IN YOUR FACE
Lord, give me the boldness of this woman.
Read MATTHEW 15:21–28
The Faith of a Canaanite Woman
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 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.”
23 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.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“‘Whosoever will, whosoever will!’ / Send the proclamation over vale and hill; / ’tis a loving Father calls the wand’rer home: / ‘Whosoever will may come’” (Phillip P. Bliss, 1838–1876). Give thanks.
The audacity of the woman in this episode inheres in her desperation and certainty that Jesus can meet her need. Her direct approach stems from a belief in Jesus’ unique power as God’s chosen one. Jesus has faced skepticism and lack of trust. Some feel he is an upstart and a nuisance. His disciples believe he is from God—but hesitatingly and intermittently. This woman, a Canaanite (whose ancestry may extend back to the people of Canaan, sworn enemies of God’s people and ousted from the promised land), believes in Jesus implicitly.
How Jesus deals with her is enigmatic. She asks for help, but he does not answer her immediately. That alone could suffice to make her back off. It certainly tests the level of her faith. The disciples, meantime, want to get rid of her. “Will you give her what she wants and send her away?” is one way of interpreting their intervention.
Jesus’ lack of responsiveness is an expression of the limits of his mission (24). The time for helping Gentiles has yet to arrive. We understand this in light of the historical outworking of the mission of God. There is a sequence: Israel first and then the Gentiles. The “Servant of the Lord” in Isaiah is probably an individual who “sums up all that Israel represents.” The Servant is to be “a light for the Gentiles.”
How does this historical outworking fit the process? Sometimes strategies don’t follow a neat pattern. What do we do then? The answer is that genuine faith trumps everything. Jesus will deviate from his set purpose. He does have an ear for what is not his immediate priority because he responds to trust in him. There is sufficient food even for ineligible people.
Like Jesus, we have our strategies. We too will find faith in unlikely places. Our job is to look for God’s Spirit at work and to follow his lead.
Lord, we thank You that You can deviate from the program for the sake of human need.