There are four women to whom Jesus tells that he is the Messiah, the Canaanite woman being one of them. Most often we hear of her great faith, but when we concentrate on the faith of this woman, we diminish the message Jesus gave her. She was given the news from Jesus himself that he not only came for the Jews, but for the Gentiles also – and that meant her. Her story is found in both Matthew and Mark.
She asked Jesus to heal her daughter, but for some reason, he was not going to do it. Jesus told her “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” She was a Gentile, and Jesus was telling her that he was sent to save the Jews only. But if that was the case, I would not be here writing this and you would not be reading it. So we see that while Jesus said that, it did not tell the whole story. And then by healing her daughter, he is showing her that he is also the Messiah of the Gentiles. That is Big News! We must never forget that this extraordinary news was told to a woman who had no husband nearby, or possibly not at all.
But right now, this woman did not need some idealistic prophecy of what was to happen in the future. Her daughter lay in bed very ill and she needed help now. So she argued with this man Jesus in whom she had placed her hope. ‘Help my daughter! Surely you have enough power within you to give a small portion to us Gentiles.’
She knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.” He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.” Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed. (Common English Bible)
This story is very similar to the story of the first miracle when Jesus turned the water into wine. His mother (remember she had first argued with the angel Gabriel when told she was going to have a baby who would be the Messiah?) In the Wedding story Jesus says almost the same thing to his mother as he says to the Canaanite woman.
When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.” Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with me? My time hasn’t come yet.” His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did. The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine. He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. (Common English Bible)
Just as his mother had asked for a special favor “even though the time was not right,” Jesus did as she asked. He does the same with this Gentile woman, showing that his right time had no beginning or ending.
Jesus told women his Good News, and he did not tell any one of those women to go home and ask her husband, brother, or father what he meant. He did not tell any one of these women not to tell the Good News of the Messiah. If he had, we would have never heard these stories. The Gentile woman went home and found her daughter healed. The disciples didn’t see that ending. She told it to whoever would listen. She had just heard the Messiah was coming to save the Gentiles also, how could she not tell it?
(From my book Raising the Hood: A Christian Look at Manhood and Womanhood. Available on Amazon in print and Kindle.)