By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” (Washington Irving, 1783 -1859)
I am convinced that one of the greatest blessings in the entire world is a godly mother.
Of course, there are others who share this sentiment, as evidenced by the holiday known as Mother’s Day.
In researching the history of when Mother’s Day became a national holiday, we find the following:
“A PROCLAMATION BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Whereas, By a Joint Resolution approved May 8, 1914, ” designating the second Sunday in May as Mothers’ Day, and for other purposes,”…Now, Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the said Joint Resolution, do hereby direct the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings and do invite the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”
It is good that people have set aside a certain day to honor Mothers’ around the world, but in truth, godly mothers should be continually honored.
How people need to emulate the example of Solomon:
1 Kings 2:19-Bathsheba therefore went to King Solomon, to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her and bowed down to her, and sat down on his throne and had a throne set for the king’s mother; so she sat at his right hand.
In this article, I would like to consider with you an example of a godly and gracious mother.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us:
Matthew 15:21-28-21 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
22 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.”
23 But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
28 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.
The Context Of The Passage
In the account of Matthew 15 (and Mark 7), Jesus has been engaged in public debate with the Pharisees.
These self-righteous traditionalists were always attacking Jesus and His followers. After entering into debate with the Pharisees, we read that Jesus leaves the general area and goes to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
Mark 7:24-From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden.
Now please consider: this was not just a stroll down the road!
Exiting the area of Gennesaret,(where Jesus had been healing the sick and afflicted-Matthew 14:34-36; Mark 6:53-56), Jesus teaches His disciples about the need to focus on keeping the heart pure (Matthew 15:16-20; Mark 7:18-19). Proceeding to Tyre and Sidon, and then back to the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 15:29; Mark 7:31), the Lord and His Apostles travelled between 60-100 miles on foot!
It is on this journey that we find this fascinating account of the Canaanite woman.
Wait…Does Jesus Call This Woman A DOG???
If you are like me, you are drawn to the words of Jesus calling this woman a “dog.”
How could Jesus call this woman a dog, when she is there trying to help her daughter?
Was He racist towards the Gentiles?
Actually, when we we study the Gospels, we see that Jesus had a high regard for Gentiles.
Michael Brown has well pointed out:
“To give you the bigger picture, here are some important things to know about Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the whole world: • His disciple Matthew, in recording Yeshua’s ancestry through his adoptive father’s royal line, makes specific mention of two Gentile tile women who contributed to the royal line: Rahab, who was a Canaanite by birth, and Ruth, who was a Moabite by birth (Matt. 1:5). There was no genealogical need to mention either of these women, but he did so-in his very Jewish book!-for a specific theological reason (see also 1:3a). • In his first sermon in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus drew attention to instances in the Tanakh in which God went out of his way to care for a Gentile widow and heal a Gentile general, thereby infuriating everyone in the synagogue (Luke 4:24-30). • After healing the servant of a Roman soldier, Yeshua said to those following him, “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west [meaning the Gentiles!], and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom [meaning the Jews who did not believe] will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:11-12; see 8:5-13; note again that the very Jewish Matthew records these words). • In John 4, Jesus reached out to a Samaritan woman, despite the fact that the Samaritans were despised by other Jews as half-breeds, even staying in Samaria for two days to minister to the people there (John 4:42). • In the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, Yeshua made the hero of his parable a Samaritan, in contrast with a priest and a Levite, commending him as an example of a true neighbor (Luke 10:29-37). • Luke also records Jesus’ healing of ten lepers as they followed the Messiah’s instructions and made their way to the priest, noting that only one of the men returned to give him thanks-a Samaritan, whom the Lord then commended (Luke 17:11-19).” (Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus: Volume Four-New Testament Objections, 170-172 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
So, why did Jesus call this woman a dog?
First, we need to understand the word that is used in this passage.
Barclay points out:
“So Jesus at last turned to her: ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and to throw it to the pet dogs.’ To call a person a dog was a deadly and a contemptuous insult. The Jews spoke with arrogant insolence about ‘Gentile dogs’, ‘infidel dogs’ and later ‘Christian dogs’. In those days, the dogs were the unclean scavengers of the street –lean, savage, often diseased. But there are two things to remember. The tone and the look with which a thing is said make all the difference. A thing which seems hard can be said with a disarming smile. We can call a friend ‘an old villain’ or ‘a rogue’, with a smile and a tone which take all the sting out of it and fill it with affection. We can be quite sure that the smile on Jesus’ face and the compassion in his eyes robbed the words of all insult and bitterness. Second, it is the diminutive word for dogs (kunaria) which is used, and the kunaria were not the street dogs, but the little household pets, very different from the stray dogs that roamed the streets and probed in the refuse heaps. The woman was a Greek; she was quick to see, and she had all a Greek’s ready wit. ‘True,’ she said, ‘but even the dogs get their share of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.’ And Jesus’ eyes lit up with joy at such an indomitable faith; and he granted her the blessing and the healing which she so much desired.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel According To Matthew-Volume Two, 2359-2370 (Kindle Edition); Edinburgh, England; Saint Andrew Press)
The word that Jesus uses here is very important to consider. The Jewish people often looked upon the Gentiles as the ones that were in need of their guidance. The Gentiles were thus often viewed as people who needed the saving light of God which the Jewish people had been entrusted to provide.
God had given this Divine mission to the Hebrews:
“Centrifugal witnessing, it will be argued here, is the role assigned to Israel as it was to share actively with others the Man of Promise who was to come. This is why Paul quoted Isaiah 49:6 in his attempt to convince the Jews at Antioch Pisidia that it had been God’s intent all along to extend his blessings of redemption to the Gentiles (apart from any process of proselytism by which Gentiles converted to Judaism). And this will be my contention in this work as well. The source of world missionary activity is rooted in God’s call to the nation Israel in the Old Testament, which will then be the extended call to all who believe in all ages….Roger D. Aus suggested that the “offering of the Gentiles” in Romans 15:16 would fulfill what the prophet Isaiah saw (Isa. 66:19–23).  As a result of missionary activity, “all flesh” (Isa. 66:23), including Jews and Gentiles, would one day worship the Lord. They would come from as far away as Tarshish, that is, Spain (Isa. 66:19),  a site often linked with “from the ends of the earth” (Ps. 72:8–11; see also Jon. 1:3). The fact remains that the goal of the Old Testament was to see both Jews and Gentiles come to a saving knowledge of the Messiah who was to come. Anything less than this goal was a misunderstanding and an attenuation of the plan of God. God’s eternal plan was to provide salvation for all peoples; it was never intended to be reserved for one special group, such as the Jews, even as an initial offer! It is the history of this offer, and the way it was carried out in Old Testament times, that will form the heart of our study here.” (Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Mission In The Old Testament: Israel As A Light To The Nations, 113-131 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic)
As such, Gentiles were not often considered wicked and vicious beasts, but rather untrained and ignorant persons who were in need of God’s Word to restore and make them whole.
Notice that the woman in the passage clearly understood these important facts:
“Second, the Greek word for “dog” is not the usual word for an unkempt street dog (Gk. kyōn), but a diminutive (Gk. kynarion), meaning a small dog that could be kept in the house as a pet. 14 In casting the word in the diminutive form Mark essentially empties it of opprobrium, for one feels entirely differently of a house pet than of an unclean street mongrel. The fact that the woman refers to her daughter and herself with the same term in her reply to Jesus shows that she does not take kynarion in a hostile or contemptuous sense. Third, “dog” signifies a traditional distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles that is important to the story. In the thought-world of the day, the Jews considered themselves “children” of God (Exod 4: 22; Deut 14: 1; Isa 1: 2). They differed from other nations because of their inclusion in the covenant of Abraham (Genesis 17) and because they possessed the Torah (Exodus 19). The issue at stake between Jesus and the woman is whether Jesus is sent to “the children” or “to the dogs.” The woman maintains the same distinction between “children” and “dogs” in her reply to Jesus, though with one slight change. Whereas Jesus refers to Israel as teknōn (” biological children”), the woman refers to Israel as paidiōn, which is more inclusive, implying both children and servants in a household. The change in terminology suggests that the woman understands the mercies of God to extend beyond ethnic Israel. The basic issue in the repartee between Jesus and the woman is not whether Gentiles have a claim on God’s mercies, but the relation of that claim to the Jewish claim. Jesus does not deny the woman’s request. “First let the children eat all they want” simply establishes a priority of mission; it does not exclude other hungry mouths. In the present context it implies the messianic priority of Jesus’ ministry to Israel to his ministry to the Gentiles, particularly, as we suggested earlier, with regard to teaching about the kingdom of God. But the priority of Israel in Jesus’ mission does not imply the exclusion of the Gentiles. The Servant of the Lord must first “restore the tribes of Jacob,” and then be “a light to the nations” (Isa 49: 6; also 42: 1; 61: 1-11). The choice of kynarion implies the dogs are house pets; that is, they belong to the household and will be fed along with the children. Indeed, the analogy of the children and dogs suggests a relationship to Jesus himself, for who might be the “father” who feeds the children —and their dogs —if not Jesus? The woman’s reply to Jesus in v. 28 shows her understanding and acceptance of Israel’s privilege. 15 Indeed, she appears to understand the purpose of Israel’s Messiah better than Israel does. Her pluck and persistence are a testimony to her trust in the sufficiency and surplus of Jesus: his provision for the disciples and Israel will be abundant enough to provide for one such as herself. Mark provides a clue to this understanding in the Gk. chortazō (NIV, “eat all they want”). This word occurs only twice elsewhere in Mark, in the feedings of the five thousand (6: 42) and four thousand (8: 4, 8). In its present location, the word bridges Jesus’ feeding of the Jews (6: 31-44) and his subsequent feeding of the Gentiles (8: 1-10). When dogs eat crumbs from the table they do not rob children of their food; they simply eat what is theirs from the surplus of the children.” (James R. Edwards, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According To Mark, 4179-4205 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans’ Publishing Company)
So, Jesus was not insulting this woman; instead, He was acknowledging the fact that His first and primary mission was to the nation of Israel.
Included within His answer, however, is the affirmation that His mission would also include saving the Gentiles (and the woman’s answer demonstrates that she also understood this).
The Apostles clearly begin to understand this, for they ask Jesus to grant her request and to send her back to her home (Matthew 15:23).
In this passage, we see Jesus teaching His disciples some very important lessons. They are able to see the importance of compassion and persistence.
Consider how this would be contrasted with the unbending and self-righteous Pharisees, who often looked upon Gentiles with disgust and contempt.
The Lord, understanding that He had been sent to truly call all the nations to repentance, first had need to reach out to the descendants of Abraham; and here, He teaches these important lessons to HIs followers by testing the faith and persistence of the Canaanite woman.
With these things in mind, please notice some important qualities of a godly mother with me from this woman.
A Godly Mother Will Seek Jesus First
The passage makes it clear that this woman understands Who Jesus is. Please observe several things which show that this woman understood Who Jesus is.
First, look at how she refers to Jesus:
Matthew 15:22-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.”
She clearly understood that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of David. This indicates that perhaps she had heard of the promised Messiah from the Jewish Scriptures.
Indeed, there were several people in the ancient world who were seeking the Savior from Israel.
John 12:20-21-20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast.
21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
In the first century, there were many Gentiles who were known as “God-Fearers,” people who (although not official converts to Judaism) looked to the Hebrew Messiah for their hope.
“In addition to proselytes, there were many Gentile “God Fearers” who gravitated to the synagogue; accepting at least some forms and ceremonies of Judaism. It is possible that the name of these partial converts originated from the Tanakhi phrase “those who fear the LORD.”[ 36] A homily on Isaiah 44.5 identifies the four classes mentioned in the verse as children of wicked Israelites, penitents, righteous converts and “fearers of heaven.”[ 37] Naaman is described as such, as he was not by any stretch of the imagination a resident alien, but a foreigner who accepted Jewish monotheism; a “fearer of heaven” (yirei shamayim). In Josephus and Philo, the Christian Testament, the inscriptions to which we will soon look and elsewhere, we learn of this category who had not formally entered the Jewish fold, who nevertheless depended on Judaism for their spiritual direction.[ 38] Contrary to the aforementioned preconceptions, it would appear that it was quite easy to enter Judaism by both pagans and later by Christians.[ 39] Contrary to the aforementioned preconceptions, it is entirely likely that this was a name imposed upon the God Fearers, not a personal ascription….These partial adherents, described in Acts as well as Josephus in the first century CE, were distinguished from proselytes and yet they were publicly associated with Judaism[ 40] without yet being regarded as Jews.[ 41] Josephus recorded the existence in Antioch of Gentiles who were “in some way” attached to the local Jewish community.[ 42] They appear to have been welcomed by the Jewish leaders. A distinction was thus made between the idolatrous Gentile and the Gentile who feared God.[ 43]” (Micah Ben David Naziri, The Significance Of The God-Fearers In The Environment Of Early Christianity-Gentile Sympathizers Of Of Judaism And The Success Of The Paulean Meme239-282 (Kindle Edition); New Dawn Publications)
Further, notice that this woman worships Jesus:
Matthew 15:25-Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
Godly mothers are entrusted (along with godly fathers) with the Divine commission to teach the Word of God to children:
Proverbs 1:8-My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother;
Proverbs 6:20-My son, keep your father’s command, And do not forsake the law of your mother.
Several times, the Psalmist talks about how his mother had always been a servant of Jehovah:
Psalm 86:16-Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me! Give Your strength to Your servant, And save the son of Your maidservant.
Psalm 116:16-O LORD, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have loosed my bonds.
We are reminded that Timothy was taught the Word of God by his godly mother:
2 Timothy 1:5-when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.
2 Timothy 3:15-and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
The powerful influence of a godly mother can stay with children throughout all their lives:
“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” (Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
“We search the world for truth; we cull The good, the pure, the beautiful, From all old flower fields of the soul; And, weary seeker of the best, We come back laden from out quest, To find that all the sages said Is in the Book our mothers read.” (John Greenleaf Whittier, 1807 -1892)
A Godly Mother Will Put The Needs Of Her Family Above Her Own
Notice that this godly woman is willing to put the needs of her family above her own.
Is this not what godly mothers have done throughout time?
Godly mothers throughout Scripture have always been a portrait of love. Even in their imperfections, the example of motherly love is often set forth as an example for God’s people to emulate. Indeed, God often pictures Himself as a Mother Who will care for her children in the midst of their trails and afflictions:
Isaiah 66:12-13-12 For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; On her sides shall you be carried, And be dandled on her knees.
13 As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
Consider some examples of godly mothers in the Bible and what they did for their children:
Eve (Genesis 3-4). Even though Eve helped to introduce sin into the world, we are reminded of the fact that she eventually saw her need to put God first and come back to Him.
“Whatever Eve may have meant by that expression in Genesis 4:1, it was nonetheless a clear expression of hope and rejoicing because of God’s grace, compassion, kindness, and forgiveness toward her. There’s a tone of exultation in it: “I have acquired a man from the LORD.” It is also clear that her hope was personified in her own children. She saw them as tokens of God’s goodness and reminders of the promise that her seed would be the instrument by which the tempter’s ultimate destruction was accomplished….Were Adam and Eve saved? I believe they were. God’s grace to them is exemplified in the way He “made tunics of skin, and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21 NKJV). In order for Him to do that, some animals had to be slain. Thus the first ever blood sacrifice was made by the hand of God on their behalf. Furthermore, concealed in God’s declaration that the woman’s Seed would defeat the serpent was an implicit promise that their sin and all its consequences would one day be vanquished and the guilt of it would be eradicated. We know from a New Testament perspective that this promise involved the sending of God’s own Son to undo what Adam’s sin did. They believed that promise, insofar as they understood it. Scripture records that Seth founded a line of godly people: “As for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the LORD” (Gen. 4:26 NKJV). Where would their knowledge of the Lord have come from? Obviously, it came from Adam and Eve, who had more direct and firsthand knowledge of God than anyone else since the fall. This godly line (which endures in the faith of millions even today) was to a large degree their legacy. Happily for Eve, it will eventually prove to be an infinitely more enduring legacy than her sin. After all, heaven will be filled with her redeemed offspring, and they will be eternally occupied with a celebration of the work of her Seed.” (John MacArthur, Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of The Bible, And What He Wants To Do With You, 24-25 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson)
Sarah (Genesis 21). Even though Sarah was an imperfect sinner, she showed great love for her son Isaac.
Hannah (1 Samuel 1-3). Hannah desperately wanted a child. When God granted her heart’s prayer, she dedicated him to the Lord and provided for him every way she could.
Elizabeth (Luke 1). The godly mother of John the Baptist was a woman of faith, strength, prayer, and courage.
Mary (Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-20, 25-35; John 19:25-27). Even though Mary was destined to be the Mother of the Messiah, she would face heartbreak and trial. She would suffer terribly; yet she was the mother that raised Jesus and provided for Him.
There are so many other examples of godly mothers in the Bible who loved their children and provided for them with whatever they had.
How blessed we are to have godly mothers who sacrifice for their children!
A Godly Mother Will Understand The Need For Good And Productive Instruction And Discipline
Finally, the Canaanite woman teaches us about the fact that godly mothers will understand the need for instruction and discipline.
The word that Jesus uses here to refer to the Canaanite (“dog”) was understood as the beloved pet that needed instruction and discipline.
The woman, understanding this, was not offended; for she was one of those who looked to the God of Israel to bring forth the Messiah.
Godly mothers understand the need to instruct and discipline children.
Proverbs 13:24-He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
Proverbs 19:18-Chasten your son while there is hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction.
Proverbs 22:15-Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.
Proverbs 23:13-Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.
Godly mothers and fathers understand the need for instructive discipline.
Having learned some of these qualities of a godly mother, I want to bring this article to a conclusion with the following tribute to mothers. I am not entirely sure who wrote these words, but they are powerful and speak so strongly to godly motheers of all ages.
Tribute To Mothers
The young mother set her foot in the path of life. “Is the way long?” she asked. And her guide said, “Yes, and the way is hard. And you will be old before you reach the end of it. But the end will be better than the beginning.” But the young mother was happy and she would not believe that anything could be better than those years. So, she played with her children, she gathered flowers for them in the way, and bathed them in clear streams; and the sun shone on them and life was good, and the young mother said, “Nothing will be lovelier than this.” The night came, and the storm; the path was dark, and the children shook with fear and cold; and Mother drew them close and covered them with her mantle, and the children said, “Oh, Mother, we are not afraid, for you are near and no harm can come.” The mother said, “This is better than the brightness of the day, for I have taught them courage.”
And the morning came, and there was a hill ahead, and the children climbed and grew weary, and the mother was weary, but at times she said to the children, “A little patience and we are there.” So the children climbed and when they reached the top, they said, “We could not have done it without you, Mother,” and the mother, when she lay down that night said, “This is better than the last, for my children have learned fortitude in the face of hardness. Yesterday I gave them courage– today I gave them strength.
And the next day came strange clouds– clouds of war and hate and evil, and the children groped and stumbled; and the mother said, “Look up. Lift up your eyes to the light.” And the children looked and saw above the clouds an Everlasting glory, and it guided them and brought them beyond the darkness. “This is the best of all,” she said, “for I have shown my children–God.”
And the days went on, and the years– and Mother grew old and bent. But her children were strong and walked with courage. And when the way was hard, they helped their mother; and when she was very rough, they lifted her, for she was light as a feather. At last they came to a hill beyond which they could see a shining road and golden gates flung wide. The mother said, “I have reached the end of the journey and I know the first, for my children will walk alone. The children said, “You will walk with us.” And they watched her go alone and the gates closed after her. It was said, “We cannot see her, but she is still with us. A mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a living presence.”
The Son of God came forth from a godly woman, and offers salvation to all (1 Timothy 2:15; 2 Corinthians 5:15). Dying for the sins of mankind (1 Timothy 2:4), Jesus was buried and arose from the grave on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
Why not today, as a believer, repent of your sins and be baptized into Christ to have your sins washed away by the blood of the Lamb (Acts 2:38; 22:16)?
If you are an erring child of God who has left the Lord, why not return to Him today in repentance and prayer (Acts 8:22; Revelation 3:20)?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.