Miracles of Jesus: Healing a Woman's Demon-Possessed Daughter

The resurrection of Jesus the daughter of Jairus.
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One of the most memorable passages in the New Testament of the Bible describes a desperate mother begging Jesus Christ to miraculously heal her small daughter, who has been possessed by a demon. At first, Jesus resists helping the girl but then decides to grant the woman's request after her display of great faith. Two Gospel reports present the story of this famous miracle: Mark 7:24-30 and Matthew 15: 21-28.

Falling at His Feet

Mark 7:24-25 begins with the disciple's report of Jesus arriving in the region of Tyre and Sidon after leaving Gennesaret, where Jesus miraculously healed many people. News of those healings soon reaches neighboring towns. In Tyre, Jesus "entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. ... She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter."

"Lord, Help Me!"

Matthew 15:23-27 describes the scene that follows: "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.'

He answered, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.'

The woman came and knelt before him. 'Lord, help me!' she said.

He replied, 'It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.'

'Yes it is, Lord,' she said. 'Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.'"

Jesus’ comment about taking children’s bread and tossing it to the dogs may seem cruel outside of the context in which it is spoken. The phrase "children's bread" refers to the Old Covenant promises that God made to help the children of Israel—the Jewish people who have faithfully worshiped the living God, rather than idols. When Jesus uses the word "dogs," he is not comparing the woman to a canine, but rather using the terminology that Jews used for the Gentile people of that time, who often lived in wild ways that offended the faithful among the Jews. Also, Jesus may be testing the woman's faith by saying something that will provoke an honest response from her.

A Request Is Granted

The story concludes in Matthew 15:28: "Then Jesus said to her, 'Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.' And her daughter was healed at that moment."

At first, Jesus resists granting the woman's request, primarily because he was sent to minister to Jewish people before Gentiles, in order to fulfill ancient prophecies. But Jesus is so impressed by the faith that the woman shows in her persistence that he decides to help her.

In addition to great faith, the woman shows humility, respect, and trust by telling Jesus that she will gratefully accept any leftovers of his miraculous power (as dogs accept the crumbs of children's food that fall under the table). In the society of that time, most men would not take her argument seriously, and most would resist any woman trying to convince them to do something. But Jesus does take the woman seriously, grants her request, and even compliments her for asserting herself.