The Faith of a Syrophoenician Woman
24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
28 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
“He Who Dares, Wins” – Motto of the SAS
This is a difficult passage that needs explanation, but once the explanation is understood, it is actually very insightful. The context is that this woman is Syro-Phonecian, meaning that she is non-Jewish, and is asking Jesus for a miracle. Now, verse 27 can be very jarring when we read it, because Jesus seems to refuse to cast the demon out because she is not Jewish, and he came first for the Jews, and not for the Gentiles. What the heck is going on here, doesn’t Jesus care about non-Jewish people?! We have to realize that Jesus first came to fulfill a special promise to the Jews for a Messiah – he became the new covenant, the new temple, the atoning sacrifice. And through the fulfillment of that promise to Israel, blessings would overflow to all peoples, Jew, Greek, Gentile, Roman…Korean! So Jesus came to give salvation for all people, first for the Jews, and then for the Gentiles.
But I want to focus on the woman’s response to Jesus. Jesus seemingly turns down the woman, saying that his first ministry is for the Jews, but she doesn’t let it go. She doesn’t take no for an answer, but points out that the blessings that Jesus has brought can overflow to all people, even to Gentiles like her. And it seems that this was exactly the response Jesus was waiting for, because, without any further discussion, he immediately heals her daughter. He was waiting for her to persist, waiting for her to dig deeper, waiting for her to ask again, and when she does, we find out he was waiting to answer. And this brings us to a commonly overlooked Christian virtue:
We see it time and time again in Scripture. Abraham boldly asks for Sodom to be spared, asking God again and again to save the city for fewer and fewer men – and God complies. Moses asks for mercy for the people of Israel, and then asks for the impossible: “Show me your glory”, which God does. In Jesus’ teaching on prayer, Jesus explains prayer by telling us about a man who asks for bread from a friend in the middle of the night, that the friend will give him the bread not because of their friendship, but because of the man’s boldness. God wants us to be bold. He wants us to ask him for more. He wants us to fearlessly believe the promises of Scripture. He wants us to ask again and again and again. He wants people who are never satisfied with how much they know of Him, but annoyingly ask for more. Be bold with the Lord today, and you may find out he was waiting for you all this time.
Matthew 11:12 – From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.
1. Why do you think boldness is usually not seen as a Christian virtue?
2. What is the longest you have ever prayed for something in your life? Has that request been answered in some way? If it hasn’t, are you still praying for it?
3. Do you think there is anything in your life where God is waiting for you to ask him again before he answers it?
4. What are some ways in which you can be more bold in your relationship with God?