The next case I take up is similar [to the healing of the Nobleman's
son]. It belongs to another of my classes, but as a case of possession
there is little distinctive about it, while as the record of the devotion
of a mother to her daughter-a devotion quickening in her faith so rare
and lovely as to delight the very heart of Jesus with its humble intensity-it
is one of the most beautiful of all the stories of healing.
The woman was a Greek, and had not had the training of the Jew for
a belief in the Messiah. Her misconceptions concerning the healer of whom
she had heard must have been full of fancies derived from the legends of
her race. But she had yet been trained to believe, for her mighty love
of her own child was the best power for the development of the child-like
No woman can understand the possible depths of her own affection for
her daughter. I say daughter, not child, because although love is the same
everywhere, it is nowhere the same. No two loves of individuals in the
same correlation are the same. Much more the love of a woman for her daughter
differs from the love of a father for his son-differs as the woman differs
from the man. There is in it a peculiar tenderness from the sense of the
same womanly consciousness in both of undefendedness and self-accountable
modesty-a modesty, in this case, how terribly tortured in the mother by
the wild behaviour of the daughter under the impulses of the unclean spirit!
Surely if ever there was a misery to drive a woman to the Healer in an
agony of rightful claim and prostrate entreaty, it was the misery of a
mother whose daughter was thus possessed. The divine nature of her motherhood,
of her womanhood, drew her back to its source to find help for one who
shared in the same, but in whom its waters were sorely troubled and grievously
She came crying to him. About him stood his disciples, proud of being
Jews. For their sakes this chosen Gentile must be pained a little further,
must bear with her Saviour her part of suffering for the redemption even
of his chosen apostles. They counted themselves the children, and such
as she the dogs. He must show them the divine nature dwelling in her. For
the sake of this revelation he must try her sorely, but not for long.
"Have mercy on me," she cried, "O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter
is grievously vexed with a devil."
But not a word of reply came from the lips of the Healer. His disciples
must speak first. They must supplicate for their Gentile sister. He would
arouse in them the disapproval of their own exclusiveness, by putting it
on for a moment that they might see it apart from themselves.
Their hearts were moved for the woman.
"Send her away," they said, meaning, "Give her what she wants;" but
to move the heart of love to grant the prayer, they-poor intercessors-added
a selfish reason to justify the deed of goodness, either that they would
avoid being supposed to acknowledge her claim on a level with that of a
Jewess, and would make of it what both Puritans and priests would call
"an uncovenanted mercy," or that they actually thought it would help to
overcome the scruples of the Master. Possibly it was both. "She crieth
after us," they said-meaning, "She is troublesome." They would have him
give as the ungenerous and the unjust give to the importunate.
But no healing could be granted on such a ground-not even to the prayer
of an apostle. The woman herself must give a better.
"I am not sent," he said, "but unto the lost sheep of the house of
They understood the words falsely. We know that he did come for the
Gentiles, and he was training them to see what they were so slow to understand,
that he had other sheep which were not of this fold. He had need to begin
with them thus early. Most of the troubles of his latest, perhaps greatest
apostle, came from the indignation of Jewish Christians that he preached
the good news to the Gentiles as if it had been originally meant for them.
They would have had them enter into its privileges by the gates of Judaism.
What they did at length understand by these words is expressed in the
additional word of our Lord given by St Mark: "Let the children first be
filled." But even this they could not understand until afterwards. They
could not see that it was for the sake of the Gentiles as much as the Jews
that Jesus came to the Jews first. For whatever glorious exceptions there
were amongst the Gentiles, surpassing even similar amongst the Jews; and
whatever the wide-spread refusal of the Jewish nation, he could not have
been received amongst the Gentiles as amongst the Jews. In Judæa
alone could the leaven work; there alone could the mustard-seed take fitting
root. Once rooted and up, it would become a great tree, and the birds of
the world would nestle in its branches. It was not that God loved the Jews
more than the Gentiles that he chose them first, but that he must begin
somewhere: why, God himself knows, and perhaps has given us glimmerings.
Upheld by her God-given love, not yet would the woman turn away. Even
such hard words as these could not repulse her.
She came now and fell at his feet. It is as the Master would have it:
she presses only the nearer, she insists only the more; for the devil has
a hold of her daughter.
"Lord, help me," is her cry; for the trouble of her daughter is her
own. The "Help me" is far more profound and pathetic than the most vivid
blazon of the daughter's sufferings.
But he answered and said,-
"It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs."
Terrible words! more dreadful far than any he ever spoke besides! Surely
now she will depart in despair! But the Lord did not mean in them to speak
his mind concerning the relation of Jew and Gentile; for not only do the
future of his church and the teaching of his Spirit contradict it: but
if he did mean what he said, then he acted as was unmeet, for he did cast
a child's bread to a dog. No. He spoke as a Jew felt, that the elect Jews
about him might begin to understand that in him is neither Jew nor Gentile,
but all are brethren.
And he has gained his point. The spirit in the woman has been divinely
goaded into utterance, and out come the glorious words of her love and
faith, casting aside even insult itself as if it had never been-all for
the sake of a daughter. Now, indeed, it is as he would have it.
"Yes, Lord; yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs."
Or, as St Matthew gives it:
"Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their
A retort quite Greek in its readiness, its symmetry, and its point!
But it was not the intellectual merit of the answer that pleased the Master.
Cleverness is cheap. It is the faith he praises,5 which was precious as
rare-unspeakably precious even when it shall be the commonest thing in
the universe, but precious now as the first fruits of a world redeemed-precious
now as coming from the lips of a Gentile-more precious as coming from the
lips of a human mother pleading for her daughter.
"O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt."
Or, as St Mark gives it, for we cannot afford to lose a varying word,
"For this saying, go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter."
The loving mother has conquered the tormenting devil. She has called
in the mighty aid of the original love. Through the channel of her love
it flows, new-creating,
5 Far more precious than any show of the intellect, even in regard
of the intellect itself. The quickness of her answer was the scintillation
of her intellect under the glow of her affection. Love is the quickening
nurse of the whole nature. Faith in God will do more for the intellect
at length than all the training of the schools. It will make the best that
can be made of the whole man.
"and her daughter was made whole from that very hour."
Where, O disciples, are your children and your dogs now? Is not the
wall of partition henceforth destroyed? No; you too have to be made whole
of a worse devil, that of personal and national pride, before you understand.
But the day of the Lord is coming for you, notwithstanding ye are so incapable
of knowing the signs and signals of its approach that, although its banners
are spread across the flaming sky, it must come upon you as a thief in
For the woman, we may well leave her to the embraces of her daughter.
They are enough for her now. But endless more will follow, for God is exhaustless
in giving where the human receiving holds out. God be praised that there
are such embraces in the world! that there are mothers who are the salvation
of their children!