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Matthew 15:21-28 NET.

21 After going out from there, Jesus went to the region of Tyre and Sidon.22 A Canaanite woman from that area came and cried out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is horribly demon-possessed!” 23 But he did not answer her a word. Then his disciples came and begged him, “Send her away, because she keeps on crying out after us.” 24 So he answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and bowed down before him and said, “Lord, help me!” 26 “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs,” he said. 27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, your faith is great! Let what you want be done for you.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

Today is Mother’s Day – a day we set aside to obey the biblical command to honor our mothers. If I asked y’all to give testimony this morning of how your mothers influenced your lives, I imagine that most of you would have something to say. I’m not going to do that right now. Instead, I’m going to talk about the mother that Matthew wrote about in today’s text.

Matthew calls her a Canaanite, and Mark tells us that she was “a Greek, of Syrophoenician origin.”[1] Both terms could apply to her if she was an inhabitant of the region that Christ was visiting at the time. It was clear that she was not a member of the Jewish race. She was not one of Jesus’ disciples. She appears to have known enough about Jesus to address him as “Lord.” We see that in verse 22 and verse 27. She also knows that Jesus is the “Son of David” so she might have been exposed to the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah.

But the only important things to know about this woman is that she was a Gentile and she had a daughter who was demon-possessed. Jesus was visiting the place where she lived, and she decided to ask Jesus for help. As we have been reading through the Gospels in the series of messages on the commands of Christ, we have noticed that wherever Jesus goes, people learn about him and seek his help. What is unusual about today’s text is that for some reason, Jesus seems to be reluctant to help this woman.

Jesus always has a good reason for doing what he does. It seems that Jesus wanted to draw attention to this mother’s intercession for her daughter. Today I want to look closer at what this mother does to help her daughter. At some point in our lives as parents, all of us are going to face a crisis where we need God’s help for our children. Today’s passage offers mothers and fathers a guide to praying for our children. The same principles apply to those of us who are praying for our parents or friends when they need God’s help.

This mother interceded personally (22,25).

She was personally committed to seeing her daughter well. In fact, before she even mentions her daughter, she says to Jesus “Have mercy on me, Lord.” Later, “she came and bowed down before him and said, “Lord, help me!” Her daughter’s demon possession is not just her daughter’s problem. It’s her problem. She identified with that child. Those of you who are parents know what I’m getting at.

This woman’s mother heart felt the pain and shame of her daughter’s infirmity. The neighbors might have said to her “Oh, your daughter is just going to have to deal with that.” But this woman could not have that attitude. This demon was not her daughter’s problem to deal with alone. This demon had attacked her daughter and when he did that, it became her problem. So, logically, she comes to Jesus asking him to help her. The demon had not just wrecked her daughter’s life – he had wrecked her life. This was personal.

This mother interceded persistently (23-26).

Today’s passage tells us that she cried out to Jesus for help. But at first, he appeared to have ignored her. It says, “he did not answer her a word.” Oh, brothers and sisters, I know you know how that feels. We often go to pray to our Lord about this thing or that, and most of the time our first answer from him is no answer. We learn something about prayer from this woman because the text goes on. The story does not stop there because this woman did not turn around and head back to her house. She did not scratch Jesus off her list of things to try.

Jesus taught a parable about prayer in which a widow kept coming to a judge seeking justice against her adversary.[2] In the parable, the judge refused to address her problem for a while. But she kept at it. Eventually, the judge decided to give her justice because she kept bothering him. Now, Jesus’ point was not that God is reluctant to answer our prayers. His point is that when it comes to praying, persistence and tenacity matter. People who are victorious in prayer are the kind of people who will keep praying and not give up.

This mother could have given up when Jesus ignored her, but she didn’t. Instead, she decided that if Jesus would not answer her directly, she would try to get to Jesus through his disciples. It looks like she approached each disciple one after the other, either trying to get help from them or trying to get one of them to go to Jesus for her.

She pled, she bothered, she nagged, she persisted, she bugged those disciples until they were about crazy. They finally came to Jesus and begged him to send her away because she had kept on crying out after them.

Jesus told her “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Now, if somebody ever said something like that to me, I know I would feel offended. I just might get mad. But this interceding mother did not get mad.

This mother interceded dependently (27).

This mother responded to Jesus’ statement with a reply that was a brilliant mixture of both confidence and humility. She boldly said “Yes, Lord, but…” That’s confidence. That is the boldness of someone who knows who God is and so is not afraid to argue a bit when she gets to the throne room. She’s not arguing with the fact that Jesus mentioned. She knows that as a Gentile she has no clout in the courtroom of heaven. She knows that Jesus had been sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and she was not a member of the family.

But it is that very fact that she is not qualified to partake in the family inheritance that she realizes is her secret weapon in the throne room. She tells Jesus “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” She says, “Jesus, you go on and share the bread of life with all your Jewish brothers and sisters. I’m not qualified to be at that banquet. But I will stick around to take any stray crumbs you might let fall toward me. That’s humility.

That combination of boldness to approach the throne and humility in seeking God’s grace is a winning combination. I call it dependence. It’s our secret weapon in the war room of prayer.

This mother interceded victoriously (28).

Jesus answered her, “Woman, your faith is great! Let what you want be done for you.” And her daughter was healed from that hour. We are not told anything about the daughter except the fact that she had been demon-possessed, and she got healed. That is good news for us because we are left with the impression that all that daughter needed was what she had. Her father is never mentioned. She didn’t have an army of prayer warriors in a local church back home. She didn’t have a handkerchief prayed over by a televangelist. She didn’t have a Sunday School education. As far as we know, she didn’t even have a personal faith in God. The only thing that daughter had was a mother who interceded for her and would not quit. The only reason this is a victory story is that this mother got ahold of Jesus and would not let go of him until he blessed her by answering her prayers.

This is a story for all the mothers and fathers and siblings and friends and neighbors out there who face overwhelming problems in their lives. It is a story about how to get victory over those problems, even when it seems that God himself has been ignoring you. We never learn this mother’s name or anything else about her, but we do learn a great deal from her. We learn to ask and keep on asking and it will be given; seek and keep seeking and we will find; knock and keep knocking and the door will be opened. We learn to intercede for those in need and keep interceding. There is a loving Savior watching who rewards those who diligently seek him.

[1] Mark 7:26.

[2] Luke 18:1-8.


Author: Jefferson Vann

Jefferson Vann is pastor of Piney Grove Advent Christian Church in Delco, North Carolina. You can contact him at -- !

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