Canaanite Womans Daughter - James Tissot

The Miracle of the Healing of the Canaanite Woman's Daughter

How often do you mumble angry thoughts, toss a verbal jab at friends, or even explode at family members? Ironically, it's most often the family member who gets the heat. But what we don't realize is what we say can and will be used against us. Jesus explains in Mark 7 (and Matthew 15) that we are defiled by what comes out of our mouth. We open up pathways to our hearts. Those roads are then exploited more and more by the seedy travelers, whether they be anger, lust or something else worse. As we burn in those paths, they may become well-traveled super highways.

Cause Healing of the Canaanite Woman's Daughter
Material: Suffering, demon-possessed girl
Formal: Girl restored
Efficient: “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.”
Final: Salvation
Aristotle's Four Causes

The Miracle of Healing of the Canaanite Woman's Daughter happened at a time when Jesus had just traveled up from Jerusalem to present-day Lebanon. He had just had another brush with the Jewish authorities who were trying to trap him with their outstanding knowledge of the law. They must have been feeling a bit jealous since people were flocking to him with their sick family members and friends who "begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed." This was part of a long string of miracles which included the feeding of the 5,000 when he revealed that he was the bread of life. Yes, the teachers of the law were being shown for what value they really were to God's children and they weren't excited about the negative press.

Be reminded that we have learned that when people were healed by Jesus, it took some sort of toll on him. We can be assured that he must have been exhausted. He was human after all.

So Jesus and his disciples "withdrew" from all this action and went north. By retreating to the land of the Gentiles, was Jesus taking a much-needed sea-side vacation? Or was there something else going on which made him leave the land of the Jews? His Father may have been teaching his disciples that there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

In his row with the Jewish leaders, he had explained how we are defiled not by what we eat nor what goes into us (like the Jews wanted them to believe) but by what comes out of heart. Jesus tells us, "It is what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” The anger, pride and lust in our hearts desecrates us when it lashes out. Once again, the comparison is made with food. The Jewish leaders were trying to control the children of Israel by what went into their mouths. But Jesus explained that they were letting "go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions." Don't we do the same today?

Don't we feel more comfortable following rules, especially ones we can handle. But we have learned is that we are sinners. Every day we are sinners and turn our back to God. We tend to forget this if we think we have the checklist fulfilled.

"Let me see, I didn't do that, Check. And I did do that, Check. Okay, I'm good to go with God."

No, mankind is not good with God—except through his Son. Jesus is the Holy One and God is "well pleased" with him. God in his unfathomable mercy reaches down to bring us sinners home. But at the end of the day, on my own, I'm only a repentant sinner. In so many words, Jesus explained all this to the teachers of the Law. He explains that it's not an unfullfilled checklist that defiles us, it's the state of our heart.

Exhausted, Jesus retreats to the north trying to find a place of rest. But instead, he is found by a poor Greek gentile whose young daughter is possessed by a demon. In this woman's perseverance, she seeks Jesus at all costs, even though she is not a member of the Jews. But in her deep faith, she knows she is still a child of God.

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. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“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 the dogs.”

“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Mark 7:24-30

This woman stoops low, falling at Jesus' feet and presents her case to Jesus knowing full well who he is. "Lord" she says, "Lord, Son of David" is how it is recorded in Matthew. As a Greek she knows her standing in the eyes of the Jews. The Jews were the chosen people, the Gentiles were heathen, thought of as no better than the animals. But why did Jesus refuse her request, why did he liken her to a dog? I expect that Jesus new her faith before she even spoke. Like God trusted Job to the wiles of the Devil, Jesus knew she would demonstrate outstanding faith to his disciples. Through her perseverance and her faith, all of us would learn how to approach the Father. Being likened to dogs, rather than the holier-than-thou Jewish establishment, would in be a place of deep honor to one who is humble. We learn over and over from Jesus that it is the humble who are exalted. It is the meek who inherits the earth.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4

Like the Parable of the Persistent Widow we must humbly persevere and make our requests be known. God grants us our requests in his time. If he gives us what we ask for at the wrong time, he might be feeding us unripe fruit. God gives us good gifts. In this case, it seems, Jesus wanted the world to see the faith of this Gentile woman. She knew Jesus came to save the "lost children of Israel," but she also knew that Jesus was her Lord as well.

This miracle once again connects faith with the healing of her daughter. Why is faith a supernatural force? To understand, we must look what had happened with Jesus and the authorities just before he left Jerusalem. Jesus explained that what comes out of our hearts desecrates us. The opposite is also true. What comes out of our hearts can consecrate. Literally, the words the woman uttered to Jesus sanctified her request. The act of faith that came from her heart cleansed her daughter.

But if our heart is already defiled—which all of ours are—and following a set of rules and dietary restrictions won't make us right with God, how are our hearts to be cleansed? Our hearts are cleansed when we feast on the bread of life.

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

John 6:52-59

Tags: commentary, miracles