An Opportunity to Show Faith

Matthew 15:21-39

Jerry A Collins




²                 Can we cry out for God’s mercy and expect a response?

²                 What do we do when we face the need for faith?

²                 How far will God extend His salvation?


I had a friend in College who prayed often for the grace and mercy of God to be bundled up in whatever answer God chose in response to that prayer. I had not really heard anyone do that before and it has stuck with me ever since. So I too, often pepper my prayers with requests for my heavenly Father’s grace and mercy—that which I do not deserve to be given and that which I do deserve to not be given. This has been a habit of mine now for years and no doubt the Lord has peppered His response with His grace and mercy. I know that to be true as I look back upon the trail of answers that have come and gone. It is a wonderful comfort to know that our God extends both His mercy and grace to us. We could not hope to continue in life without it. So, too, a Canaanite women who asked for and received the mercy of God through Jesus Christ, God’s Son. The story is recorded for us in Matthew 15. An opportunity to show great faith results in her being given the mercy of God. We all need that.


Here is Matthews’s second reference to Great Faith. The first was in 8:10 with the Roman Centurion. In both cases they were Gentiles.

Jesus went away from there:   Why does He withdraw again? He had left other places before (2:12, 22; 4:12; 12:15; 14;13). Possibly for two reasons: (1) The people had wanted to make Him a king, a political and military ruler of some kind. It was not time for that. He came for other reasons. (2) The conflict with religious leaders was heating up and it was not yet time for that to come to a head. Jesus is in control of the timing all of these things so He withdrew because the time was not right. This is also why He told people not to say anything about what His healing them. But another reason He left from there in this context was to turn His attention to the Gentiles as He did from time to time in His ministry. In this case it is with a Canaanite woman in her own territory. So He leaves Israel to enter in into Gentile land.

Districts of Tyre and Sidon: Most of Jesus ministry was in Galilee. Jesus had already contrasted the unbelief in Israel, in spite of His miracles, with the potential belief in Gentile Tyre and Sidon. If those same miracles were done there (11:20-24), then they would have repented and spared judgment. Now He travels here to reveal the faith that existed there. The idea of Canaanite reminds us of the pagan roots of these people as ancient nemesis of Israel eventually defeated and a cursed people destined for doom. But while the Jewish leaders reject Christ, this pagan, Gentile woman, unfamiliar with Jesus, seeks mercy from Him! God looks for these kind of people and they are often found in the most unexpected places. God is motivated by the desire for His mercy and the response of faith. This may perhaps explain why the movement of God in the world in history to the present can baffle us. God moves where people desire His mercy, His grace, His salvation. For the Jews of His day, and even for His disciples, this movement of Jesus ministry across Israel, into Samaria, and even into Gentile territory baffled them too! God was not supposed to do this. He came as a Jew, for the Jews, with a covenant promise made to the Jews. God is acting out of character.


Have mercy on me 22 First, she is a pagan woman raised in a pagan culture with no heritage of God’s Word, God’s favor, God’s power or His Temple worship, priesthood or sacrifices. All of which might had content that provided knowledge of God. She had very little revelation, very dim light, That supplied the motivation for such great faith. But she did have something gin common with us—she had a huge need that was beyond her ability to resolve and she needed mercy to deal with it. Her daughter was suffering terribly by demons. She is desperate about this. Amazing that she calls Jesus the Son of David acknowledging that He is the promised Messiah of the Jews. Given that acknowledgement all she can do is cry out for His mercy to her. She is no Jew and has no right to the promises of deliverance given to them. What she was asking for was something she did not deserve to have. But she begged for it anyway. This is what desperation can bring you to and God looks for that so He can honor it!

Send her away 23 At first Jesus is silent. Jesus initial response is typical of the way Jesus dealt with people. He put up barriers not to keep them away but to see if they would step over them. He did this when someone called Him good. He responded, Why are you calling Me good, there is no one good but God (Lk 18:18-19). He is not denying that He was good or God but how they responded would show what they thought of Him. But great faith will not put up with these obstacles, setbacks or disappointments. The disciples know this about her and request that Jesus would take care of it and give her what she asks for since she will not go away.

Lost sheep of Israel 24 Jesus could do this for her for sure, but he states to the disciples that His primary mission in the world was to His own promised people as Matthew emphasizes in His message. These lost sheep are those Isaiah says (Isa 53) have gone astray. Jesus is saying that the Canaanite woman has not rights to the benefits of the covenant made with Jews and with only a brief time on earth Jesus ministry must stay focused on this mission. So without any rights the woman can only plead for mercy as a Gentile.

Throw it to the dogs 25-26 Her desperate need drives her to her knees begging for His help. Jesus erects another barrier, almost too much we think, intimating the Jews are the children and the Gentiles are the dogs and it is the children who get fed first! There is a major distinction between the pagan and cursed Canaanites and the benefit and favor on the Jews. The word for dogs is for a pet dog, harmless, compared to mongrels that run in packs. The contrast between sheep and dogs may emphasize the idea of benefit, since the sheep were the priority and benefited from the dogs inferior need to only protect them.

Faith is great 27-28 She does not protest the role of dog—the Messiah came to the Jew as the priority—but even acknowledging her place as sinful and unworthy, not able to eat with the children at the table, she might be allowed to feed on the crumbs they drop. She wanted some of the general mercy of the God of the Jews to be given to her even though she was not the priority and her need desperate. She will take what the Jews do not want. Paul had the same thing happen in his missionary journeys. Here is Great faith Jesus says:

1). Based in humility. Someone asking for mercy is asking for something undeserved.

2). Based on worthy object. Not on pagan idols but placed faith in Jesus.

3). Overcomes barriers. First, neglect, then ‘no’, then answer seems like no hope 26.

4). Persistently believe that there is nowhere else to go.

Jesus honors the faith that seeks mercy. No resentment or anger, knowing Jesus was a Jewish Messiah in her town, not staggered by this, she sought mercy and Jesus emotionally moved rewards her for this kind of faith.

1. God’s grace is available to anyone He seeks for it. No one is off limits.

2. We respond to the ones the HS has prepared to receive the Gospel whoever they may be. Today that is happening all across the third world.

3. Great faith grows out of—among other things—a context which seems like barriers given by God but a test to draw out the depth and quality of our faith so that God can honor that faith as genuine and not superficial.