We find recorded from the amazing life of Jesus a story that has always intrigued me and always results in me meditating upon the depths of its meaning. The passage reads, “Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.’ But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, ‘Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.’ But He answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’ And He answered and said, ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ But she said, ‘Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed at once” (Matthew 15:21-28).
In this incident Jesus travels outside the borders of Israel into Gentile territory. The woman Jesus encountered was a Canaanite woman who was seeking healing and deliverance for her daughter. A Gentile, she was a descendant of those who had made war with Joshua and the Children of Israel when they first sought to settle in the land that was given to them by the Lord. You can imagine the disgust of the disciples as they traveled into this “foreign” territory and their even greater disgust when this woman began crying out to Jesus to get His attention. They no doubt whispered among themselves, “How embarrassing. I can’t believe this Gentile dog (“dogs” is what the Jews called the Gentiles on account of their idolatry) is trying to persuade Jesus to stop for her.”
The woman‘s desperate and persistent cries for help are rejected by Christ twice. She was not rejected because of her disrespect of Jesus, for she called Him “Lord” and the “Son of David.” She recognized His divinity and His royalty. Even so, at first He didn’t say a word in response. Have you ever felt like this dear woman? You cry to the Lord and it seems if your petitions fall on deaf ears. The fact that Jesus at first did not answer her did not mean He did not hear, and so it is with us. He is always listening but He delays His response for the purpose of working in us a greater faith and blessing.
When Jesus does respond to this woman His response seems to be one of rebuke. He tells her He is come to minister to the lost house of Israel. Her being a Gentile, that didn’t include her. That did not discourage her, though, as she fell at his feet and worshipped Him and repeated her utter dependence upon Him for help. Worshiping Christ, she humbles herself before Him, for it is the contrite and humble heart that the Lord does not and will not ever turn away. Like this Canaanite woman, we must humble ourselves before our Lord; for He resists the proud (James 4:6), but He loves the surrendered heart. Ah, we must follow the worshipful example of this woman. Desperation will drive us to the feet of Jesus where we alone can find help for our needs.
In response to this woman’s humble submission before Christ, she hears Him say to her, “Shall I take food from the children’s table and cast it to the dogs?” While on the surface Jesus seems to be dealing rather harsh with her, He is trying to draw out, like precious gold, the genuineness of this woman’s faith. Her desperate need and surrendered heart looked with eyes of faith beyond what seemed like a stern remark. She humbly replied, “Even the dogs are allowed to eat the crumbs that fall under their master’s table.Just give me the crumbs that fall on the floor from your table and that will be enough to meet my needs.”
One ancient divine, commenting on the woman’s faith response to Jesus, writes, “Nourish me then as Thy dog. I cannot leave my master’s table. You cannot drive me from Thee either by rough words or by blows. I will not leave Thee, until my need is met. Give me therefore, 0 most merciful Lord, only a crumb, give me this and it will suffice. Let this one crumb fall among us Gentiles, and I will gather it up.”
The crumbs from His table were enough for her, more than the finest dishes from any other table. Even the crumbs of His grace and mercy are superior to the richest feasts found elsewhere on earth. Even though a Gentile she believed in Christ; she believed the Messiah was able to meet her need. She trusted in His Almighty power and love. She knew that He would set her daughter free and she only needed a crumb from His infinite grace for it to be so. Jesus commends her for her faith and granted her request.
While Jesus appeared to be rather harsh, by faith this woman could see the true heart and love of the Savior and His love for her. As the powerful and poetic Charles Spurgeon once said, “We may not always be able to trace the hand of God, but you can always trust the heart of God.” This woman trusted the heart of Christ even when it seemed He was indifferent. We must do the same. Jesus knew how desperate this woman was and He is always waiting to be gracious to all who sincerely come before Him with surrendered heart, who appeal to his merciful and loving heart.
To embrace Christ even when we don’t understand all His dealings with us is to eventually be filled with His graces that are found even in His smallest crumbs. Whatever our need His tiniest crumb is filled with enough mercy and grace to meet our biggest challenge and need. God’s grace is immeasurable. Since God’s grace is limitless, any crumbs falling from His table of grace contains His infinite provisions.
No matter how stern and indifferent life or heaven may sometime seem to our cries, let us remember His heart is full of boundless grace, mercy and love and waits for us to come before Him with a surrendered heart. As we do, we will discover even the crumbs that fall from His table is sufficient provision for our every need. A crumb from the Master’s table is enough.