Syrophoenician Woman: A Dog’s Life

The Syrophoenician woman Jesus encounters is a person of determination (Mt. 15 & Mk. 7). She comes to Jesus knowing she has no claims to mercy. As a Gentile from an infamous nation marked for judgment, she is outside God’s covenant (Deut. 7:2). Her urgent request is exorcism for her daughter who is severely demonized. She addresses Him by His Messianic title, “The Son of David” (Mt. 15:22). She hopes God’s mercy extends beyond Israel and wastes no words getting straight to the point. “My daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” Jesus does not respond immediately, but uses her consternation to build her faith. 

The disciples implore Jesus to send her away because she is a pest, but He does not respond to them (Mt. 15:23). In Jesus’ day, it is common for Israelis to refer to non-Jews as dogs. Testing her faith, He suggests it is not right to take what belongs to Jews and give it to Gentile dogs (v. 26). Her situation is transformed into an object lesson. Although the circumstances against her seem overwhelming, she persists. She is determined not to take No for an answer.

She accepts the title Jesus gives her for she knows her place ethnically and understands her own unworthiness. The woman does not ask for equal privilege, just equal mercy. “What you say is true, Lord, but even dogs get a few table scraps from their master.” She refers to the small bits of food dropped underneath the table to a household pet. The woman does not suggest the Jews deserve less, only that she be granted a tiny portion of the mercy extended to Israel. She does not ask for a place at the Master’s table or a feast; only the crumbs of grace that fall from His hand (Mk. 7:28). She seems to realize there is enough of God’s grace for everyone. Like Jacob who wrestles with the angel, she will not let Him go until He blesses her (Gen. 32:26).

Jesus appears delighted at her respectful reuse of His own words (Mt. 15:28). He gently raises her from a low position to one of great commendation. Her honesty and boldness are honored and rewarded. Like the centurion whose son Jesus also heals from a distance, He also finds great faith in this Gentile woman (Mt. 8:13). When she returns home, she finds her daughter completely delivered and sleeping peacefully (Mk. 7:30). 

The love of God knows no racial boundaries. Those who follow Christ must understand that His mission is global. The mercy He extends to the Syrophoenician woman enlightens the disciples who initially want her sent away. God honors faith that overcomes obstacles, especially when heaven seems silent. When it seems Jesus is denying your request, it is always to increase your faith and perseverance.

Maxim of the Moment

A bad husband cannot be a good man.