Faith, Lessons from Jesus

Tenacious Faith

STORIES OF FAITH – The Canaanite Woman

Matthew 15:25 – She came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

In this story we once again find Jesus on his ministry journey with the disciples and this time he is in the coastal town of Tyre. Hearing of his arrival, a woman comes running to find him; not a Jewish woman, a Gentile. When she finds him, she cries, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”

The Canaanite religion had more deities than enough and I imagine that this mother had prayed and sacrificed to all of them. Yet, her child was slipping away from her day by day, enslaved by a demon; she is at her wits end. Others know of her distress and somewhere along the way she hears about Jesus. She would have known of the God of Israel, living in a town mixed with Jews, but something has happened to make her believe that Jesus is the one that she needs. Just like Bartimaeus, she addresses him by his Messianic name.

On hearing her, Jesus does not respond which the disciples are thinking is good and proper. How dare this gentile woman speak to any one of the men, let alone the Rabbi! They implore him to send her away, to which he replies, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” They nod in approval, pleased that they don’t have to deal with her. ‘But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”  Protocol and socially acceptable behaviour fade into insignificance to her dire situation. She knows he is the One.

Jesus now turns and speaks to her directly, although his words do not seem kind. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Is Jesus letting the disciples hear what their prejudice sounds like out loud or is he just testing her resolve? Even humiliation does not deter her… “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Such tenacity! She is so aware of her own unworthiness that she is willing to accept the smallest fragment of bread that he might offer.

The test is over, Jesus has heard enough and he answers, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” She held fast to her belief and the Lord answered her plea.

A crumb of God’s mercy is more than any of us deserve and yet He gives us so much more. Let us not become complacent and let us never view anyone else as undeserving. Freely He gives to all who come.

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