The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2


Chapter 24—Woman of Canaan

Jesus now left the vicinity of Jerusalem and went to the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. Here a woman who was a Canaanite met and besought him to heal her daughter, who was grievously vexed with a devil. The woman well knew that the Jews had no dealings with the Canaanites and that they refused even to speak to them; but having heard of the miracles of mercy which Jesus had performed, she resolved to appeal to him to relieve her daughter from the terrible affliction that was upon her. The poor woman realized that her only hope was in Jesus, and she had perfect faith in his power to do that which she asked of him. 2SP 301.1

But Jesus received the importunities of this representative of a despised race in the same manner as the Jews would have done; this was not only to prove the faith and sincerity of the woman, but also to teach his disciples a lesson of mercy, that they might not be at a loss how to act in similar cases after Jesus should leave them and they could no longer go to him for personal counsel. Jesus designed that they should be impressed with the contrast between the cold and heartless manner in which the Jews would treat such a case, as evinced by his reception of the woman, and the compassionate manner in which he would have them deal with such distress, as manifested by his subsequent granting of her petition in the healing of her daughter. 2SP 302.1

Although Jesus was apparently indifferent to her cries, yet she did not become offended and leave him, but still had faith that he would relieve her distress. As he passed on, as if not hearing her, she followed him, continuing her supplications. The disciples were annoyed at her importunity and asked Jesus to send her away. Their sympathies were not aroused by her distress. They saw that their Master treated her with indifference, and they therefore supposed that the prejudice of the Jews against the Canaanites was pleasing to him. But it was a pitying Saviour to whom the woman made her plea, and, in answer to the request of the disciples to send her away, Jesus said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Although this answer was in accordance with the prejudice of the Jews, it was an implied rebuke to the disciples, which they afterward understood as reminding them of what he had often told them: That he came to the world to save all who would accept him. Whoever sought the Saviour, ready to believe on him when he should be manifested to them, were of the lost sheep whom he had come to gather in his fold. 2SP 302.2

The woman was encouraged that Jesus had noticed her case sufficiently to remark upon it, although his words conveyed no definite hope to her mind, and she now urged her case with increased earnestness, bowing at his feet and crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” Jesus, still apparently rejecting her entreaties, according to the unfeeling prejudice of the Jews, answered, “It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.” This was virtually asserting that it was not just to lavish the blessings brought to the favored people of God upon strangers and aliens from Israel. This answer would have utterly discouraged a less earnest seeker. Many would have given up all further effort upon receiving such a repulse, and would have gone away feeling humiliated and abused, beyond all patience; but the woman meekly answered, “Truth, Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 2SP 303.1

From the abundance upon which the rightful family feasts, the crumbs fall to the floor and are devoured by the dogs that watch for them under the table. She acknowledged that she occupied a like position to that of the brutes that accept thankfully whatever falls from their master's hand. While favoring God's people with rich and bountiful gifts, would not Jesus bestow upon her one of the many blessings he gave so freely to others? While confessing that she had no claim upon his favor, she still plead for a crumb from his bounty. Such faith and perseverance were unexampled. Few of the favored people of God had so high an appreciation of the Redeemer's benevolence and power. 2SP 303.2

Jesus had just departed from Jerusalem because the scribes and Pharisees were seeking to take his life; but here he meets one of an unfortunate and despised race, that had not been favored with the light of God's word; yet she yields at once to the divine influence of Christ, and has implicit faith in his ability to grant her the favor she asks. She has no national nor religious prejudice or pride to influence her course of action, and she unconditionally acknowledges Jesus as the Redeemer, and able to do all that she asks of him. The Saviour is satisfied, he has tested her confidence in him, and he now grants her request and finishes the lesson to his disciples. Turning to her with a countenance of pity and love, he says, “O woman, great is thy faith. Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” From that hour the daughter became whole, and the demon troubled her no more. The woman departed acknowledging her Saviour, and happy in the granting of her prayer. 2SP 304.1

This was the only miracle that Jesus wrought while on this journey. It was for the performance of this very act that he went into the coast of Tyre and Sidon. He wished to relieve the afflicted woman, and at the same time to leave an example, in this work of mercy toward one of a despised people, for the benefit of his disciples when he should be no longer with them. He wished to lead them from their Jewish exclusiveness to be interested in working for others besides their own people. This act of Christ opened their minds more fully to the labor that lay before them among the Gentiles. Afterward, when the Jews turned still more persistently from the disciples because they declared Jesus to be the Saviour of the world, and when the partition wall between Jew and Gentile was broken down by the death of Christ, this lesson, and similar ones which pointed to a gospel work unrestricted by custom or nationality, brought a powerful influence to bear upon the representatives of Christ in directing their labors. 2SP 304.2