Feasting From A Different Table: Matthew 15:21-28
“21) Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22) And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” 23) But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” 24) But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25) But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26) And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27) But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 28) Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭15‬:‭21‬-‭28‬ ‭
This story is also told in Mark 7:24-30. The repetition proves that it was significant and impacted the disciples greatly. There is far more to this story than a casual reading uncovers.
The broader context reveals that much had been happening the previous week. Jesus never really had to time to process the death of John the Baptist, for the crowds were constantly shadowing Him. Every attempt at solitude proved vain.
The text hints that this trip to the region of Tyre may have been an attempt to “get away” for rest and relaxation. When Matthew 15:21 and Mark 7:24 are combined, we discover that Jesus “withdrew” and “entered a house and wanted no one to know of it.” It was at this time that a gentile woman of Syrophoenician decent approached the house.
She was a Canaanite. These people were so openly immoral that their behavior was reminiscent of a pack of dogs. Hence their Jewish neighbors referred to them as “dogs.” Historically, they were to be cleansed from the land during the conquest, but the Jewish people failed to carry out the cleansing and northern tribes failed to drive them out.
It was not only their morals which were despicable, but so also their pagan religious practices. They practices many forms of idolatry, spiritism and sorceries which included human sacrifice. Deuteronomy 18:9-15 provides the historical context. Satan used these people to defile Israel throughout Old Testament history.
After the rebuilding of Herod’s Temple and the return of the Jewish people to “God” and the temple system of worship prior to the birth of Christ, strict lines of separation again formed between the Jewish people and their many immoral gentile neighbors.
Unfortunately, the previous text of Matthew 15:15-20 shows that the Jewish legalism was only skin deep. Inwardly their hearts were filled with the same lusts and sinfulness as their Gentile neighbors. Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel to bring them back to God.
At first glance, it seems that Jesus was discriminating against this woman. But there are deeper dynamics at play in this story. Let’s put on our thinking caps and analyze this story in light of the historical context mentioned above.
First, her daughters condition of being demon possessed was most likely the direct result of her religion. As noted above from Deuteronomy 18, the Canaanite religion was based on spiritism. Her daughter most likely had a pagan ceremony performed over her at birth with the intension of inviting a guardian spirit.
Second, the woman herself likely dressed and was adorned with overtones of Phoenician culture, values and morals. This included hair style, jewelry, tattoos and perfumes that expressed lewdness. Many of these woman were openly adulterous, sensual and destitute as a result. They were loud and boisterous. Her initial behavior in the text of “shouting” portrayed these women well.
Third, the problem in the text was a degree of hypocrisy. Initially, she was not repenting from her lifestyle or sinfulness; rather was asking Jesus to help her with a crisis that had spun out of control. The demon had turned on her daughter and was cruelly abusing her. She was desperate to the point of shouting at Jesus. She wanted Jesus to merely change the consequences of her life choices rather than address the root causes. This is why Jesus initially ignored her.
Forth, the conversation Jesus had with her started to focus on her sinfulness and not her daughters crisis. His reference to “dogs” exposed her sinful morals. It was equivalent to Jesus telling the Samaritan woman to “go call your husband.” (John 4:16-18) She had previously had five husbands and was now living with a man. Jesus wants us to deal with our root sinful condition.
Fifth, in verse 27 the woman not only acknowledged her sinful condition, but she also started identifying Jesus as her new master. She humbled herself to being content with crumbs if they were coming from His table.
I agree with her. I would rather have crumbs from the table of Jesus than any banquet Satan offers. She had spent her life eating from Satan’s table and it proved to be poisonous and deadly. In my previous life, I spent time at Satan’s table as well. It is deceptive food.
Finally, Jesus responded to her faith and her daughter was healed. Faith is always the basis of salvation. I find that wording of “healed” intriguing. In this case, being delivered from demon possession was equated with being “healed.”Evidently, a host physical, emotional and mental problems were resolved for the girl. She was made whole. In the four Gospels, many physical and mental problems had demonic causes. The same is true today.
Salvation is far more than asking Jesus to change your crisis. It involves inviting Jesus to change your heart and become your new Master. Putting your faith in Him is the beginning of a new life. It means you begin feeding from a new table.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global