These are my notes from a sermon series. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
The Bible says, “It is impossible to please God without faith” (Heb. 11:6, NLT). Because of this God’s Word has a lot to say about faith. The Bible mentions weak faith, strong faith, bold faith, rich faith, abiding faith, steadfast faith, dead faith, precious faith, common faith, working faith, and little faith. It also speaks of great faith. This great faith is the kind of faith we get to see on display today.
Mark and Matthew both tell about a woman who comes to Jesus desperately concerned about her daughter who is demon possessed. In this encounter Matthew says Jesus tells this woman, “your faith is great” (Matthew 15:28, NLT). The Greek word for “great” is megas, which is the source for our word mega. This woman had mega-faith. She had great faith. Her faith seems to serve three purposes: shows us what great faith looks like, salvation for herself, and deliverance for her daughter.
Let me give you a spoiler alert about the encounter we are about to witness. In this event, Jesus is going to hold the woman’s faith up and put it on display. He knows what He is doing. In order to put her “great faith” on display Jesus is going to ignore her. Then Jesus is going to allow His disciples to say some unkind things about her. Then Jesus, Himself, is going to make a statement that would offend most people. Jesus is not being uncaring, unkind, or indifferent to this woman or her desperation. He is putting her faith on display for every believer to see who follows Him throughout the centuries. Believers throughout time will know of her “great faith” and learn some valuable lessons about faith. Even though this may appear to be a random encounter with Jesus, this is in fact a divinely arranged encounter and Jesus is in complete control of what is going on and knows everything that is happening and will happen.
So here we go. Mark 7:24 says, Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre. He didn’t want anyone to know which house he was staying in, but he couldn’t keep it a secret. 25 Right away a woman who had heard about him came and fell at his feet. Her little girl was possessed by an evil spirit, 26 and she begged him to cast out the demon from her daughter. Since she was a Gentile, born in Syrian Phoenicia, 27 Jesus told her, “First I should feed the children—my own family, the Jews. It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” 28 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.” 29 “Good answer!” he said. “Now go home, for the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And when she arrived home, she found her little girl lying quietly in bed, and the demon was gone. (NLT) From this we see several lessons about great faith. We are going to take two weeks to look at her great faith. This is something, every believer needs to serious think through the implications and applications.
Let’s set the scene in verse 24, “Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre. He didn’t want anyone to know which house he was staying in, but he couldn’t keep it a secret.” A few quick observations.
- First, notice Jesus “went north to the region of Tyre.” “Tyre” represented one of the most extreme expressions of paganism, both actually and symbolically. It was dominated and saturated with various idols and pagan practices. The predominate figure of worship was a goddess they called Astarte. Why would Jesus want to go there? For one, Jesus had a Great Commission mindset. By going there He was demonstrating that God’s kingdom knows no ethnic, racial, or national barriers. This will become significant later.
- Mark goes on to say that Jesus “didn’t want anyone to know which house he was staying in, but he couldn’t keep it a secret.” From a human perspective, Jesus is trying to find a place so He and the disciples can catch up on some much needed rest and recover from the intense ministry over the past few weeks. However, the location of Jesus was not kept a “secret” for long. There were people already in Tyre who had seen and experienced the power of Jesus. About a year earlier, back in Mark 3:7 we are told that “Jesus went out to the lake with his disciples, and a large crowd followed him. They came from all over Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide…” ( 7-8, NLT). Many of the people in Tyre had seen Jesus and maybe even been healed by Jesus.
- I think there is an implication here. When Jesus is at work it is near impossible to “keep it a secret.” When Jesus moves into your “house” eventually His presence will be known. There is no keeping Jesus a “secret” when He is truly present. It’s like when someone spills perfume in the house. You might not know the exact location, but you know it’s there. It’s like when you walk outside and you smell someone grilling, you might not know the house its coming from but you know there are hamburgers or steak being cooked. When Jesus is in the “house” you cannot keep it a secret for long.
What are some lessons we can learn about great faith?
Great faith is built on truth
The first thing we see about great faith is it is built on truth. Soon after Jesus arrives and after the woman hears about Jesus being in town and finds out where He is at, she “right away” makes her way to Him. There is no hesitation.
- Even though we will discover some things about this “woman,” we know very little about her. We don’t know her name, her history, if her husband is still alive or how many children she has, how she found out about Jesus, or how she came to believe in Him with such great faith.
- But we do know one thing: whatever she “had heard about” Jesus was enough. Obviously, she knew people who had seen Jesus do miracles, heard him speak about God’s kingdom, and she may have even known some people who were healed by Him personally. Whatever she had heard about Jesus, she believed it. What happened here is the Romans 10:17 principle, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ” (CSB). She had heard “the message about Christ” from person after person. Some talked about his healing power when they saw Him heal a blind man, crippled person, or when they saw Him cast out an evil spirit. Others told her about what He said about God’s kingdom and repenting. Others may have told her about Him being the Messiah the Jews were looking for. Whatever she was told, she believed it. And little by little her faith kept growing until it was great faith. She was about to have an opportunity to experience that great faith in Jesus.[i]
Great faith is focused
Great faith is built on truth, but number two, great faith is focused. According to verse 25, when the woman found Jesus, she approached Him and “fell at his feet.” You get the impression that she had already been thinking about Jesus and her daughter. “If I could get my daughter to Jesus, I know He could deliver her. But I don’t know where He is and besides, He’s probably miles away in some other town and I’m not sure how I would get my daughter to Him in the condition she is in.” Low and behold, someone tells her that Jesus is in her own town right down the street. I can only imagine that her heart rate increased, the adrenaline starting pumping, because what she was hearing was too good to be true. She dropped what she was doing immediately, ran out the door, down the street, to the house where Jesus was, and approached Him in desperation and “fell at his feet.” Her faith was focused on one thing. Getting to Jesus on behalf of her daughter.
The phrase “fell at his feet” (prospipto) means to fall down or bow down before someone (Matthew 15:25, NASB). It is frequently translated “to worship.” Whether or not the woman’s bowing down was intended to be worship, it was clearly an act of humility. She threw herself at Jesus’ feet and pleaded with even greater desperation. Her faith drove her to be focused.
Great faith is persistent
Great faith is built on truth. Great faith is focused on Jesus. And great faith is persistent. Mark says in verse 26 the woman “begged” to deliver her daughter from the demon.[ii] The word “begged” (erotao) means to keep on asking again and again. She was unwilling to give up! Her request implies that she had a strong belief that Jesus had the authority over the demonic world and could do something about it.
As we will see, despite the severe condition of her daughter, the immediate silence of Jesus, and the comments by His disciples and Jesus that seemed discouraging she persisted. She did not give up seeking the help of Jesus. She believed and was convinced Jesus could do something.
Jesus loves to see the tenacity of our faith. Jesus mentioned this in Matthew 11:22 when He said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt. 11:12, ESV). The kingdom of heaven is for those, like this woman, who are willing to spend untiring energy in pursuit of spiritual things. They are persistent.
- It is for those like the paralyzed man’s friends who, when they could not get him through the crowd, climbed onto the roof and tore through 18 inches of sod and branches, lowering him to Christ’s feet (Mark 2:1-12).
- Jesus enjoys seeing persistent faith like that of the woman who kept returning to the judge pleading her cause, until the judge gave in, saying, “Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming” (Luke 18:4-5, ESV). Jesus desires such persistent faith.
Perseverance in prayer is hard. Interceding for others can be difficult and draining. Our hearts and minds tend to become cold and indifferent over time if we don’t see some results from our praying. Even when we are persistent, the devil tries to draw us away from praying and interceding for others. Even if we have great faith, we may not see immediate answers to our prayers. We see the people we are praying for have no change, no conviction, and no transformation. Sometimes they even get worse. If we are not careful, our great faith becomes little faith and our little faith becomes no faith and our prayers stop all together. However, one of the ways you know you have great faith is you are persistent. Great faith does not give up easily. Great faith keeps on going when others would have already quit. There is a spiritual tenacity about you. You are determined to see God move in this person’s life. So, you keep “begging” and you keep “pleading” and you keep “asking.”
Let me ask you question, “What or who are you persistently and passionately praying for?” Who are you desperately interceding for? Your spouse, your friend, your parent, your child, your grand-child, someone at work, your church? The reason great faith desperately intercedes for others is because it deeply believes Jesus is the answer and can do something. There is no doubt within great faith.[iii]
This takes us to our next observation.
Great faith is desperate
Great faith is desperate. Matthew tells us she cried out to Jesus saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!” (Matthew 15:22, NLT). Let’s explore this a little further.
She cried out, “Have mercy on me….” She knew she did not deserve Jesus’ help, that she was unworthy of Him, and that her only hope for undeserved forgiveness was in His gracious “mercy.” By definition, the person who asks for “mercy” is asking for something they do not deserve. This woman did not come demanding but pleading. She wasn’t commanding Jesus to do something or threatening Jesus to do something, but she came begging for Jesus’ help. She did not ask for Jesus’ help based on her own goodness but on the basis of His goodness. “Have mercy on me.” She reminds me of Hebrews 4:16, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (NLT). Out of desperation she cried out in faith for mercy.
But notice carefully, she came for her daughter but cried out “have mercy on me,” not have mercy on my daughter! She had made her daughter’s needs her own needs. Her daughter’s pain was her pain. This is the secret to intercessory prayer. When we pray for other’s needs as if they are our own needs. We mourn for those who mourn. We hurt for those who hurt. Their need is our need. This is intercessory prayer.
She also called Jesus “Lord.” Something has happened in the heart of this woman. As a woman raised in paganism it seems she had turned her back on all the idols and gods and goddesses that she had worshipped as a Canaanite and is placing her faith in Jesus as “Lord.” She is seeing Jesus as someone who is more than just a man, more than just another human or miracle worker. She is declaring Him as “Lord.” This word “Lord” (kurios) means owner, master, the supreme one, and sovereign. She is declaring Jesus as the master and owner and supreme one over her life. She is demonstrating great faith.
She also identified Jesus as the “Son of David.” This was a Messianic title. When people referred to Jesus as the Son of David, they meant that He was the long-awaited Deliverer, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Somewhere along the way in her life, she had picked up the truth about a Messiah that would arrive. Everything she had heard about Jesus confirmed to her that He was the “Son of David,” the Messiah sent by God.
As she cried out for mercy to the “Lord” as the One who had the power to deliver her daughter, she was also crying out to the “Son of David,” the One who also had the authority to deliver her daughter. As “Lord” Jesus had the power and as “Son of David” He had the authority. Out of her desperation she knew the only One who could do anything for her daughter was someone who was both “Lord” and Messiah.
This woman had “great faith.” Her faith was great because it was based on God’s truth about Jesus. It was great because it was focused on Jesus, desperate to see Jesus do what only He could do, and persistent to receive an answer from Jesus. It’s great faith.
I don’t know what kind of faith you have today. You may have weak faith, strong faith, great faith or no faith.
- The first kind of faith we all need is saving faith. The kind of faith that accepts the truth we are sinners and believes that the only way to receive forgiveness of our sins and have eternal life is through Jesus Christ.
[i] Great faith is a relative term. This woman’s faith was not great because it was stronger or more sincere or mature than the faith of many Jews who believed in Christ but because it was based on so little light. When Peter’s faith faltered and he began to sink into the water, Jesus referred to it as “little faith” (Matt. 14:31). In general character it was greater than this woman’s faith and surely greater than the faith of the other eleven disciples, who did not even attempt to walk on the water, but it was not as strong as it should have been for that situation. Peter was a Jew and therefore had the heritage of God’s Word and special blessing. More than that, he had lived for nearly two years in intimate fellowship with the Son of God. He had seen virtually every miracle Jesus performed and heard virtually every word he preached and taught. He had saving faith in Jesus as his Lord and Savior and had left everything to follow Him; but his great privilege and advantage was no guarantee that, under sever testing, his faith might not be reduced to relatively little. Matthew describes her as a “Canaanite woman” and as such she had been raised in a pagan culture that had been renowned for its wickedness and vileness. She was a descendant of a people God had commanded Israel to conquer and “utterly destroy” (Deut. 7:2). She had no heritage of God’s Word, God’s blessing, or of His Tabernacle, Temple, priesthood, or sacrifices. Therefore, because she believed so much relative to so little revelation, Jesus called her faith great (Matt. 15;28). And from her story we see several qualities of great faith.
[ii] Matthew 15:22 says she came to Jesus “pleading.”
[iii] We would be irresponsible if we left anyone with the impression that the woman’s persistence earned Christ’s ear and then earned his healing power. Nothing could be further from the truth! Her persistence was only a demonstration that she had great faith. Our Lord wanted us to see the works that resulted from that authentic faith.