Calvary Road Baptist Church

“A MOTHER’S GREAT FAITH IN TIME OF GREAT CRISIS”

Matthew 15.21-28; Mark 7.24-30

Happy Mothers Day to all you moms here today. Let me state up front that God has given you an awesome responsibility and great privilege to be a mother, and I am constitutionally opposed to any and all efforts by anyone who denigrates the importance and role of mothers by suggesting that anything is more important for a woman so blessed by God. I salute you. As well, let me be very clear when I say that I loved my mom, adored my mom, am myself a firstborn son momma’s boy of a woman who raised her sons to be men, that I did everything she would allow me to do to take care of her, and that I routinely preach to boys and men that they need to do what they can to take care of their mothers when their mothers need to be taken care of. The best men are men who are grown up, who are adult in their responsibilities and conduct, and who are willing (while not being wimpy sissy boys who still have infantile relationships with their mothers), to honor their mothers after they have discharged their first responsibility of providing for their own wives and children. Am I on your good side yet, ladies? In honor of Mothers Day, I want to bring you a message from God’s Word about an outstanding mother who does not receive much attention these days, the Syrophenecian mom whose telling encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ showed her to be a devoted mother and an illustration to one and all of great faith.

Matthew 15. 21-28:

21     Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.

22     And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

23     But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.

24     But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

25     Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

26     But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.

27     And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.

28     Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.  And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

Mark 7. 24-30:

24     And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.

25     For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet:

26     The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.

27     But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.

28     And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.

29     And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.

30     And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.

What a marvelous exchange we see between the Lord Jesus Christ and this mother whose great faith trusted Jesus for the deliverance of her afflicted daughter. Though I commend mothers who display great courage for the benefit of their loved ones in times of crisis, great tenacity in times of difficulty, and great persistence in the face of enormous obstacles, what is all that worth if your baby gains the whole world and then loses his own soul?

There is the physical aspect of motherhood, as well as the emotional and intellectual part of raising children. I am not in any way denying that. However, all is for nothing so long as even the most loving and devoted of mothers ignores the spiritual aspect of motherhood. I direct your attention to the mother and Jesus. Beloved, everything boils down in a mother’s life to her and Jesus:

First, WE CONSIDER THE MOTHER’S REQUEST

Our texts show the Savior retreated a bit out and away from Galilee and where folks expected Him to be to obtain some privacy. However, He was discovered, even though He was in a house and not out in a public setting. In Mark 7.25-26, we read, “For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.”In Matthew 15.22, we read, “And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.”

We have three identifying features concerning this mother. Mark’s account describes her has being “a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation.”Matthew, on the other hand, describes her as “a woman of Canaan.”Writing for his Roman audience, Mark is pointing out that the woman spoke Greek, as opposed to Latin (in the western Mediterranean they would be more likely to speak Latin than here in the east). By designating her as a Syrophenician, he was pointing out that she was of the Syrian branch of the Phoenician peoples, as opposed to the Carthaginians, who were Phoenicians who lived on the coast of North Africa. By describing her as “a woman of Canaan,” Matthew’s gospel fixed her in the minds of his Jewish readers as a descendant of Canaan, the ancestor of the original people who inhabited the land God gave to Abraham and the Jewish people.

From Mark, we learn that this mother’s concern was for her daughter, who was demonized by an unclean spirit. Desperate for her child, this mother came and fell at Christ’s feet to beg Him to cast the demon out of her little girl. From Matthew, we learn what she actually said to the Lord Jesus: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.”

Consider the words she spoke to the Savior. She initially cried out, “Have mercy on me.”Ask yourself, “On what basis would this woman lay claim to Christ’s mercy?” Remember, she is a Gentile. Even more than a Gentile, she is a Canaanite. She is an historic enemy of the Jewish people, yet she asks for mercy. Does she have any right to expect mercy from the Lord Jesus Christ? Reflect with me on Ephesians 2.12, where the Apostle Paul writes to others from a Gentile background: “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” Therefore, this woman is pleading for something she has no right to claim or have any natural confidence of actually receiving. “Have mercy on me, O Lord.” What does she mean by “O Lord?” How are we to take this Greek word “kurioV,” which ranges in meaning from our English word “Sir” to being sometimes used to translate the Hebrew name of God? Evidence suggests her faith prompts her to address Jesus as Lord, using the Greek word that in the LXX translates the Hebrew word for Jehovah. She then describes Him, “thou Son of David.” It seems to me to be very surprising to hear a Gentile woman acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of David. How would she know that? And what good does it do her to acknowledge the truth of that? Is this woman coming to Jesus and letting Him know that she believes He is the Jewish Messiah? Has she picked up snippets of information that have led to her having faith, as Rahab the harlot had done more than a thousand years earlier in Jericho? “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” Her little girl was demon possessed. Imagine having a child controlled by a foul spirit. Of course, things like that never happen these days. No totally out of control child, no autistic child, no epileptic child, no suicidal child, no child with super human strength, could possibly be demon possessed these days, though it is common knowledge on the East coast that the movie The Exorcist was based upon a real girl being really possessed by a real demon.

Now, NOTICE THE SAVIOR’S RESPONSE

Matthew 15.23 begins, “But he answered her not a word.” Mark is silent at this point. What are we to make of this? Did the Lord Jesus Christ look at her and say and do nothing, or did He just ignore her completely and pretend that she wasn’t even there? Whatever He specifically did, His decision to not answer her a word might strike us as being quite cruel and unfeeling if anyone else had responded to her pleas with silence. Surely, there must have been some reason for this kind of reaction from Him.

I wonder how many moms draw the wrong kinds of conclusions when they do not receive an immediate response to their prayers, concluding that God is somehow uncaring, unfeeling, or perhaps even evil? This woman does not draw such conclusions about the Lord Jesus Christ. Why not? She has no choice. Her daughter is tormented by a demon.

Third, THE WOMAN’S REQUEST CONTINUES

We know the mother did not stop just because the Lord Jesus Christ did not answer her. She kept pleading. How do we know? Listen to the disciples, in Matthew 15.23: “And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.” In other words, “Lord, would you tell this woman to get lost? She won’t stop following and pleading for her daughter.” Doesn’t she know they were trying to get some needed rest?

Does this woman remind you of anything else found in the Bible? Does she bring to mind the parable of the importunate prayer, found in Luke 11.1-10?

1      And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.

2      And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

3      Give us day by day our daily bread.  

4      And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

5      And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;

6      For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?

7      And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.

8      I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.

9      And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

10     For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Seems to me that this woman might be qualified to give a lecture to the disciples on persistent praying. She is acting as though she has an advanced degree in spiritual persistence. Wouldn’t you agree?

Fourth, THE LORD’S RESPONSE TO HER PERSISTENCE

Matthew 15.24: “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

 

Who was the Lord Jesus Christ speaking to here? It is not really clear. He might have directed His remarks to the apostles who had just spoke to Him, with the woman overhearing what He said. On the other hand, He might have been speaking directly to her, with the apostles overhearing. Or, He could have just spoken out for all to hear without anyone directly being spoken to.

What the Lord Jesus says here may surprise some of you, but the statement is perfectly consistent with what He earlier told His apostles in Matthew 10.5-6, when He sent them out two by two for the first time:

5      These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:

6      But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

The question that must be asked now is, “Why was the Lord Jesus Christ sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel?” To answer that question, consider the promises of God. From Ephesians 2.12, which I have already mentioned, we can learn something about God’s relationship with the Jewish people: “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” Paul there reminds the Ephesian Christians what they did not have as Gentile unbelievers. However, what they did not have as Gentile unbelievers Jewish unbelievers did have, even in their unbelief. What did the Jewish people have? They were citizens of the commonwealth of Israel. They were beneficiaries of the covenants of promise. And they were people who, at least corporately if not individually, had hope of better things in the future, based on God’s promises.

So, when the Lord Jesus Christ sent His apostles to Jewish people exclusively, and when He indicated that His Own ministry was exclusively to the house of Israel, that was not either racism or ethnic prejudice. It was the proper result of God keeping His promise. Remember, God did not make promises to Israel because of their merit or worth. His promise to those people was a pure act of grace and mercy.

When you have time, read Romans 11.26-36, where the Apostle Paul rejoices because of God’s great and gracious plan. The Jewish people did not, by and large, respond to the gospel and embrace their Messiah. Many Jewish people rejected the Savior. However, when they rejected Him, the message of He Who was sent to them was then taken to those who He was not sent to, which is us. Now, we who know Christ take the message of Him back to His covenant people. In the end, God’s plan will be fulfilled.

If you base your estimation of God’s goodness and mercy on Christ’s answer to this one mom, or if you find yourself with a similar experience of prayers seeming to go unanswered, your conclusions about God or the Lord Jesus Christ will likely be wrong conclusions.

Fifth, THE MOTHER’S REQUESTS CONTINUE

Matthew 15.25:“Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.”

Two things were done by this Syrophenecian woman:

First, she came and worshipped the Lord, after what He had said to her. Amazing. My guess is that He walked away from her and she followed after Him, when those without faith would have stormed away in disgust. However, this woman followed and worshiped Him after what He had said. The word translated here, proskunew, is the most common word in the Greek New Testament that is used to convey our idea of worship. However, the word is used for more than just worship of God. It is also used to convey great respect shown for men. Does she know that Jesus is more than a miracle-working man? Does she see with the eye of faith that He is also the Son of God? I think she does, and as we proceed in our consideration of her dealings with the Savior, I think you will agree with me.

Next, she pleaded, saying, “Lord, help me.” It seems that this distraught mother simply ignored the words the Lord Jesus Christ had just uttered about having been sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, if she did hear what He had said. At any rate, we see here a picture of the tenacity of her faith, pleading and refusing to stop without the mercy she begs for being granted. In Mark 7.25-26, we learn that she additionally ask the Lord Jesus Christ to cast forth the devil out of her daughter. Why was this woman so tenacious? Being that she loved her daughter, she had no choice. What alternative is there to pleading with the miracle-working Christ to free your daughter from demonic bondage, unless you do not love her after all? For that matter, what choice do any of us have for relief from our afflictions and oppressions? We can do nothing of ourselves. Only Jesus can remedy our spiritual problems. By faith, this woman realized that and acted upon her realization, when others would have left discouraged and disillusioned.

Sixth, THE LORD’S RESPONSE TO THIS MOTHER’S WORSHIPFUL PLEADING

In Mark 7.27, Jesus said to her, “Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.”

Did the Lord Jesus Christ say hard words to this besieged mother? Yes, He did. The words He said to her were very hard words. Why did He speak to her in this way? We know Jesus did not speak to her this way because she was a woman. The Lord Jesus Christ elevated the status of women, ministered to their needs in a personal way, and enables Christian women to worship and serve God with a status equal to any man’s. We never see Jesus speaking in harsh tones to any woman, not even women guilty of the most terrible sins. As well, we know Jesus did not speak to her in this way because she was a black woman. Five reasons for this: #1, The tired old notion that God cursed black people is based upon a misinterpretation of scripture. #2, Moses’ wife Zipporah was a black woman who is never spoken ill of in scripture. #3, The Shulamite maiden Solomon fell in love with in the Song of Solomon identifies herself as black and is never shown in a poor light. #4, The man privileged to carry Christ’s cross to Calvary was black. #5, Two of the five leaders of the church in Antioch, the first prominent Gentile congregation, were black. Thus, it is laughable to think Jesus was racially biased, or that His followers had any Biblical basis for racial bias. I am convinced Jesus spoke these very tough words to this heartbroken mom because she was a Gentile, #1, and to test her faith, #2. Or, to put it another way, I think He said these words to her to underline His commitment to God’s covenant with the Jewish people, #1, while at the same time testing her confidence in Him as a worthy Savior, #2.

Now, consider what the Savior said to her. Matthew 15.26: “But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” Mark 7.27: “But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.” The word translated “dogs” refers to pets and not wild dogs. So, the Lord is not reflecting the common Jewish notion of that day that all Gentiles are dogs, but is pointing out that even house pets have to wait their turn for blessings. Neither is He discounting the possibility of blessing this woman. He is only pointing out that the blessings must go to the Jewish people first. Is this not reasonable? After all, to them were given the promises. Therefore, when rightly understood, our Lord’s words to this troubled mom are in fact much less harsh than they initially seem to be, which is so often the case when events and words are more carefully considered.

Seventh, THIS MOTHER’S UNFAZED REQUEST TO THE LORD

Matthew 15.27: “And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

What a marvelous reaction to the Lord’s previous comment. She agrees with Him! How bold this mother is to go beyond what the Lord Jesus had said. How true to the mark are her words. How spiritual she is, being bold and at the same time humble. Do not make the mistake, people, of thinking this mom is clever or necessarily smart, for neither of these attributes can explain how she boldly pleads with the Lord Jesus Christ without being disrespectful in any way. The explanation here can only be faith. Somehow and in some way, she has received a sliver of truth about Him, and the result is just enough spiritual light by which to see Him and trust Him. Two things observable in this verse:

First, notice that this mother does not seem to be at all discouraged by anything the Lord Jesus Christ has said in her hearing thus far. She seems to have absolutely no difficulty with the priority of the Jewish people in God’s plan or in the Lord Jesus Christ’s obligation to honor their position. Does that not suggest humility? It seems to me to indicate the presence in her life of genuine humility.

At the same time that she accepts her Gentile status, she raises the possibility of her request being granted even now, at the very same time the children are being fed. So, she is not rebelling in any way against God’s election, and accepts Israel’s privilege. She is simply appealing to the Lord Jesus Christ’s goodness, kindness, and graciousness, recognizing that He has food enough to feed both the children and the puppies that snatch crumbs from the floor under the table.

What an incredible grasp of the Savior’s loving kindness she has. What an appreciation of the bounty of grace she has.

Eighth, THE LORD’S RESPONSE TO THIS MOM’S APPEAL

“Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”

The Lord Jesus Christ made this mother jump through hoops. My goodness, what obstacles He seemed to throw down before her. However, that did not stop her at all. Why not? Because she had faith. She had great faith. And who was the object of her faith? The Lord Jesus Christ.

“O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”Through faith this woman received assurance from the Lord Jesus Christ that her desire and request for her daughter would be granted. She is going to get what she was after all along.

What do you think the reaction of this mother might have been had she been lacking in faith? “How dare He speak to me that way?” “Who does He think He is?”“Doesn’t He know what I am going through with my baby?”

Finally, WE SEE THIS MOTHER’S REWARD

“And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”

Is it not great when the Lord Jesus Christ does something wonderful? Keep in mind that the blessings of God are always apprehended by faith.

How wise and how gracious our Savior showed Himself to be. In addition, how terribly misunderstood are His actions by His enemies and, too often, by those who claim to be His friends.

What should you take home with you on this Mothers Day 2011? There are several things that I would recommend to you moms, based upon this one mother’s experience with her daughter’s affliction and the Savior’s deliverance.

First, become a student of this woman’s faith in Christ. What can be learned from her needs to be learned by everyone, not just mothers. Yet how miserably she would have failed as a mother had she not trusted Jesus Christ.

Next, notice the persistence, the determination, and the tenacity she possessed. Those words are just aspects of her faith in Christ. She trusted Him, and her trust of Him demanded that she persist, demanded her determination, and demanded tenacity. Otherwise, faith is not faith.

Finally, keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ sometimes says and does things difficult for us to understand, and impossible to understand without faith. In the end, however, if you have not turned and walked away from Him in disappointment and disgust, the goals of real faith in Jesus Christ are realized.

I close by once again wishing you moms a wonderful Mothers Day, and reminding you that despite the fact that the spiritual realm is invisible, it is the most important part of any mother’s life. Have faith in Christ.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org