HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.–Matthew 15:22
Jesus in Heathen Territory
The first interest of this story lies in the fact that Jesus is now moving in heathen territory. It is a pledge and forecast of the time when the Spirit of Jesus, living in countless missionaries, will spread the knowledge of the Kingdom throughout heathendom. When we think of the heathen, our thoughts fly far away. There are vast distances of sea between us and them. But a walk of a few miles, over the hills of Galilee, brought Jesus to the borders of a heathen country. We must not think, however, that they were uncivilised people like the Africans. They were not wild barbarians like the Scots whom Columba found around him in Iona. They were an ancient people with a wonderful history, skilled navigators, builders of mighty cities. Who could have thought that that wearied Galilean, journeying northward for a little rest, was to be far more powerful in the world than these old kingdoms? Yet Tyre is today a mean town of ruins, and the commerce and the colonies of Sidon are forgotten, and the Kingdom of Jesus is becoming worldwide.
Her Child Brought Her to Jesus
One of the first stones of that worldwide empire was laid when this woman got her girl again. We sometimes think there are no homes in heathendom. We think that the children are all cruelly treated, and are never encircled by a mother’s love. But there was a mother who loved her daughter so, and had such an agony of heart about her, that it led her straight to the feet of Jesus Christ. I have read that in the wild American prairies if a traveller steps out of his track but a few yards, he often finds it impossible to discover his way back. But there is a flower there, called the compass-weed, that always bends to the north; and when the traveller finds it and watches how it leans, it shows him his course, and sets him right again. And all that is noblest in the human heart has been like a compass-weed to lead a wandering world to Jesus. It was this mother’s love that led her. It was her passion for her daughter that constrained her. A little child had brought her to His feet.
Her Faith Conquered Jesus
It has been asked, how could this woman have heard of Jesus? But I do not think we need trouble about that. I am quite sure she was not a Jewish proselyte. If you had peered through the window of her humble cottage, when her daughter was crying and writhing on the floor, you would have found her pleading for mercy from her heathen gods. But just as the woman with the issue, having tried all physicians, determined at last to steal a cure from Jesus, so this poor mother, who was only the worse for all her heathen gods, determined at last to come to Jesus too. Some village neighbour had told her of this Son of David. Some friend had been marketing in Capernaum that morning when the nobleman’s boy had been brought to life again. And if He could do that for a centurion’s boy, would He not do as much for a Syrophoenician’s girl? She hurries to Christ. She pleads with Him. She bows at His feet. She will not be gainsaid. Until at last even Jesus wonders at her faith, and conquered by its power and persistence, gives her, her heart’s desire. They say love conquers all things, but it is only faith that can conquer Jesus. A faith like this, powerful in ten thousand hearts, would give us a time of Pentecost in Christendom.
Her Faith Overcame the Prejudice of Her Race
Now, what was the real greatness of her faith? And how did it make even Jesus of Nazareth marvel? Well, first, it overcame the prejudices of her race. She was a heathen woman, trained in a heathen home. She had bowed down to idols from a child. She had been taught from infancy to scorn the Jews. If she had asked her aged mother by the fireside for advice, she would have been told that to go to Jesus was to disgrace the family. If she had gone to the priests and asked for their permission, they would have banned her by all the powers of heaven. But she broke through everything to get to Jesus–all that was customary, all that was dear. And Jesus knew what barriers had gone down, when she lay at His feet and cried, Lord, help me. Have I no barriers to break to get to Christ? And are they keeping me from coming closer to Him? We are not born and bred in a heathen land. God has been good to us and set us down where the church bells ring, and the Bible is on the table. But sometimes a friendship, and sometimes what the others will say, and sometimes the jeering of a brother or sister, have kept us from coming right out for our Captain; and this poor heathen woman is going to shame us when we all stand face to face with Christ.
Her Faith Mastered the Natural Shrinking of Her Heart
And, again, her faith mastered the natural shrinking of her heart. It steeled her for this terrible ordeal. When a woman loves her daughter as this mother did, she is never fond of attracting public notice. She will watch all night by her sick daughter’s bed; she will make her cottage a very heaven of service; but to cry out in public, and have the gaze of the strange crowd upon her, is very alien to a true mother’s heart. I dare say in her after days she often wondered how she had ever done it. We cannot explain them, but Jesus can, and in the enthusiasm of this woman He saw faith. It was faith that had prompted her to leave her cottage. It was faith that had nerved her heart before the company. Had she not ventured everything on Christ, she would have been sitting weeping by her daughter yet.
Her Faith Refused to Be Denied
And then her faith was great because it so stoutly refused to be denied. No silence and no rebuff could drive her off. She was simply determined that she should have an answer. And so closely are faith and love bound up together, that the cry of her little daughter in her ear, and the picture of her daughter in her heart, kindled her faith into a flame again when it was almost quenched. Did Christ keep silence? She still cried, Lord, help me! Did He discourage her? She was still at His feet. Did He speak about the children and the little dogs? She has caught the words up and made a plea from them. And it is in that magnificent persistency, as humble and reverent as it is persevering, that the true greatness of her faith is found. We have a beautiful hymn beginning, “O love, that will not let me go.” We want another beginning, “O faith, that will not let Him go.” When we have that faith–and this woman had it–our hearts and homes shall be as blessed as hers.