I was asked to give a short exhortation on faith at a church zoom meeting last month. After the brother who hosted the zoom meeting asked me to give the exhortation, I asked the Lord what I should speak about. As I continued to meditate on faith, the Lord led me to a passage about the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15. Jesus had only told two people in scripture that they had “great faith”, and this woman was one of them. It is an often overlooked passage, and I believe that many misunderstand its meaning and significance. There were five lessons that I highlighted in the exhortation that I gave. I want to share the lessons that the Lord showed me in this passage last month.
Beyond the English
The story of Jesus, his apostles and their encounter with the Canaanite woman with the sick daughter has two accounts in scripture. One is in Matthew 15, and the other is in Mark 7. I gave the exhortation based on the account in Matthew 15: 22-28. It is a very short story, but very profound. The first thing that I did was to look at the Koine Greek text that the English KJV was translated from. When I did that it opened up a new understanding that was previously hidden in the English translation.
22 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.
23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.
27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.
28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
The first word that I noticed was translated strangely is the word “grievously”. It is the Greek adverb kakos and appears 16 times in the New Testament, and is only translated “grievously” once. Danker and Thayers both state that it means “badly, ill”. They both say that with the verb ‘to have’, in a physical sense, it means “to be ill, sick”. I think this is crucial in understanding this mother’s plight. Her daughter was not just under the power of a demon/devil. Her daughter was sick as a result of being under the power of a demon. She was seeking help from Jesus to heal her daughter. This thought that the daughter was sick is confirmed to me by the narrator’s ultimate response in verse 28, where he said that her daughter was “made whole”. The Greek for “made whole” is “iathe”, which means “she was healed/cured”.
Cried versus Crieth
Words are so very powerful. I find it to be so unfortunate how translators play with words to make things sound ‘better’, and end up losing the power of the original meanings. When you read verses 22 and 23, you will find that the said that the woman “cried unto [Jesus]” and that the disciples responded to Jesus in saying that “she crieth after us”. It sounds so simple and trivial that we can just pass over it. In English, “cried” and “crieth” are the same word, with the same meaning. It is nothing to be bothered over. However, when we look at the Greek, we will find that the word for “cried” is a different word from the word for “crieth”.
The Greek for “she cried” in verse 22 is “ekaugasen” (Strong’s G2905) and it means “to shout out load”. The greek for “she crieth” in verse 23 is “krazei” (Strong’s G2896) and it means “to croak – of the cry of the raven; to cry out noisily / inarticulate cries”. This is an extremely important distinction that is made. It has to do with actuality versus perception. She clearly shouted to get Jesus’ attention, and she was very clear on what she said. She told Jesus about her daughter who was sick from the power of a demon. Yet, the apostles of Jesus, who were closest to him, only heard her plight as noise. To them, she was just a nuisance. The disciples were apathetic to her situation. Their opinion of her was that she was just annoying and coming to disturb them and disturb their teaching session from Jesus. Basically they did not believe her, and viewed her problem as unimportant. All she did was to shout to get Jesus’ attention.
It is also important to note how the disciples thought she was ‘noisily crying to us’, and not to Jesus. They included themselves. The woman was not speaking to them. However, in their mind, she is a bother to them, or affecting them in some way. It is amazing how pride can creep its way easily into matters that would hinder the faith of those seeking salvation. Even the disciples needed to learn the lesson that seeking Christ is not the business of everyone else just because you happen to be there when the call is made.
Not about dogs
Jesus was so wise in the way he handled this situation. When she first asked for mercy and shouted her problem, Jesus said nothing. The disciples urged Jesus to get rid of her. After that, she ran up to Jesus and fell to the ground and kissed his hand and touched the ground with her forehead (this is what the Greek word proskynei means, although it is translated “worshipped”). She asked him to help her. Jesus responded with the statement that it is not appropriate to take the children’s bread and throw it carelessly to the dogs. Wow! What a statement! On the surface, it appears to be extremely offensive. Was Jesus calling this woman a dog? Was Jesus saying that healing would be wasted on her? Why did Jesus even say that?
Jesus made that statement not because of her, but because of his disciples’ reaction to her. In other words, they were the children. Healing was the bread and was their entitlement. It was the disciples who viewed her as a dog, unworthy of giving what was theirs, and not even worthy of bare recognition. She was not even Hebrew. She was a Canaanite woman. She wanted something that was not rightfully hers in the natural, and she had opposition from the disciples, who were rightful beneficiaries of everything Jesus had to offer. In essence, Jesus just stated the natural order or reality of life. How would we have responded? What would we have thought? Would we think it unfair and complain?
This woman’s response was humble and powerful. She looked beyond the insult of being considered a dog by the disciples. All Jesus did was point out the obvious. She, however, looked beyond the obvious, beyond the natural barrier to her blessed healing. Not only did she look beyond it, he acknowledged it. She never denied the truth of the situation. She did not operate in blind faith. Her eyes of reality AND her eyes of faith were both wide open. One of the mysteries of faith that many Christians fail to understand is the faith does not deny current reality but looks beyond it. This is what she did. She first said “Truth, Lord”. Those two words showed the power of her faith.
She said, “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table”. The most important thing to realize about what she said is that in Greek, the word “Lord” and the word “master” in verse 27 is the same word “kurios” in Greek. Same context. Same meaning. Once again we see that the translators have changed words and thus have made it difficult to understand this woman’s meaning. It is not that she considered herself to be a dog like the disciples viewed her, but she flipped it, and showed that even if she was considered a dog by others, she viewed Jesus as HER Lord! Isn’t that powerful?! If only we could understand that healing and blessing is about faith in the Lord Jesus, regardless of anyone else’s opinion or input, especially including church people and church leaders.
She is not asking for the whole “bread” of healing. She just needs the “crumbs” from Jesus, because HER Lord is able to heal her daughter with just the crumbs! POWERFUL! This story ties in perfectly in theme with other scriptures about Jesus’ encounter with people. We see the same thing with the woman with issue of blood only touching the hem of Jesus’ garment (Matthew 9:20). We also see it when Jesus talks about having faith as small as a mustard seed to move mountains (Matthew 17:20). It was never about her worthiness of obtaining healing, only about her faith in Jesus to heal.
I want to highlight five key lessons that we can ascertain from Jesus’ encounter with this woman:
- Faith does not depend on others’ opinion, but can be hindered by them through planting unbelief by listening to deterrent words and attitudes.
- Faith is personal, but often misunderstood by others (Consider how Eli thought Hannah was drunk when she was only praying in her heart with her lips moving – 1 Samuel 1: 13-14).
- Faith is about your trust in Christ’s authority to help deliver you. She never asked “if your will”.
- Faith has an expectation of results (James 1: 6-7).
- Faith is not limited by sin. Jesus never asked anyone to confess sin before healing them.
Jesus said, “O woman, great is thy faith”. Having great faith is about you and Jesus Christ. It is not about your church or what you have done or people’s opinion of you. Faith is about what you believe that Jesus Christ has done and can do for you. Don’t let unbelief rob you. Don’t let people deter you. Trust God, and have faith in Jesus Christ. Do not fear, only believe.
- Lexicon : Strong’s G2560 – kakos – Blueletterbible.org – Site: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2560&t=KJV
- The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament – Frederick William Danker
- Lexicon : Strong’s G2905 – kraugazo – Blueletterbible.org – Site: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2905&t=KJV
- Lexicon : Strong’s G2896 – krazo – Blueletterbible.org – Site: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2896&t=KJV
- Lexicon : Strong’s G4352 – proskyneo – Blueletterbible.org – Site: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4352&t=KJV