What Is Great Faith? The Healing of the Syrophoenician’s Daughter
Full Transcript of Matthew Message #46:
“Make thy face shine upon Thy servant and teach me Thy statues.” Psalm 119:135
For the past several weeks we’ve been looking at Matthew 4:13-16:20. As you can see, that’s a rather larger chunk of Matthew. I suggested that the key to catching the heart of that section, and there are six stories in that particular section, is to realize that the Lord Jesus is training His disciples. This is not to say He’s not compassionate to the needs of those He heals or delivers. He is; He’s dealing with them as patients, as well, but He has a double purpose; not only of personal redemption of those He deals with, but instruction for His own disciples. As you can recognize in your own life, that’s not unique. He does it all the time. He’s constantly training His children, and constantly using the experiences of life to teach us and to instruct us. In other words, if God uses you to minister to some soul, whether it’s an unsaved person, or whether it’s someone who already knows the Lord, God is not only ministering through you to them, He’s also ministering through them to you. He always does it that way; both ways. He’s always instructing us, and teaching us. In Matthew 14:13-16:20, in a very real sense, the Lord Jesus is instructing His disciples. They are taking a graduate course. They’re learning the ways of God.
To put this section in perspective with the analysis we’re giving of it, we’ve divided it into these three lessons, if you will. He’s teaching more than three things, as you can imagine, but these three are right on the surface. In Matthew 14:13-33 He was teaching them the truth of union with Christ, union with God, and the stories in that section just illustrate the great truth of union with God. Then in Matthew 15:1-20, when He deals with the Pharisees and the scribes, and also 16:1-12, where He deals again with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, He’s teaching them the truth of the essence of life; essential life, and it’s not what is on the outside. It’s what’s in the inside, spiritual life, and not just traditions, and not just externals. And then Matthew 15:221-39, where we are this evening, He’s teaching the principle of the all sufficiency of Christ, the need for a great and high view of Christ.
We’ve looked at this whole section for the last four weeks in a sweeping way. We looked at all of it together, and then we went back to figure out one at a time. We’ve looked at the truth of union with Christ. And last time we looked together at the truth of essential life, that is spiritual life over against tradition, and external, and rules. We’d now like to look at this last section; 15:21-39, two great stories in this section, illustrating the great truth of the all sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ. The best way to begin is by reading it. I’ll suggest a little outline that I’d like to follow that will get this passage before our hearts, and also give you some logical connection, so you know where I am as we go through it.
As you can see in chapter 15:28, the Lord Jesus made this comment, “Oh woman, your faith is great.” First I’d like to identify what the Spirit of God intends by “great faith”; what did He mean when He said “great faith”? That’s the first thing I’d like to do. Secondly, I would like to contrast the great faith of this woman with the little faith of the disciples. That’s the second thing. Then the third thing I’d like to do is show the connection between the healing of the Syrophoenician’s daughter and the feeding of the four thousand. God didn’t just throw those stories together arbitrarily. They belong together, and I want to show you that connection. Finally, and of course this will be self-explanatory, I also want to give a description of little faith. We’re going to look at great faith, and I want to give a description from this context of little faith.
What did Jesus mean in chapter 15:28, “Oh, woman, your faith is great?” There’s only two times, as far as the record goes, that the Lord Jesus said “great faith”. Both times He was talking about gentile faith. He called it “great”. The Centurion’s faith in Luke 7 and Mathew 8, “You have great faith. I haven’t seen great faith like this in Israel.” And then we have the Syrophoenician woman, chapter 15:28, also with “great faith”. Jesus also marveled at unbelief. He always marveled at gentile faith and Jewish unbelief. I’m certain that the Lord Jesus used this as #1, to shame his disciples, contrasting gentile faith with Jewish unbelief, and He calls it “great faith”.
What did the Lord Jesus mean when He said, “Oh woman, your faith is great,”? I know in my deepest heart I would like Him to say that about me and say, “Your faith is great.” Wouldn’t you also like the Lord to say about you, “Oh, your faith is great.”? What is it, and what constitutes great faith from this context? Let me share with you what I think the Spirit of God intends by that expression. In order to catch the real heart of what is before us, let me begin by going through the story and showing you what it isn’t; what great faith is not, because sometimes, if we read it in a surface way, we’ll misunderstand what thrilled the heart of Christ here. We’ll look at just the facts and say, “Oh, that’s what it was; that’s great faith,” and then tragically try to reproduce that in our own life, and just end up in a lot of bondage. What is great faith that is illustrated here?
Let’s begin with what it’s not. I’ll state them as principles, so that we can get into the heart of it. Great faith is not a humble view of yourself. That’s not great faith. That’s not what He is admiring here. You read the record here, this woman certainly had a humble view of herself; a low view of herself. Let me illustrate that in a couple of ways, because her attitude was exactly the opposite of what we call “ego”, and pride and self. Matthew 15:25, we read these words, “And she began to bow down.” If you look at the margin of the New American Standard it says, “worship.” If you have KJV it says it in the text, “She worshipped Him.” It’s a very strong word in the Greek.
There are six different words for worship in the Greek. There’s the one that’s used here. The word “worship” comes from two words. One is a direction toward the cross. That one means to kiss. Real worship is to kiss toward, to kiss toward God, to have your whole life and the direction of your life just kissing God. That’s worship; real worship. The other five words that are sometimes translated worship all mean false gods; they worship Baal and Aherah; that’s a special word. Another one means to honor. It’s a weak word. Another one means to serve. Another one means to act piously. And then the one that’s used for the Pharisees means outward ceremony. Jesus didn’t use those words. He used the word here “to kiss toward”. He used the strong word for worship, that which you do when you are in love with God, and you are worshipping God, in the sense of falling down in reverence and in praise. That’s what she did. This gentile woman came and fell down at the feet of the Lord Jesus and worshipped Him. This is a humble act. Notice Matthew 15:26-27, “And He answered and said, ‘It’s not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ And she said, ‘Yes, Lord, but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.’”
Her attitude of being humble was revealed again when she Amen-ed His estimate of her. In this passage Jesus compared her to a dog. It’s true He didn’t use the strong Greek word for dog. There are two words for dog; one is a pet, a child’s pet, the kind you would have around the house, a little dog. It’s not a strong word. The word the Pharisees used for dogs was the other word, the low marauding half wolf dog, a vicious kind of a thing that is not trained in any way, not domestic. Jesus didn’t use that word. He didn’t say, “You are just like a half wolf.” He just said, “You are like a puppy dog, like a pet.” Still, He refers to her as a dog, and what is her response? She doesn’t get indignant and say, “I didn’t come here to be insulted. You don’t have to call me a dog. I may be low, but I’m not going to crawl. I don’t have to beg. I have a problem and I came to you, and I think it’s reasonable that we sit down and talk about it, but you don’t have to say that I’m a dog.” That wasn’t her response.
In verse 27, “Yes, Lord, yes Lord.” KJV says, “Truth, Lord.” “Yes, Lord.” She agreed with that comparison. There is a lot to admire in this woman. She has a glorious attitude of self-depreciation. She has a low opinion of herself. She comes as a gentile, as a Syrophoenician, a Greek, a Gentile, outside the camp. She bows down with the real heart attitude, kissing toward God. She falls down at His feet. He says, “I can’t give the children’s bread to dogs.” And she said, “That’s right. I’m a dog. That’s true, Lord.” She has a low view of herself. She pictures herself as a sinner under the table, a little dog, Canaanite Syrophoenician, a woman. In those days even they were putting them down and oppressing them. A woman with a demon possessed daughter; she didn’t defend herself. She just came meek and humble, and bowed down at the feet of Christ.
As praise worthy as that is, that’s not great faith. That’s not what impressed the Lord Jesus and it’s not what He’s talking about in this context. Some may say if I say, “I’m just a dog, and I’m no good, and I’m humble, and I bow down before God, that’s great faith.” No, it isn’t; not even close. That’s not great faith, and that’s not what He’s talking about in the context. That’s true of her, but that’s not great faith.
Let me give you a second thing I know it’s not. It’s not a humble opinion of yourself. I’m convinced when Jesus recorded this story, when the Spirit of God recorded, when Jesus was so moved in His heart with this great faith and it blessed His heart, it was not her perseverance. It was not her determination. This woman had a desperate kind of a faith. She refused to be deterred. When you read the record you have to think, you think you have to think, I had to think, that I would have been discouraged a long time before we got to the end of this section. Great faith must be perseverance; refusing to be refused; refusing to be blocked. This woman had so many hurdles thrown at her, it’s amazing she kept going, but she jumped over every hurdle, broke down every obstacle, knocked down every wall.
Some people may reason (I’m not saying it’s true) we have weak faith because the slightest little thing will turn them back, or they would have come to God but a hypocrite got in the way, so they just say, “I give up now. There’s a hypocrite in my way. I’m not going to come to God because there are hypocrites in the church,” so he stops seeking the Lord. Or someone else comes to a Bible difficulty, “I can’t believe that! Great day, I know where Cain got his wife.” And they find a little Bible difficulty, and they say, “I’m all finished with that. I tried Christianity.” Or else they see some inconsistency in a person’s wife, a Christian, “You call that a Christian. No way. I’m done with that!” They get blocked along the way.
Well, watch this woman. This woman was clearly not like that. It almost appears as if the Lord Jesus was deliberately trying to discourage this woman. I know better from the nature of God. He’ll test faith, but He won’t discourage it. I think He’s just drawing it out here. But it looks like He’s trying to hinder her. Let me give you a couple of blocks she had to face. The first, when this woman came to Christ, she came against religious and racial prejudice. Verse 22, “Behold, a Canaanite woman came from that region.” She was a Canaanite, and that whole nation was under the curse of God. Syrophoenician just means she was a Phoenician in the district of Syria. In was in the suburbs of Tyre and Sidon where God had put on such great judgments. By race she was Syrophoenician, and by religion, according to Mark, she was Greek. Chances are that she had many gods in her background. Verse 23, try to get the impact of this, “He did not answer her a word, and His disciples came to Him and kept asking Him saying, “Send her away, for she is shouting after us.”
You’ve got to picture this woman, and put yourself in her shoes. She’s desperate. Her daughter—she has a mother’s heart—is grievously vexed with a demon. She has tremendous sorrow. She comes to the Lord Jesus, and His disciples (you’re in the inner circle now – you are arriving and this is the one who could help), those who are close to Christ, say to Jesus, “Send her away.” How do you think she felt when she heard that? “Send her away.” She cried after them. She knew they were prejudice, and they had the Jews in mind, and that Christ came only for the Jews, and not for the gentiles, and she was just a dog. That was their opinion of her. I think that’s why Jesus called attention to that expression. “Send her away.” That’s great faith. She wasn’t discouraged because she was Syrophoenician, because she was Canaanite, because she was Greek, because she had a daughter that had a demon, because she was a woman, because the so-called spiritual leader said to send her away. She kept coming, and she wouldn’t be discouraged.
It’s more than religious prejudice that discouraged her. Verse 22, “And behold, a Canaanite woman came up from that region and began to cry out saying, ‘Have mercy on me, oh Lord, son of David. My daughter is cruelly demon possessed.” Now look at this next phrase, “But He did not answer her a word,” nothing, silence. What an agony for a mother’s heart; didn’t say a word; didn’t say yes and didn’t say no, but just ignored her, deliberately ignored her. When somebody ignores you, when they don’t have the decency, sympathy to at least speak, even if they say, “Go away and don’t bother us,” at least they said something, but to pour out your heart to say “I have this great problem; can you help me?” and then there’s nothing, deliberately silent, and never answered a word. That can make pride awfully angry and awfully bitter. You want to strike out and get mad. This is happening to this woman. She was being blocked every time she turned around. Talk about having three strikes against you before you start. She was out before she started. Everything was against her. I suppose she drew some hope from silence. I know in our family we were grown up in that human proverb, “No news is good news.” Maybe she had that in mind. He didn’t say yes and didn’t say no, so maybe there’s still some hope. But she had these obstacles against her; her nationality, her religion, her background, her problem, the disciples being prejudice against her, their attitude, the silence of the Lord Jesus; it’s all against her.
After that, when Jesus finally did break the silence, look at what He said, verse 24, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” That’s all you need to hear. Because you were born in the wrong place, because you are a gentile, and now what He finally does, He speaks a word that sounds like it’s in the exact opposite direction of any aid or assistance or help for your own soul. Then He speaks again, verse 26, “It’s not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” You have to wonder if that’s the Lord Jesus. He’s got something in mind, obviously, but oh what a test He drags her through, what a tremendous test in her life!
It must have wounded her spirit with all those obstacles, but she’s not driven back by prejudice, and she’s not driven back by silence, and she’s not driven back by exclusion, and she’s not driven back by anything. She will not be discouraged, even when He calls her a dog. That can be interpreted as being insulting, “Didn’t come for you. Came for the Jews.” She had a desperation that wouldn’t quit. She had importunity, which means to keep coming; knocking and knocking, seeking and seeking, asking and asking. When I read this I must admit to you that is very praise worthy. When I see a sinner like this that keeps coming and coming, and won’t be turned back for anything—if she’s insulted or cast out—she refuses to take refusal. She keeps on coming. Some might say that no wonder Jesus said, “Great is thy faith.” I suggest that has nothing to do with faith. Whatever great faith is, it is not that no matter what gets in the way, you keep on coming, and don’t let any obstacle get in your way, and go right through it, like the people who tore down the roof because the crowd was pressing. People got in the way, so they couldn’t get to Christ, so they found another way; keep on coming and keep on seeking; great is thy faith. No, that’s not great faith. It’s not faith. Great faith is not being humble and picturing yourself as nothing, like a dog. Great faith is not overcoming every obstacle until you end up at Jesus’ feet. That’s not great faith.
What is it? Someone else looks at the records and says, “I see what it is. It’s unselfish intercession. She’s not coming for herself; she’s coming for someone else.” Verse 22, “Behold, a Canaanite woman came out from that region, and began to cry out saying, ‘Have mercy on me, oh Lord, son of David, my daughter is cruelly demon possessed.” She’s not coming for herself. She was interceding to the Lord Jesus on behalf of someone else. Even though in verse 22 she says, “Have mercy on me,” and even though in verse 25 she says, “Lord, help me,” she’s still coming for somebody else. She has her daughter, who was so very needy, in mind. They say that’s what makes faith great. She’s not only bold and unashamed, but she’s bold and unashamed, and persevering on behalf of another; pouring herself out like this, not for herself but for someone else; ruled with compassion. That’s what real faith is; a missionary heart, and coming for others. Again, I don’t believe that’s why Jesus said, “Great faith.”
What is great faith according to this passage? If it’s not humility and lack of prife, and it’s not the determination and perseverance to get to Jesus no matter what, and it’s not that selfless spirit of intercession and representing others, what is great faith? What caused Jesus to say, “Oh, woman, your faith is great!”? What was He seeing? Why did He say it and what did He have in mind? This conversation comes after her statement in verse 27, “She said, ‘Yes, Lord, but even the dogs feed on the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’” Then verse 28 begins, “Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Oh woman, great is your faith.’” It was that statement and something about that statement, that the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table; there was something in there that revealed to the Lord Jesus the greatness of her faith. What was it?
I believe it can be summarized in this simple statement, she had a large view of God—she had a large view of the Lord Jesus. Her vision of Him was tremendous. If you look at her words and actions you can see that she had a large view of God. For example, in spite of the fact that she was a gentile, verse 22 she says, “Oh Lord, son of David.” And when she said, “Oh Lord,” she saw His power and His dominion and His government, and she knew that He had the power right then to cast a demon out of His daughter without seeing her and without touching her; from a distance. That’s some view of Christ. She was a gentile, and she called him “Lord”. And when she said “son of David”, she was just embracing the Old Testament record, saying, “He’s Messiah. He’s the One that was promised to come.” In verse 25 when she bowed down before Him and worshipped Him, she saw Him as very God, the object of her worship, and toward Him she kissed. It’s a tremendous view of God.
It’s her statement in verse 27 that so moved the heart of the Lord Jesus, “The dogs feed from the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” Let me state it for you in these words; her view of the Lord Jesus Christ was so great that she saw that all she needed for her desperate case, and for her daughter’s desperate case, was just a couple of crumbs of mercy, and that’s all. Jesus is so great that the crumbs will do. Her vision of Him was so great that she didn’t need the whole loaf. All she needed was a crumb, and if the crumb came from His table, that was enough; that’s plenty. “That will meet my need, and my daughter will be free, and the demons of hell will have to run away.”
The Holy Spirit’s great attention to the word “bread” and “loaf” and “loaves” and seven loaves” is calling attention to something. When He talks about all this bread, and her attitude is “just a crumb”. Her view of Him was so great that all she needed was a crumb, and that’s why He called it great faith, because faith, her faith, was full of a glorious Christ. She saw Him, and saw that one crumb was all that she needed.
Let me go back and pick up some of the things we talked about, and watch how it fits it. There’s a difference between superstructure and foundation. Now watch. It was her view of Christ, this full view of Christ, so big and so powerful and so able to deliver, that made her humble. Humility is not great faith. Great faith produces humility. That’s what made her humble. Seeing Jesus was her great faith; having a great view of Him. One, she saw Him, then she saw herself. That’ why she could admit it, “I’m a dog.” She didn’t have to work that up. You see, it’s not possible to have a high view of God and a high view of yourself at the same time. That’s not possible. You don’t have to work on a low view of yourself. Just see Jesus as He is. When you see Jesus as He is, you’ll begin to see yourself. Greater your view of God, the more accurate your view of yourself, and it won’t be long before you are a puppy under the table. It won’t be long before you say, “Depart from me, oh Lord. I’m a sinful man.” Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, and He said, “I’m undone. I’m a leper of unclean lips, and I dwell in a leper colony.”
Same thing was true of all the saints when they saw the Lord. They fell down at His feet as dead men. When we see Him in His all sufficiency, then we’ll take our place as dogs. One grows out of the other. Proud people don’t need to be humbled. Proud people need to see Jesus. Seeing Jesus makes them humble. They’ll see themselves after they see the Lord. All of this foolish psychological victory that goes around in Christianity these days, Christian psychologists saying, “Self analysis is the way to go. Sit down in the corner and look in your heart and try to discover your problem, and then when you discover your problem, give it to Jesus.” The problem is that we have no more ability to discover our problem than we do to solve it. We can’t look in our hearts. “Search me, oh God, and know my heart.” Let God do the searching. You just keep seeing Jesus. Seeing Jesus made her humble.
Just so, it was her revelation of Christ, her view of how great He was that kept her persevering. That’s why you see Him give up, because she had a great view of God. It was her view of Christ that kept her going, that kept her hoping against the odds. If you had just a slight view of God, if her God were just an inch high, she would have given up at the first turn when somebody went against her and she would have said, “Ah, forget it.” In five minutes she would have given up and she would have despaired when she was rebuked by the disciples. These were Godly men and they said, “Send her away,” and she would have said, “Alright, have it. Keep your own religion. I’m gone.” That’s what she would have said. She saw God, and it didn’t matter what Christians said, or what the disciples said, it didn’t matter how they treated her or didn’t treat her, or how they tried to offend her, or didn’t offend her, how sensitive they were, it didn’t matter, because of her view of God she just kept on going.
Great faith causes you to persevere, and great faith is just seeing Jesus. A great view of Jesus is what great faith is. Everything in your life depends on your view of God. If you have a small view of God, it’s going to affect your whole life. If you have a large view of God, that’s going to affect your whole life. Everything you are, and everything you do and will be depends on your vision of God. Therefore, there’s nothing more important in your life than that you keep seeing God. Nothing matters except who He is, and that you know Him as He is. That’s all that matters in life. When you begin to see Him, nothing will get in your way. Nothing will stop you, and every obstacle that the enemy could put in your path, you just keep on going. Perseverance is not great faith. Seeing Jesus is great faith, and those who have a full God, and whose whole landscape of their life are filled with the revelation of Christ, are going to persevere to the end, and they are going to keep on keeping on, and they are going to go right on through. When you are tempted to throw in the towel, when you are discouraged along the way, taking the facts from the story, by the silence of God, He doesn’t speak, “Oh, I might as well give up.” Or by the desperate situation, “Oh, this is too tough. I’ve got a demon possessed daughter.” Or by so-called unconcerned and unloving children of God, “Send her away,” when you’ve got a great view of God, you’re not going to throw in the towel, no matter what anybody says or does.
If anything anybody says or does to you or about you, affects your walk with God, even a little bit, you have a spiritual problem, and not them. You do. God wants to put us in a soundproof pavilion, in the glory of His presence, from the stripe of tongues. He wants to lock us in to His presence, so that nothing anybody does or says can ever affect our relationship and walk with God. Great faith is humble alright, but humility is not great faith. Great faith is humble. Great faith is also persevering, but perseverance is not great faith. Great faith is seeing Jesus; a high view of Christ. That will make you humble, and that will make you persevering. You see where I’m heading.
It’s also your view of Jesus that makes you an affective intercessor for others. Some people think God is impressed by those who are always witnessing and soul winning and evangelizing and interceding for the lost. Missionary vision is not the same as missionary interest. They have a new thing nowadays. They’ll grab the young people for the summer and they’ll drop them on a mission field, and try to make them missionary minded, and try to put the burden in their heart by getting a firsthand look at the scene. Or else you go to a church someplace and they’ll throw a screen up and slides, and you’ll see some natives marching, and then you are supposed to be moved with missionary passion. No, that’s missionary interest. And you may have missionary interest, but missionary vision is an outworking of a revelation of Christ. When I see Him I’ll have missionary vision. I won’t have missionary vision until I see Him.
Any missionary enthusiasm that does not come as a by-product of a revelation of Christ, it’s not real anyway. It’s unreal, and it’s not of God. The greater our revelation of Christ, the more humble we’ll be. The greater our revelation of Christ, the more persevering we’ll be. The greater our revelation of Christ, the more we’ll take our place as humble intercessors for others at the feet of the Lord Jesus. What’s great faith? It’s just a high view of Him. It’s a revelation of Him. He’s so great, that one crumb will do it, “That’s all I need from Him. If He just gives one crumb of mercy, that’s all I need.”
Hold that a moment. To further catch the spirit of the passage, let me show the contrast between this woman’s faith and the disciples’ faith. Notice in verse 15:28, “great faith.” There’s a verse that comes before that, and a verse that comes after that, and of course a couple of stories in between, but it’s the same. Matthew 14:31 comes before it, and Matthew 16:8 comes after it. Matthew 14:31, “Oh you of little faith.” And then Matthew 16:8 says, “You men of little faith.” He looks at His disciples and says, “Oh, you of little faith. You men of little faith. Oh, woman, you have great faith.” He’s contrasting the great faith of the gentiles with the little faith of those who live closest, at least in proximity, to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me show you two contrasts that He makes between this woman and the disciples. The first is the contrast between the loaf and the crumbs. In Matthew 15:26 He talks about the children’s bread, “It’s not good to take the children’s bread.” The word is loaf, “The children’s loaf, and cast it to the dogs.” It’s not an accident that this event is followed by the feeding of the four thousand. Jesus is trying to teach them something here. When you look at verse 34, Jesus said, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven.” Seven loaves, and do you know what that question was with seven loaves? “What are these among so many? Seven loaves? That’s not enough. There are four thousand people here.” You see, they were prejudice. They only had a small group; just the Jews. That’s all they thought about, that God had come for His children, and the children’s bread belongs to the Jews, not everybody. “God’s loaf is not for the world. It’s just for us, just for the Jews.” Jesus asks, “How many loaves do you have?” You just saw this woman and I said, “Great is your faith with just one crumb.” Now watch. This woman broke the boundaries that Christ was a Savior for the Jews. She came as a gentile. In the land of condemnation, in the suburbs of Syre and Tidon, and they said, “Seven loaves is not enough for all the Jews.” She said, “One crumb is enough; the leftovers is enough for all the ends of the earth; for the gentiles; and that’s all I need.” One crumb! What a contrast this is! She saw the all-sufficiency of Christ.
Look at verse 24. There’s a second contrast the Lord gives. The disciples could only see the physical, and not the spiritual. In verse 24 the Lord Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” It’s amazing how this passage has been abused and beaten down and misinterpreted. All through the Bible in God’s mind there were two Israels. There was physical Israel, with the blood descendants of Abraham, and then there was spiritual Israel, with faith’s descendants of Abraham; the father of all who believe. In that sense, Galatians, and Romans and other passages call Christians “children of Israel”, “sons of Abraham.” Paul said, “They are not all Israel who are of Israel. Those who are of faith are of their father Abraham.”
Watch; the disciples could never see beyond Mt. Zion, and all they saw was the physical geography, “Christ came for the Jews.” When they said to Him, “Send her away,” they had in their mind that she was a gentile dog. “You have nothing to do with her, Jesus. You didn’t come for her. Send her away.” It looks like Jesus is backing them up when He says, “I didn’t come but for lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But notice how verse 24 begins, with the word “but”. They said, “Send her away,” and He says, “Send her away? She’s the reason I came. I came for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
I told you that He was instructing His disciples. When they found out when He considered this Canaanite a Jew… She was a heart Jew. She was one of the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It didn’t matter that she was a Canaanite, and it didn’t matter that she was a Syrophoenician, that she was a Greek. It only mattered that her heart was kissing toward God, that she worshipped Him, that she had a large view of Christ. He said, “What do you mean to send her away? It’s for her that I came. She’s a Jew. She’s a heart Jew,” implied, “You are not Jews with your little faith. You trace your ancestors back to some tribe, and show some scar on your body to prove you’ve been circumcised. Where is the circumcision of the heart? She is a Jew.” In those two ways He contrasts her with the disciples. What an illustration this is that grace makes the difference; not place; that grace makes the difference, not race (might as well throw in not face, either). Grace makes the difference.
No one would have expected great faith to arise out of the suburbs of Tyre and Sidon. The disciples had such a low view that one loaf, seven loaves, is not enough a little group. She had such a faith that one crumb was enough for the ends of the earth, if it comes from Jesus; one crumb is all you need. They couldn’t see beyond the physical, the material, the visible, temporal, and that which is passing. She called out for mercy as a spiritual Jew, and she embraced it from Messiah. Praise God!
Let me show a couple of more things before we close. Why does the miracle of the feeding of the four thousand follow this miracle of the healing of this Syrophoenician’s daughter? I believe, as I illustrated before, that the Lord Jesus is instructing His disciples. He’s teaching them, and they are in training. Verse 37 & 38, “And they all ate, and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces; seven large basketsful, and those who ate were four thousand men besides women and children.” The chapter ends up with everybody full, and the disciples holding seven baskets, large baskets, of broken pieces. KJV says in Mark they were “fragments”. You have an italicized word there in the KJV which means that it’s not in the original Greek. And in Matthew all it says is this, “Seven baskets of broken.” That’s all it says: of broken. And the other words are not in the Greek.
Let me give the essence of the word “fragments”, pieces, broken. They had seven baskets of what? Crumbs. That’s the point, and that’s why He ends it that way. Do you see what He is saying? Here is a woman who saw that Jesus was so great, that one crumb was enough for the ends of the earth. These disciples couldn’t see beyond their noses. They had loaves and they said, “Still not enough; what are we going to do?” Jesus feeds everybody, and they’re standing there holding seven baskets of crumbs, and then He walks away. What an object lesson! He’s training them; He’s teaching them.
In light of all we’ve said, it’s easier to answer, “If great faith is a great view of God, guess what little faith is? If great faith is a large view of God, then you know what little faith is; it’s a small view of the Lord Jesus. Notice chapters 16:6, “Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,’ and they began to discuss among themselves saying, ‘It’s because we took no bread.’ And Jesus, aware of this, said, ‘You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets you took up? How is it you do not understand that I do not speak to you concerning bread?” Now watch; He says, “Oh, you of little faith, how is it that you don’t understand?” He ties in faith with understanding. “Oh, you of little faith; don’t you see? Don’t you understand? Don’t you perceive? Don’t you have insight? Don’t you have revelation?” That’s what He’s saying.
Great faith is seeing God. That’s great faith. The more you see God, the greater your faith is. It’s not liquid that’s going to grow, “I’ve got five pints of faith today; a gallon of faith.” You don’t have a gallon. It doesn’t grow. It’s not like a plant, so that today it’s this, and tomorrow it’s this, and then it’s this. Your faith doesn’t grow. Your faith is a direction of your heart, and as you see Christ, the greater your Christ, the greater your faith. Little faith is no understanding. It’s walking in darkness. It’s not seeing God. It’s not comprehending how great He is. You just can’t say, “I’m going to decide today that God is big, and from now on I’ll take Him out of my little box, and I’ll just make Him big.” You can’t do that. God has got to reveal Himself to your heart, and when God reveals Himself, then you have faith. Little faith is no understanding.
Let me make one final observation, and then we’ll close this section, and begin next time with 16:20 which is when we’ll get into the heart of the book, just before we close for the summer. The last observation is this; this woman had great faith. She had a wonderful view of Jesus. According to the record it was her terrible affliction that brought her to Jesus. That demon possessed daughter she had, turned out to be a great blessing in her life and in her family. I project myself in her situation. That mother must have been sorely tried. She must have been tormented, too, because parents are tormented when their children are tormented, and they can’t do anything about it, when they have no way to raise a finger to rescue or deliver. She had a lot of suffering in her life, that mother, and it was that trouble that brought her to Jesus. I close with that because I don’t want you to get discouraged with whatever God is pleased to engineer in your life.
Psalm 119:71 says, “It was good that I was afflicted.” Do you believe that, that it’s good that I’m afflicted? If it brings you to Christ, it’s good that you are afflicted. Anything that drives you to the Lord is nothing but good. It’s ten thousands times better to be afflicted like this woman was afflicted, and be brought to Jesus, then to be at ease, like the rich young fool, and die without Christ. Trouble is a mighty blessing in the hand of God for good, to those who will come with an eye for Christ.
Our Father, we read Your word and we see that Your heart was thrilled thousands of years ago at great faith. We know that You’re the same age after age. We know Your heart is thrilled this day with great faith; those who have a large view of Thee. Lord, we know we can’t create our doctrine or our view of Thee. It’s a gift of God. You must give it to us. We want to be in that place where we see You as You are, where we can bow down before You, where because of our vision of You, we can be humble and persevere, and intercede for others. You work this in our hearts, Lord, according to our capacities, keep on revealing Yourself. Make Thy face to shine upon us. Thank You that You are going to do it. We claim it in the all-prevailing name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.