In the early twentieth century a make-believe woman named Betty Crocker became more popular than the First Lady of the United States. In 1928, the Washburn Crosby Company of Minneapolis was one of six milling companies that later merged into General Mills. They received thousands of letters from women all over North America asking how to best use the company’s flour in their baking. The managers decided that it would be more personal to reply with a signature, and Betty Crocker was born. The company secretary signed the letters, a signature that still exists today.
Betty Crocker became so popular that they created a face to make her more real. Radio interviews and cooking programs were developed to meet the overwhelming requests. Women couldn’t get enough of Betty Crocker. By 1945, Crocker was the second best-known woman in America, after First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Whatever Betty Crocker said became the kitchen authority. Women trusted her expertise so much that the American flour company still has her photograph and signature on their products today.
Another lady, in another time and place, had so much faith and trust in someone that her story is still told today too. The Gospels tell of a mother with a faith problem: she had more faith than the disciples themselves. Jesus met her on a journey to the region of Tyre and Sidon, which was outside Jewish territory. He left His domain to go where He was not normally welcome.
The book of Mark says, “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” (Mark 7:24, NKJV). Jesus was looking for a place to get away from the continuous hounding of the Pharisees. He had ministered to a hungry multitude; He had healed the sick across different regions. Wherever He went, people begged for blessing. Now He wanted a place to rest, where no one would recognize Him.
Tyre and Sidon were pagan cities, but because they bordered Jewish lands, Israelites and Gentiles coexisted there. Animosity was commonplace. Jesus had traveled to this place with a specific plan in mind. Yes, He was tired and wanted to escape notice, but that’s not the only reason. On this visit Jesus would perform the only miracle outside His domain. Matthew writes, “A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.’Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us’” (Matt. 15:22, 23, NIV).
We need to know that women didn’t travel much in those days, but this hindrance didn’t stop her from meeting Jesus. She had heard He was in town and knew He might not come a second time. As we read her story, it makes me wonder how this Gentile woman was able to hear of Jesus. Maybe she’d heard of Him in the marketplace as Jewish women bought groceries. Maybe she’d heard of Him on her daily trips to the well. One thing we know is that she’d never seen Jesus personally, nor heard His teachings, nor witnessed His miracles. I’d like to think she heard of Him through the story of someone who knew Him personally. The only thing she knew was that He could heal her child, and she was not going to miss this opportunity.
We read, “Christ knew this woman’s situation. He knew that she was longing to see Him, and He placed Himself in her path” (The Desire of Ages, p. 400).
What a loving picture of Jesus! He knows the suffering and struggles of every mother and longs to bring healing to every heart. Jesus had visited this idolatrous territory for two specific reasons: first, to grant a blessing to this desperate mother, and second, to teach His disciples an important lesson of acceptance. As she was pleading, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me,” we notice that Jesus did not answer a word. The more Jesus “ignored” her, the more she shouted to the only One who could heal her daughter. Even the disciples were irritated that He wasn’t doing anything about this woman, but the silence of God was the greatest test of her faith. Jesus finally stopped and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (verse 24). She had longed for this moment, only to be ignored and rejected. She fell at His feet, pleading, “Lord, help me.” Jesus answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” (verses 25, 26).
“This answer would have utterly discouraged a less earnest seeker” (The Desire of Ages, p. 401). Jesus had “ignored” her, “rejected” her, and now called her a dog! In Bible times, no one owned dogs for pets as we do today. Dogs were scavengers outside the city walls. Calling someone a dog was an insult to human dignity. Jesus was acting like the average Israelite would toward someone from this heathen race. He wanted to teach the disciples that the gospel of grace is for anyone who feels the need of the Savior.
Underneath His pretending nonacceptance, she discerned a compassionate love and tenderness that Jesus could not conceal. She responded, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table” (verse 27). Even though she held little value in the eyes of society, if dogs could eat the leftovers, why couldn’t she? She had nothing to lose. If being called a dog would get her petition granted, she’d take it. Her heart held no pride or arrogance, and her trust in Him was greater than any prejudice or animosity that existed between the two nations. She knew He could restore her child’s health “and immediately [acknowledged] Jesus as the Redeemer” (The Desire of Ages, p. 401).
Pleased with her faith, Jesus welcomed her. Now that she had passed this test, she could enjoy the privilege of His blessings. With compassion and tenderness, Jesus said, “‘You have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment” (verse 28). The book of Mark says, “‘The demon has left your daughter.’ She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone” (Mark 7:29, 30, NIV).
The Bible doesn’t say whether the daughter was a believer; perhaps she had only heard from her mother about Jesus’ miracles. Maybe she was not interested in a God that she hadn’t seen or heard. We don’t know her situation; but no matter how much this girl knew or believed in Jesus, it was her mother’s trust and faith in Jesus that brought the healing. Her mother’s faith went beyond discouragement, prejudice, animosity, impossibility, and incredulity—to find fulfilment in Jesus, her Savior, Redeemer, and Healer. “There are no barriers which man or Satan can erect but that faith can penetrate” (The Desire of Ages, p. 403).
This was the only miracle Jesus performed on this journey. He went to the borders of Tyre and Sidon specifically to grant the request of this mother’s heart. Only on two occasions does Jesus mention “there is no greater faith in Israel”—one in Matthew 8:5-13, where Jesus heals the centurion’s servant, and the other when this mother persevered in her faith.
Do we trust Him enough to cling to His promises, even when we don’t hear or see Him in action? Remember, the silence of God is the greatest test of our faith. Today we serve the same merciful Savior and Healer. He is just as able to make the journey to grant our request as He did for this amazing mother.
“That Saviour who took a long journey for the purpose of relieving the anxious heart of a woman whose daughter was possessed by an evil spirit, will hear the mother’s prayers, and will bless her children” (The Signs of the Times, Sept. 9, 1886).
This promise is for every mother, beyond the circumstances of our children or the condition of their hearts. This promise brings healing and restoration.
Mothers, let us never give up on our children!.