After the encounter with the scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus made a special trip up north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. The miracle of healing the Canaanite woman’s daughter sheds light on the eventual mission to the Gentiles. Upon returning to Galilee, Jesus again drew great multitudes which came to him for healing. The Lord fed the multitudes once more, in a manner similar to His feeding of the five thousand in chapter 14.
Did You Know...?
- Canaan/Canaanites (15:22): Centuries earlier that area’s inhabitants were called Canaanites (Num 13:29). [ref]
- Magdala/Magadan (15:39): A small town in Galilee, on the W shore of the Sea of Galilee, between Capernaum and Tiberias, mentioned only in Matt. 15:39 (“Dalmanutha” in the parallel passage, Mark 8:10), and may be the same as Migdal-el (Josh 19:38). It was the birthplace of Mary Magdalene…It is now probably the small village of el-Mejdel, three miles NW of Tiberias. [ref]
Did Jesus’ words and actions show that he was concerned for the Israelites only? Explain your answer.Hide Answer
The Lord’s words in 24 indicate that His earthly mission was focused mainly on the chosen people of God to whom the promise of the Messiah had been given. Jesus did not intend to exclude the Gentiles in His salvation works because He Himself said that the gospel was to reach all nations (24:14, 28:16-20). But it was God’s intention that salvation began with the Israelites and eventually encompass the Gentiles (Rom 1:16; Jn 4:22; Acts 1:8).
What does this story teach us about Jesus’ mission to the Gentiles?
It seems to be against the Lord’s nature to say such degrading words to the Canaanite woman (26). Why do you think He did so?Hide Answer
The Lord’s words served as a test to the Canaanite woman, to see whether she was sincere in asking for mercy.
What attitude did the disciples show with their words?Hide Answer
They were probably becoming annoyed and impatient with the woman’s unceasing cries. Perhaps they were more concerned for themselves than for the woman’s desperate needs.
How are we sometimes like the disciples?
In what ways did the Canaanite woman show her faith?Hide Answer
She acknowledged Jesus’ lordship by calling Him “Lord, Son of David” and by worshiping Him. She was persistent. She was humble.
Have you ever been discouraged when your prayer is not answered and even thought that God doesn’t love you as much as He loves his other children? What aspects of faith found in the Canaanite woman do you still lack?
Compare the Canaanite woman with the scribes and Pharisees in their attitude toward the Lord (see 15:12). Could there be any significance to the sharp contrast shown in the Gospel records?Hide Answer
Time and again in the gospels, the Lord Jesus cited examples of great faith on the part of the Gentiles as a basis of judgment on the chosen people for their unbelief (8:10-12; 11:20-24; Lk 4:24-27). In this example, the Lord withdrew to this pagan territory after He faced the oppositions from the scribes and Pharisees. In great contrast to the unbelieving scribes and Pharisees was the great faith of this Canaanite woman, who humbled herself to beg for mercy despite the Lord’s harsh words. So it was not without reason that the Lord seemed to be difficult with this Gentile woman. What He did added to the sharp contrast between the unbeliever and the true believer, and all the more justified God’s action of saving the Gentiles.
What do the woman’s words in 27 teach us about the right way of seeking God’s mercy?Hide Answer
The woman first agreed that she was outside the covenant of God and did not deserve to have God’s grace. She even acknowledged that she was like the “little dogs,” a very disparaging remark indeed. When we ask for God’s mercy, we need to acknowledge that we are not worthy, and that we do not deserve to receive anything from God. We only look to God to have compassion on us, knowing that His love is so great that His grace overflows and comes even to the undeserving (cf Ps 123:2).
Could this story be a support for the effectiveness of infant baptism? If so, how?Hide Answer
We can see that through the Canaanite woman’s faith on behalf of her daughter, the Lord answered the woman’s request. It would be wrong, therefore, to deny the effect of infant baptism on the basis that infants’ sins cannot be forgiven until they have the ability to confess their faith.
Observe the actions of the multitudes and the Lord. What do the healings teach us about Jesus and His mission?
Why is it significant that the people “glorified the God of Israel”?Hide Answer
The miracles of the Lord Jesus were the very deeds of God. He was indeed sent by God to bring salvation to His people, just as God had promised in His covenants to the Israelites. The people praised the God of Israel because Jesus had shown them that God did not forget His people but was still gracious to them (Lk 1:68-75).
Compare this miracle with that of 14:13-21.Hide Answer
Both miracles were the result of the Lord’s compassion on the people. Unlike the miracle in chapter 14, where the disciples came and requested that the multitudes be sent away, here the Lord initiated in taking care of the people.
How did the disciples show their lack of faith?Hide Answer
As in the feeding of the five thousand, the disciples lacked the trust that the Lord would be able to do the impossible.
What human weakness did the disciples reflect? What can we do about this weakness?Hide Answer
The disciples had forgotten the great miracle that the Lord had performed not so long ago. Likewise, we are often forgetful of all the wonderful things God has done for us in the past. When we face difficulties, we doubt and give up hope. So we need to constantly count God’s blessings in our lives, appreciating and storing in our hearts all of God’s grace in its abundance (just like counting the large baskets of leftovers). Then our faith will be strengthened each time we experience God’s mercy and love.