The Canaanite Woman


There are only two people who were ever commended for their faith by Jesus, which incidentally were two Gentiles, a Roman Centurion, Matthew 8:5-8 and a Syro-Phoenician woman.

We’re going to look at the faith of Syro-Phoenician woman and the prejudices of Jesus’ disciples.

‘Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. ‘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 the dogs.’ ‘Lord,’ she replied, ‘even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he told her, ‘For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.’ She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.’ Mark 7:24-30

Mark tells that in order to escape the vast crowds who were following Him in Galilee, Jesus went to Tyre. Tyre and Sidon were the two most important cities, north of Galilee, in what was earlier known as the ‘Phoenician Empire’.

The Lord entered territory which was formerly Canaan and Gentile territory, today we know it as Syria.

Why Did He Go There?

He certainty didn’t want it to be known that He was there, and, just as certainly, He wouldn’t be ‘mobbed’, as He was in Jewish territory.

Whatever His reason for visiting that region, He was recognised by one woman, which meant that ‘He couldn’t keep his presence secret,’ Mark 7:24.

Notice that Jesus entered a Gentile’s house, Mark 7:24.

I Wonder What His disciples Thinking?

He’s not only willing to go into Gentile territory but He’s also willing to go into a Gentile’s house. The Jews are supposed to remain separate from people like her, John 4:9.

The Canaanite woman is desperately seeking mercy for her daughter who possessed by a demon.

Her Home Life

What was it like at home looking after her daughter? Were they treated like outcasts? Her friends, neighbours!

Matthew tells us that the woman, ‘came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Matthew 15:22. She has heard about Jesus, she’s heard about what He can do. She calls Him the ‘Lord, son of David’, in other words, she recognises that the Son of Man, He is the Christ.

The fact that this woman in the area of Tyre and Sidon came making this confession is evidence that the knowledge of who Jesus was had spread even to Gentile regions.

Despite being a woman, despite being a Gentile, she came to Jesus.

What Stops People Coming To Jesus?

What others may think! You’re not good enough to approach Jesus! Your addictions! Your sins!

Matthew tells us when the woman came to Jesus but, ‘Jesus did not answer a word.’ Matthew 15:23. Most of us would have just turned away at this point and although she is rejected by silence, she doesn’t give up.

His disciples came and begged Jesus to ‘send her away, for she is crying out after us’. Matthew 15:23. It’s abundantly clear that the Canaanite woman is now being rejected by the disciples but she still doesn’t give up.

What’s Going Through The Disciples Minds?

Didn’t the disciples have any sympathy for this women or her daughter? If it was one of their daughters who were demon possessed, I wonder what their reaction would have been like?

Why Didn’t Jesus Answer Her?

Jesus didn’t answer her because He wanted to teach His disciples a lesson. They weren’t willing to heal the woman’s daughter because of their Jewish prejudice against the Gentiles.

Jesus is teaching them that everyone must be reached with the Gospel, regardless of their nationality, Matthew 28:19-20 / Mark 16:15.

Jesus’ refusal to answer the woman gave them the opportunity to demonstrate their inward feelings. The woman’s cries annoyed them because they were prejudice against the Gentiles, Matthew 15:23. But despite those prejudices, she still didn’t give up.

Matthew tells us that, ‘the woman came and knelt before him. ‘Lord, help me!’ she said.’ Matthew 15:25. Without any arguments, the woman simply poured out her worship of Jesus.

She presented herself to Jesus and clung to Him for hope, despite the attitude of the disciples. Jesus knew her heart, and so, He knew that she would behave in this manner toward Him. Jesus allowed her to worship Him, not for her benefit but for the disciples benefit.

I can imagine the twelve were waiting for Jesus to get rid of this woman, but the truth was, He wasn’t going to get rid of her, He was about to get rid of an ugly attitude in them.

Jesus said to her that it ‘wasn’t good to take bread from the children and feed it to the dogs’. Matthew 15:26. In other words, now is not the time to heal and teach the Gentiles.

The Jews, ‘the children’ were the ones God intended to be the recipients of the bread, ‘healings and blessings in general’ first.

God planned that later on through the Jewish people the Gospel would be introduced to the Gentiles.

Were Jesus’ Words Prejudice?

We may think that Jesus treated the woman coldly, when He used the word ‘dogs’ to refer to Gentiles in the usual Jewish manner, Matthew 15:26.

I can imagine the disciples agreeing with Him, saying, ‘yes she’s a woman, yes she’s a Gentile and yes she’s a dog’. But in the Greek, we see that Jesus was actually playing around with her, He actually calls the Gentiles, ‘the little dogs’, or ‘puppies’. Matthew 15:26.

F. F. Bruce says, ‘Jesus may have had a twinkle in His eyes, as He used the word! Perhaps He was testing her, and, in any case, we mustn’t suppose that by using that expression He was approving the disgraceful attitude that the Jews displayed towards other races. She would be perfectly aware of what the Jews would think of her!’

The Jews thought they were the cream of the crop and all other nations were like animals, they were like dogs which were classed unclean.

Surely, after calling her a dog, she will give up, but she doesn’t give up. She says, ‘Yes! But even the little dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall from the table!’ Mark 7:28.

One commentator suggests that the woman was saying, ‘Yes, Lord, I am indeed a dog, but not a very big one, only a tiny one and since the little dogs stay under the master’s table and eat the crumbs the children drop, surely you must be able to help me. It is only a crumb that I ask.’

The Rich Man And Lazarus

In Luke 16, it’s used to describe the pieces of bread on which the diners wiped their hands and threw to the ‘unclean’ dogs that waited for them, Luke 16:21.

This tells me that she doesn’t want everything, or the best but she is prepared to accept the crumbs and leftovers. She implies that just a mere crumb of Jesus’ miraculous power would be sufficient to heal her daughter.

Her faith

Matthew tells that, ‘Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ Matthew 15:28. Jesus gave in to her pleas by proclaiming to the disciples the great faith of the woman, Matthew 8:10.

Can you imagine what the disciples are now thinking?

She’s a woman, she’s a Gentile dog, but their Master is still willing to help her. I would imagine that the disciples were left feeling a little embarrassed with themselves.

I would imagine that they saw their own hardness of heart melt into compassion for this Gentile woman and her beloved daughter.

Her Journey Home

Can you imagine the anticipation this woman must have had as she was going home? Mark 7:29-30. Imagine the joy she must have had when she got home, and saw that her daughter was healed?

‘And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.’ Hebrews 11:6

She was a woman who certainly believed in Jesus and she was certainly rewarded when she sought Jesus out.

Someone once said, ‘little faith will bring your soul to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your soul.’


When are we going to realise that our only hope, peace and joy is in Jesus?

When are we going to realise that Jesus is all that we need?

When are we going to realise we shouldn’t stop anyone from coming to Jesus?

Would we dare to be as compassionate as Jesus was with this woman, when we meet those whom the world thinks isn’t good enough for Jesus?

This is a women that would go to any lengths to help her daughter. She was helpless without Jesus, her situation was hopeless without Jesus.

She understood that her only hope to heal her daughter was Jesus.

She understood that if her daughter was going to get peace from this demon, that peace could only come from Jesus.

When she returned home and saw her daughter healed, she would understand that only Jesus could bring such joy to her and her household.

And because of her great faith in Jesus, she would now know that Jesus is all that she needs to help her through life.

Let’s finish by reminding ourselves the words of a song written by John Paul Trimble.

My only Hope is You

My only hope is You, Jesus my only hope is You

From early in the morning, till late at night, my only hope is You

My only peace is You, Jesus my only peace is You

From early in the morning, till late at night, my only hope is You

My only joy is You, Jesus my only joy is You

From early in morning, till late at night, my only joy is You

All that I need is You, Jesus all that I need is You

From early in the morning, till late at night, all that I need is You


"And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."