JESUS’ ministry in the coasts of Tyre and Sidon is marked by the wonderful story of the Syrophenician woman (Matt. 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30). He had not planned a public ministry in these parts, but Mark tells us “He could not be hid.” Neither can a true Christian be hidden; men will find him out.
This woman, outside the pale of His ministry to Israel, besought Him for her demonized daughter, but we read, “He answered her not a word.” Prayer often meets such a Divine silence, but few of us press on to an answer as did this needy soul. Too often we take silence to mean refusal.
The disciples, bothered by her begging, asked our Lord to respond and send her away. These poor men were continually trying to handle the cases that came to Jesus, but not in His way. He answers, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” which indicates that they had meant for Him to grant her request to get rid of her. It is another clear declaration of His ministry to the Jew first. “He came unto His own and His own received Him not.”
Not rebuffed at this, the woman beseeches Him, “Lord, help me,” identifying herself with her daughter’s need. Still stronger is the Lord’s reply: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs.” It is a severe answer. We pass over the sternness of our Lord in these soft, sentimental days. Had the woman come with less than genuine, importunate faith, this would have sent her away insulted—this calling the Jews “children” and the Gentiles “dogs.” But our Lord uses the term for little household dogs, and the woman catches the clue. “True, we may not have the bread, but surely we may share the crumbs.” Here is humility and perseverance that will not be denied! It is he who is willing to take crumbs who receives bread.
Such faith draws from our Lord the gracious answer: “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” Notice, it is as thou wilt. There is a faith that desires and asks, but here faith goes further and wills. Jesus tells us (Mark 11:23) that whoever shall command a mountain to be moved and shall not doubt but believe, he shall have whatever he says. Mind you, He does not say, “Whosoever shall ask God to move the mountain,” but “Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed.” Here is faith that dares to command. “Concerning the work of My hands, command ye Me” (Isa. 45:11). Mark tells us that He said, “For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.” Such faith always sends us on our way; and as we go we are cleansed, as it was with the lepers (Luke 17:14). The woman went, Mark tells us, and found it even as He had said. So did the nobleman (John 4:51). Oh, how rare is the faith that takes Him at His word and goes on believing!