The Woman with Great Faith by Scarlett Stough


“Lord, help me!” she pleaded again.

Jesus had traveled with his disciples away from Galilee to the region near Tyre. He withdrew from the crowds and hoped to keep his presence in this non-Israelite area a secret. Jesus needed to rest as any human being needs rest. He also needed time away from his public ministry to teach his disciples in private. They needed preparation for the work they would carry on after Jesus returned to his Father in heaven.

In spite of his desire for solitude, the news spread that Jesus was in the area. A woman, a Canaanite and Greek [Gentile or non-Israelite] hurried to find him. She begged urgently, continuously, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is miserably and distressingly and cruelly possessed by a demon!” (The Amplified Bible)

Jesus didn't answer her, but she kept on pleading and begging for his help. Apparently while she was listening, the disciples finally asked Jesus to send her away because she was annoying them,  “First, let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs.” (NIV)

She ignored what appeared to be a racial slur* and said, “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.” (NIV) 

“Then Jesus answered, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” (NIV)

I have always been troubled by this account of the way Jesus responded to this non-Israelite woman. He seemed to be insulting her and trying to ignore her. The Gospel writers Matthew and Mark each give detail missing in the others account. By reading both accounts together, the whole situation becomes a little more clear.

Some Bible teachers believe that Jesus was testing the woman. Another proposed that since she was not an Israelite under the covenant with Abraham and David, he would not listen to her appeal to him as the Messiah, the Son of David. Another theory is that Jesus was giving a lesson to his disciples about the need outside Israel and their own cultural prejudice. Mark's account tells us that Jesus was attempting to keep a low profile, not begin a healing ministry. Perhaps all of these theories have some merit.

Whatever the reasons Jesus had for initially resisting the woman's appeal, his compassion and admiration for her secured the healing she had pleaded for her daughter.

Jesus had all but said, “I won't help you.” Yet, she stood her ground. Her daughter was suffering and meant too much to her to give up. Kneeling and worshipping  before him, she again pleaded, “Lord, help me!” How could he resist such a plea? Again he seemed to say, “I won't help you,” while appearing to insult her besides. Surely, being referred to as a pet dog would be the last straw. Surely she would get up out of the dirt and stomp off trying to salvage some pride and dignity. But she couldn't afford to nurse pride or dignity. She had a daughter who needed to be delivered from demon-possession and this man was her chance, her only chance.

She raised up and looked him in the eye and said, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

Doesn't that remind you of Jacob who wrestled all night with God? (Genesis 32:24-30; Hosea 12:2-5) Doesn't it remind you of Abraham pleading with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of a few righteous people? (Genesis 18:22-33) Doesn't it remind you of the widow in the parable who pleaded with the unjust judge for justice? (Luke 18:1-8)

This woman put aside all of her pride and pursued the Lord until she knew he had heard her. She kept pursuing him and never gave up. Jesus called that “great faith.” He said, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.”

This desperate woman models believing, persistent and humble faith toward God even in the face of his apparent resistance to her cries for help. “Lord, help me!” cried out to God out of great need and great faith and great humility with persistence will always get the Lord's attention.

*The fact that he actually said “little dogs” meaning pet dogs or puppies plus his tone of voice and body language may very well have softened the impact of his words.

Scripture References: Mark 7:24-30; Matthew 15:21-28

For the Scripture References and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study Guide: "Lord, help me!"