"And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, 'Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.' But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, 'Send her away, for she cries out after us.' But He answered and said, 'I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.' Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, 'Lord, help me!' But He answered and said, 'It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs.' And she said, 'Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.' Then Jesus answered and said to her, 'O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour."
According to Mark's account of this narrative, Jesus had "entered a house and wanted no one to know it" (Mark 7:24). Evidently, our Lord did not enter into this region to teach the multitudes. Perhaps He was hoping to escape the opposition of His enemies for a while as well as provide an opportunity to privately instruct His apostles. At any rate, He failed in His efforts to stay hidden. His fame had spread far and wide and His disciples were too well known to escape the notice of anyone who had seen or heard them described.
A Gentile woman who had heard about Jesus came to Him for help. Her daughter was demon possessed. She passionately spoke to Jesus, begging for help - "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!" (Matt. 15:22). For this woman to call Jesus the "Son of David" likely indicates that she believed Him to be the Messiah.
Mark 7:26 conveys her persistence in petitioning Jesus - "She kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter." It is evident that she deeply loves her daughter and that she believes Jesus is able to help her. However, Jesus ignored her at first and "answered her not a word" (Matt. 15:23).
His disciples grew tired of her crying out and urged Him to send her away. Her loud outcries were surely attracting attention they were trying to avoid. They want Jesus to grant her request, not out of compassion, but so she will leave them alone. Can you imagine the test of faith this woman endured? It is always a severe test of one's faith when it seems that God is not answering!
"I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 15:24). Jesus explained to His disciples why He wasn't responding to this woman's request. It was a matter of principle, not a lack of compassion. The Father had sent Jesus specifically to the Israelites to perform His ministry. The gospel would later be proclaimed to the rest of the world, but now was not the time (cf. Eccl. 3:1).
We will continue studying this intriguing passage in our next lesson.