WITH HIS sermon on “The Bread of Life,” given in the church at Capernaum, Jesus finished his work among the people of Galilee. He had lived in that land for more than a year; he had traveled through every part of it; he had spoken in most of its villages and cities, and had sent out his disciples to preach in many other places. Everybody in Galilee had either heard Jesus or had heard about him. If they did not believe in him and his gospel, it was because they would not.
There was another and important work which now lay before Jesus. That was the training of his twelve disciples. These men, the apostles, as they were called later, had been with him for nearly a year. They had listened to his preaching and had heard his sermons many times, over and over again; for in different places Jesus gave the same talks to the people; but those talks and parables the Twelve heard in each place, as Jesus wished those men to hear his words until they knew them by heart and could give them as his message to others who had not heard Jesus himself.
One reason why we have in the four gospels, by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, so many of the teachings and parables of Jesus, is that the disciples heard them so many times, learned them, could tell them to others; and thus at least thirty years after Jesus passed away from earth, his words were remembered and could be written down.
But besides the public teachings of Jesus, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the parables, there were other great truths of the gospel that could not be given to the people, for they were not ready for them and could not understand them. We can see how the common people were puzzled by his words about “the bread of life.” Jesus saw that it was needful; for him to take the twelve disciples apart by themselves, that he might teach them some of the deeper truths of his gospel. In Galilee he could not be alone with these men; for wherever he might go there would always be many sick people coming to be cured and others leading men held in the power of evil spirits begging Jesus to cast them out. Then, too, in every place were the Pharisees and scribes, bringing their questions, asking for miracles, and trying to stir up the people against Jesus. Wherever Jesus was, a crowd was always around him, and he could find no time to teach his disciples some truths needful for them to know.
He made up his mind to go away from Galilee to some quiet place where no one would know of his coming. On the northwest of Galilee was a narrow land, on the other side of the Lebanon mountains, beside the great Mediterranean Sea. It was called Phoenicia, from the people who lived there, the Phoenicians; and also called “the land of Tyre and Sidon,” from its two leading cities. The people who lived in that country were not Jews, and few of them even spoke the Jewish language. Jesus thought that this would be a quiet place where he could talk alone with his disciples.
Jesus and the Twelve quietly left Capernaum, and walked over the mountains to this land of Tyre and Sidon. There they found a house and went into it, intending for a time to live there. Jesus wished nobody to know of his coming; but he could not be hidden. A woman of that country heard of him, and at once went to Jesus, threw herself at his feet, and begged him to come and cast an evil spirit out of her daughter.
This woman was not of the Jewish people. She was a foreigner, of a mingled Syrian and Phoenician race, a people called “Canaanites.” She cried aloud and kept on crying :
“Have mercy on me, O Lord, son of David! My little daughter is terribly troubled with an unclean spirit. Will you not please come and help her?”
At first Jesus did not answer her one word. But his disciples said to him, “O Master! send this woman away, for she is making a great noise and disturbing us!” To them she was only a Gentile, a heathen woman, and the Jews, even those who followed Jesus, looked with great contempt on all such people. They did not know that Jesus was sent to save not only the Jews but also the Gentiles.
Jesus wished to teach his disciples a lesson, that a Gentile could have the same faith as a Jew. He said to the woman :
“I was not sent to your people, but only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman kept on following him. She knelt down before Jesus, and said, “Master, help me!”
He said to her, “Let the children be satisfied first of all; it is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
“That is true, Lord,” said the woman; “yet the little dogs under the table do pick up some of the children’s crumbs.”
Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great. Your prayer is granted as you wish. The evil spirit is gone away from your daughter.”
The woman believed the word of Jesus. She hastened to her home and found her daughter well and resting upon her bed.