ’s lack of response. Verse 23 informs us that He did not answer her a word. She was crying out with all her heart; He seemed to ignore her pain. Why? It wasn’t because Jesus lacked compassion. His life is filled with compassionate acts toward others. It wasn’t because Jesus was too weak to heal her daughter. He had healed many before; this one was not unusual. One of the reasons for His silence is found in Mark 7. It indicates Jesus went into a house and did not want to be known in that region. In other words, he was laying low. Now think about the predicament. If He performed this healing, what would happen? The same thing that happened everywhere else Jesus went and did healings! Word would go out instantly and crowds would flock to him. His attempt at rest for himself and his disciples would be foiled. I think, though, there was a greater reason for Christ’s silence. Often we are improved in faith by God’s delay in answering our requests. Really? Yes!! Remember Jesus’ delay to come to the disciples in the boat as they struggled against the winds and waves at night? When He finally did deliver them from that hopeless situation they better knew the lesson, “This truly is the Son of God!” The lack of response to the woman even got the disciples’ attention. They came to Jesus to implore him to send her away. This verb too is in the imperfect tense in Greek and indicates that they repeatedly came to Jesus to send her away. I mean this woman made herself known continuously. She was loud! She kept shouting at them. She was more than an irritant. She was going to blow their cover. Again, at first reading it may seem the disciples were really callous toward her. “Send her away” might seem to mean, “Get rid of her! She’s annoying!” That may be the case, but the Greek verb is “apoluson,” and it means “to release or dismiss.” The disciples had rarely seen Jesus send away a supplicant without granting what was being asked. So they may have been asking Jesus to grant what the woman wanted right away so she would leave them alone in peace. Indeed it seemed the only way to get this persistent woman to be quiet would be to grant what she was seeking. Notice too that Jesus spoke to the disciples when He said: “I was only sent to the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel.” He was correcting the disciples for asking Him to heal her and send her away because they did not seem to perceive where His ministry was aimed – at Israel, not the Gentiles. So her faith was tested by His silence.
Second, Her faith was tested by Christ’s reminder that He was not obligated to help her. He told them, “I was sent only to the Lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Again, these words were spoken to the disciples not to the woman. But the woman heard them –and if she had a lesser faith, she might have given up right there. Jesus spoke these words because He wanted to make it clear that His priority was the Jews. He told the same thing to the Samaritan woman by the well in John 4:22, “Salvation is from the Jews.” Jesus was submissive – not to His own will – but to the divine mission. He was sent into the world to fulfill the Father’s desire. The Father sent Jesus to the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel. That title “The House of Israel” cannot be spiritualized. It refers to ethnic Israel, for it excludes the Gentiles. So Christ is making this point to the disciples “Look, even though we are now in Gentile territory, my mission is not here! I’m not going to start a healing ministry here.” He would not even be in Phoenicia that long. He was just seeking isolation with His disciples to instruct them.
It was not yet time for the ministry to move to the Gentiles. That would be the mission of His disciples once the work of redemption was completed.
Third, Her faith was tested by Christ’s reminder of her unprivileged position. As hard as it has been thus far, Jesus took the testing even further with these words, “It is not good to take the bread and give it to the dogs.” Here she was prostrating herself before Jesus, down low before Him like a dog begging for her child. But Jesus said the bread is for the children of the kingdom not the dogs. The children’s bread refers to what was due the Jews as the chosen nation who were promised the Messiah and the kingdom and its benefits. The dogs referred to the Gentiles. They had no claim to divine blessing for they had gone the way of worshipping other gods. The sons and daughters of the kingdom get the meal and blessing, not the dogs. Dogs have no privileged position at the Master’s table. And this woman was not a Jew. She was not a child of the kingdom. She was a Gentile. She was a dog. Christ taught in Matthew 7:6 “do not give what is holy to dogs.” The Jews knew that when the Messiah came there would be a great banquet. Luke 14:15 “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” The kingdom was to be a time of great joy and blessing for the Jews. It’s the children who should get fed first. Not this woman – not the Gentiles – not the dogs!
What a thing to say to this poor woman! Yet remember that the Gentiles living around the Jews were somewhat accustomed to this terminology. Gentiles in sympathy with Israel’s religion were probably not as offended as we might be. Nevertheless, it was anything but flattering to be called “a dog.” Being called a dog was an insult. (See 2 Kings 8:13 or 2 Sam. 16:9) Some have tried to soften Jesus’ words. They point out that there are two words used for dogs in the New Testament. One means a wild mangy animal which roamed the streets. The other a household pet that was usually loved. The pet term is the one used here. However, that misses the point: whether a puppy dog or street animal Jesus was telling her that she was not in a privileged position. This was not an endearing metaphor. Jesus wanted her to acknowledge God’s purposes and her lack of right to them.
And it worked. Rather than repelling the woman, this comment brought out the strength and sincerity of her faith. Jesus had healed many others who had less faith. He ministered to all who came to him in faith. Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. John 6:37 “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” But the exercise of faith was very important to Jesus and to God!! He loved it when men expressed strong faith. If her faith in Jesus were not so humble and determined, this would have been all we would have heard of her! She would have retorted, “What did you call me?” Then she would have risen from the floor, dusted herself off, and responded, “Who do you think you are, insulting me like this?” She would save face and move on to some other remedy for her daughter. But not her – not this special woman. She was rich and deep in faith.
Third, Her Great Faith is Expressed With this third veil pulled off, we really see the full strength of her faith. “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” This is the climax of the expression of her faith. The spotlight now is right there on this woman, lowly at the feet of Christ, confessing him as Lord, agreeing she deserves nothing, yet persistently clinging to Jesus for mercy. Here under this divine spotlight we behold the beauty of great faith. Mark it down! Understand it! For here is what God would have us all be like. She knew enough Scripture to know the Abrahamic Covenant had spillover benefits to the rest of the world. She accepted the divine plan and the divine order. She did not argue with the Lord; she agreed. As a mere dog she was obediently waiting at the master’s feet to receive whatever scraps he would allow to fall on the ground. She accepted her lowly place in the divine program – under the table licking the floor. Yet this lady was more than humble. She was also witty. She used Christ’s own metaphor to move His hand to action. And Christ was pleased to have His hand forced by her great faith.
Do you know what can be accomplished by those who will not let go of Christ and continue to beg Him to work? Is your faith like her faith?
Consider 9 qualities of her faith –and measure where you are in your faith in comparison.
First, her faith emerged out of great need. Great need fosters great faith. Gresham Machen in his classic work What is Faith? writes “The men and women to whom Jesus said in the Gospels ‘Thy faith has saved thee go in peace’ all had very definite needs that they trusted Jesus to relieve. One was sick, one was deaf, one was blind; and when they came to Jesus they were not merely convinced that He was in general a powerful healer, but each of them was convinced, more or less firmly, that He could heal his peculiar infirmity, and each of them sought healing in his own specific case. So it is with us today. It is not enough for us to know that Jesus is great and good; it is not enough for us to know that He was instrumental in the creation of the world and that He is now seated on the throne of all being. … if we are to trust Jesus we must come to Him personally and individually with some need of the soul which he alone can relieve. That need of the soul … is sin.” Greater faith is born of an awareness of our greater need. May God give us a greater understanding of our need of Him!
Second her faith was a knowledgeable faith. She knew of the Messiah as the Son of David. She knew of the reports of Jesus’ healings. She knew of the mercy of the God of Israel. She knew who to go to. We too have to know the Scripture. The Christian faith is an intelligent faith – an informed faith –a knowledgeable faith. It takes study and learning. That’s how we grow in faith, and then we must act on that knowledge.
Third, her faith was a repentant faith She turned away from her pagan gods and went out looking for Jesus to call Him Lord and to seek his mercy. True saving faith is a repentant faith. Repentance is a change of heart & mind resulting in a change of behavior. True repentance is not added to faith but is that part of faith which abandons sin and false belief to embrace Christ. If you have lived independent of God’s will for you life, you need to repent. You need to turn from your gods whatever they be: money, success, fame, pleasure, treasures, respect – and bow before the Messiah of Israel.
Fourth Her faith was a public faith. Her request for faith was about as out front as it gets. She let her dependence on Christ be known to all. None could mistake what she was asking and who she was asking. In the same way for us, God would have no secret believers. God will put you through open public trial so your faith can be tested and seen to be true by others. This public faith honors Christ.
Fifth, her faith was a focused faith – focused on Christ, that is. This woman was such a great example to us. She put out of her mind any of the opinions others might have of her. She did not care what others would say when she cried out for help. She did not want to hear statistics about how many girls under the age of 10 never get healed from demon possession. She had no interest in the books and advice of the false philosophies of the Greeks or the false gods of the Phoenicians. She looked to Christ alone for deliverance. Many today fail to see God work in a substantial way because their minds are divided. If you are not singularly focused upon Christ to work in your life, you will not have great faith.
Sixth her faith was a persistent faith! She was one who just would not be deterred by obstacles. She did not determine what she thought God was doing by outward circumstances. Rather she kept trusting in the merciful character of Christ. Just because God did not answer her first or second plea did not stop her from pleading even more. Like Hannah the mother of Samuel who cried for a son until she got one from God. So we must cling to God and never let go if we want to move the hand of God.
Seventh her faith was a hopeful faith. Jesus was her only hope. And when Jesus would not act, she did not despair. She just kept knocking, expecting deliverance. She never would have put up with what Jesus said if she thought she had somewhere else to turn. But her gods had let her down. The doctors were of no use with to her. People go through life and bad things happen to them. Then they ask — why? Some admit that they cannot believe in a god who let bad things happen to them. But where else will they turn? Who else died for sins and loves us with an everlasting love? God lets bad things happen to bring us to the end of ourselves! Through pain and evil, He crushes our pride! He tests our hearts! He refines our faith! Then, when we ask humbly and have selfish concern purged from our hearts, He grants what we need. So we must remain hopeful as she did.
Eighth her faith was a humble & reverent faith. She called Jesus “Lord” and “Son of David.” In fact, she called Jesus Lord three times. She may not have understood the full deity of Christ, but she certainly understood his authority. Since she combined the terms Lord with Son of David, it appears she understood more than most people. She also bowed in reverence before Jesus. She got low. She prostrated herself in worship. When she was corrected publicly, she did not insult in return. She accepted any designation she was given by Christ. Faith must never attempt to rebuke God, blaspheme God, or command the hand of God. Rather faith is a gift granted by God to beg from the hand of God. You cannot claim a healing or a victory; you beg for one.
And lastly hers was a rewarded faith …v. 28 Here the final veil is uncovered and we see the full Glory of her faith! For her great faith was greatly rewarded.
Jesus rewarded her faith in two ways:
First, Jesus rewarded her with a great compliment. Notice how Jesus reacted to her words, Oh, woman, your faith is great! A smile of joy crossed the face of Christ. Here was one who truly understood who He was and what He could do. Lenski in his commentary writes, “Here is faith in all its lowly beauty.” Christ marveled at the Jews lack of faith in Him. He rebuked Peter for having little faith. but here He magnified great faith by a Gentile woman. A lowly believing woman gained greater compliment from God than a great Bible scholar or famous preacher.
Second Jesus also rewarded her with the great deliverance she came for! He did not send this believing woman away empty handed. Instead, He sent the demon away. Once her faith was approved by God, instantly with great power and amazing efficiency, Christ acted. Her daughter was healed at once; her desire was granted. Mark 7:30 puts it this way, “And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.” And mother and daughter were united with an embrace. Deliverance and salvation had come to that home.
God may often seem not to answer prayer for a long time as you go through testing. But when He acts, He acts! And it His hand unmistakable. Great faith is rewarded with great commendation and great answers to prayer.
The world honors great actors, great American Idol singers, and great musicians. The world lauds Superbowl MVPs, NBA All Stars, and Home Run Hitters. The world touts great generals of war, great statesmen, and great diplomats. God honors none of those things. Those things will fizzle away. In God’s economy they are a dime a dozen. God honors great faith, because great faith latches onto God’s great power. and through His power achieves true greatness. God will honor great faith in our lives too, if we will learn to trust Him for great things.