Return To Sermons in the Encounters With Jesus

Return To Miscellanous Sermon Menu

Return To Lowell F. Johnson Master Sermon Menu

NOTE: To Edit this document, simply highlight the text, Copy, then paste to your word processor

Matthew 15:21-28

Before reading the Passage

One of the themes of Matthew's Gospel is the insufficient faith of Jesus' disciples. In Matthew you are constantly hearing this phase: “O ye of little faith.”

• When His followers worried about food and clothing, He spoke of their little faith. Matthew 6:30

• When the disciples were frightened by a storm at sea even though He was with them, He said, “O ye of little faith.” Matthew 8:26

• When the disciples failed to understand the lesson behind the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000, He repeated, “O ye of little faith.” Matthew 16:8

• When Peter doubted the Lord's ability to make him walk on the water, He said again, “O ye of little faith.” Matthew 14:31

But Matthew also tells us that Jesus found two examples of great faith. One was the great faith of the Roman Centurion.

The other was a Gentile woman, the Syro-Phenician woman He met when He and His disciples withdrew from Galilee and went to Tyre and Sidon.

• She was not one of the Chosen People. She was not a Jew. She was a simple woman with a serious problem who had heard of Jesus and believed He could and would do something for her daughter who had a demon.

• The most outstanding feature of her faith, as we are going to see, is her persistence.

• If anyone was ever tested so as to make her quite praying and pleading, it was this woman. She encountered difficulty after difficulty; yet she continued to plead for Jesus to have mercy, because she believed He could and would do something to help her daughter. She was determined to plead with Jesus until He did something to help her.

Read the Passage

This is a strange and difficult account because so much of what our Lord says to this woman seems so out of character for Him, but I want you to see it with me as we examine this woman who wouldn't take “no” for an answer.

I. Her Request 15:22, 25

Her request was not for herself, but for her daughter. Matthew says she was “Grievously vexed with a devil...” That is, she was demonized...taken over by an unclean spirit.


We are not told how this unclean spirit affected the little girl, but we do know from the Gospel of Mark how they affected some people.

1. Mark 1:26 The unclean spirit caused a man to “cry out” and have convulsions.

2. Mark 5:5 The man from Godara “cried out and gashed himself with stones.”

3. Mark 9:17 The unclean spirit made a young man “mute.” (Could not speak.)

Mark 9:18 It would also “seize him, dash him to the ground, and he would foam at the mouth

and grind his teeth and stiffen out.”

We don't know how the unclean spirit affected this woman's young daughter, but it was serious.

Each day this mother's heart ached as she watched her daughter and knew no doctor had the ability to deliver her. No one offered any hope. She just watched her little girl suffer.

When she heard that Jesus was in the region, she approached Him and made her request known.

She had nothing to lose. If Jesus refused to help, or even if He couldn't help, even then things couldn't get worse than they were before she went to Him. She had nothing to lose by going and everything to lose by staying away.

But when she comes, her request is not what we might expect. She says, “Lord, have mercy on ME” (verse 22), instead of on my girl. Then “Lord, help ME” (verse 25); not my daughter.

She had made her daughter's burden her very own. You know, as I do, that when our children hurt, we hurt as much if not more.

II. Her Rejection 15:23-25

The tense of the verbs in verses 22, 25 means that she kept on asking, over and over again.

• Here's the difficulty of the passage: She came crying to Jesus, over and over, for mercy and help and Jesus remained silent – He answered her not a word.

• It's not like Jesus to turn a deaf ear or to give a cold shoulder to someone asking for mercy and help. Is this the same loving, caring Jesus we know and worship? What caused Him to be so seemingly unkind and cruel?

Someone said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Is that what's going on here?

We need to understand this difficulty in the light of the setting. Jesus is trying to teach two lessons: one lesson to the disciples and one lesson to this woman.

A. Lesson for the Disciples

As far as we know that is the only time Jesus went into the Gentile region of Tyre and Sidon, and He withdrew there from Galilee for a purpose. His disciples, like all other Jews, believed that the Gentiles were outside of God's mercy and grace. They were considered unclean. Jesus wanted to show His disciples how cruel and unloving and unkind their attitude was toward


non-Jews. When Jesus responded to this woman the way He did, He was showing His disciples what their attitude toward non-Jews looked like.

- Gentiles needed their help. They would cry out to the Jews for help and mercy spiritually and

the disciples were indifferent and silent toward them.

- Here this woman was pleading for mercy and help, lying in the dust before Jesus and He was


- Someone said it like this: The living Word of God answered her not a word!

When Jesus didn't answer the woman and she continued to plead for mercy and help, look at the response of the disciples – verse 23.

- The disciples said, “Send her away, she crieth after us (she's making us uncomfortable with

all her crying).

- Jesus is going to prove His point about their attitude toward non-Jews. These words about the

woman were cold, hard, unkind, unsympathetic. They were saying, “Lord, do what she

asked – not because we care about her daughter's healing, but to shut her up and get rid of


B. Lesson for the Woman

Jesus' silence tested and strengthened her faith. He wanted to see how serious she was; how determined she was; how committed she was.

- We don't normally think of strengthening one's faith by ignoring one's prayers. We normally

think our faith is strengthened when our prayers are answered, and answered prayers do

strengthen our faith.

- But delay in answering our prayers also strengthens our faith. Delay checked her sincerity

and forced her to be more fervent.

- Delay is a great test because it exposes most of us as having little faith, for we give up too


- What do you do when silence meets your request to God? Have you ever experienced that? I


We don't question that God is a God-hearing and God-answering God. But have you ever felt like God said to you, “I'm not going to answer our prayers. I'll answer everyone else's prayers, but not yours.”

Remember this: unanswered request aren't unheard request. Delays aren't denials. Prayer breathed is never spent in vain. Even the simplest prayers are carefully recorded in heaven. They're never lost in the shuffle.

This woman wouldn't take “no” for an answer.

Then the Lord tested her further and delivered a hard blow – verse 24.

Jesus said this to the disciples but the woman heard Him.

- Note verses 25-27.

- When He said that He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel, she might have thought, “Then

He's not sent to me, a Gentile. His mercy and power is reserved for the Jews.”


- Jesus added, “It would not be right for me to rob the children of bread to feed the dogs.”

- Gentiles were called dogs by Jews. Was Jesus calling her a dog?

III. Her Response 15:24-27

She had a choice to make. She could be resentful and bitter or she could be persistent even in the face of an insult.

She could have said, “I'm not a dog. I'm a woman and a mother who cares very deeply for her suffering daughter. How dare you insult me when I ask you for help.”

Let me give you an insight here: There are two words for dog. One means scavengers that attack people in the street and eats garbage. The other word means a little household pet, a lap dob, a puppy. That's the word used here.

In humility she said, “Lord, I realize I'm not one of the children at the table. I'm not a Jew. I'm not asking you to treat me like one of the children who received the full meal, but the little lap dogs freely receive the crumbs from the table.”

Let me give you another insight. In that day the people didn't eat with knives and forks; they ate with their hands. They would wipe their hands on chunks of bread, which were then thrown to the waiting animals.

She said, “True, Lord, I'm a dog...a little puppy.” Puppies aren't very useful, but they are much loved. She was not very valuable to the Lord or anyone else, but she hoped He could find a place in His affection for even a worthless Gentile.

• The little puppies ate the crumbs of the children's bread with the children's full consent. In fact, the little child (and adults) just gave the dogs something to eat every now and then.

• Just a crumb of His mercy and power would be enough to heal her daughter.

Notice verse 27: He called her a little puppy dog; she called Him Lord. “Lord, you're my Master. I'm a little puppy under it's Master's table, willing to eat just the crumbs. I'll come as a little puppy, eating crumbs from the floor, if that is what it takes.” She came to Jesus humble, broken, surrendered.

Jesus must have smiled at her persistent faith!

IV. Her Reward 15:28

Her faith delighted Jesus! Look again at our Lord's Divine Compliment to her – “O woman, great is your faith!” Her faith pleased God! Without faith it is impossible to please God – Hebrews 11:6

We may be complimented for many things, but the greatest compliment we should desire is the Divine Compliment about our faith.


The woman received her desire. Not only that, Jesus gave her a sort of Carte Blanch – “Be it unto you as you will” “whatever you want is yours.”

She must have ran all the way home, but when she went into the bedroom, the child was sleeping peacefully. I wonder if she woke her up and tears began to slide off her cheek as she realized her girl was completely healed! Something had truly happened. Innocence shown in the child's eyes.

I think she began to sing: “Heaven came down and Glory filled My Soul.”

Her testimony was: “I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad: I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.”

• She came to the Lord with a burden and left with a promise.

• She came to the Lord with a heavy load and left with a confident heart.

You can come to Jesus today and find a resting place...and He will make you glad!!