The Scriptorium

The Faith of a Gentile Woman

Jesus is looking for faith that persists. Matthew 15.21-28

Matthew 15: True and False Faith (4)

Pray Psalm 29.1, 2.
Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones,
Give unto the LORD glory and strength.
Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name;
Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

Sing Psalm 29.1, 2.
(Toulon: I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art)
Give praise to God, you children of the earth!
Tell of His strength, proclaim His glorious worth!   
Give to the Lord the glory due His Name!
Worship in holiness; His grace proclaim!

Matthew 15.1-28; meditate on verses 21-28.

1. What was so “great” about this woman’s faith?

2. What was this woman seeking from Jesus?

Here is one of the many lessons on true faith which we find in the gospel of Matthew. Of course, Jesus intended this as a lesson with diverse applications. So, to begin with, He took Himself and His little band of disciples to a region of the Gentiles – Tyre and Sidon (v. 21).

The disciples must have wondered to themselves, “What are we doing here?” They needed to understand what Matthew has been telling us since the genealogy in chapter 1, that Gentiles are to be incorporated into the family of God. So, naturally, Jesus set the stage for this lesson on Gentile turf. We can also be sure, that, as He arranged for the coin to be in the mouth of the fish (Matt. 17.27), Jesus arranged for this woman to come and meet with them. He does all things well.

Matthew specifically tells us that she was “a woman of Canaan” – that is, a Canaanite. Israel had taken the land of the Canaanites. Now Jesus would give this Canaanite the land of promise forever (cf. Is. 54.1ff).

The woman pled with Jesus to deliver her daughter from a demon (v. 22). In approaching Jesus, she acknowledged Him as Lord and David’s Son, and she worshiped Him (v. 25). She knew Him for Who He is, and that He was the One to approach with this dire situation.

Jesus shows us that true faith entails persistence – a lesson He frequently taught His disciples (cf. Matt. 7.7 ff). He was not making the woman “earn” her request; rather, He was teaching her to trust Him even more, as we see her request intensifying with each subsequent step (vv. 24-27). Jesus builds faith in us by not answering our prayers immediately, but by drawing out more of true faith from us. He leads us to focus, summon up our reserves of resolve, and keep knocking, seeking, and asking.

In her mind, the woman deserved only the “crumbs” of Jesus’ kindness, and that not for herself. As her faith grew, so did her humility and sense of unworthiness, as well as her hope. Finally, Jesus commended the woman for her “great” faith, and granted her request. (v. 28) The healing was instantaneous, though the supplication was prolonged.

Meanwhile, the disciples…yeah. They didn’t see any faith in this woman. They were irritated by her, not least, of course, because she was a Canaanite (v. 23). So they came to Jesus with a “prayer request” as well: “Send her away…” Not much faith there, eh? No doubt as to whom they were thinking about. But that’s precisely why Jesus brought them to Tyre and Sidon, to teach them about true faith, so they could increase in it, and would be ready for their assignment of making all the nations disciples (Matt. 28.18-20).

With Jesus, school’s always open, class is always in session. Let’s make sure we’re paying attention, and that we learn as much as we can about true faith.

1. What would you say is the main lesson about faith from this story?

2. How does this story lead you to increase in faith?

3. Is Jesus trying to strengthen your faith in any way at this time? How can that happen?

For it was for this reason that he postponed giving a reply: that the woman might cry aloud with this word. Thereby he would show her to be worthy of a thousand crowns. For it was not because he did not want to give her the gift that he delayed but because he sought and took care beforehand to reveal her faith.
Theodore of Mopsuestia (350-428), Fragment 83

Lord, increase my faith today as I…

Pray Psalm 29.3-11.
Praise the Lord for His sovereign power and might. Commit your day into His care, to follow in obedience however He leads.

Sing Psalm 29.3-11.
Psalm 29.3-11 (Toulon: I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art)
Over the waters, over thunder’s roll,
God’s voice creation’s mighty pow’rs controls!
Cedars collapse at His majestic Word.
Nations are shaken by our mighty Lord!

God speaks and lightning streaks across the sky.
By His decree He shakes the desert dry.
Speak, Lord, and life to beasts and men is giv’n.
Forests dissolve, and glory rings in heav’n.

Sovereign, the Lord sat o’er the raging flood.
Sovereign forever rules our gracious God!
God will His people bless with strength and peace:
Lord, may Your holy Word to us increase!

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore