‘Then Jesus answered and said to her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire’. And her daughter was healed from that very hour’ (Mt 15:28)
This is Sunday morning. My husband and I, with some brethren, have traveled for a needed vacation. We are far from the place of ministry routine. But the Holy Spirit is here with us. This morning, during my quiet time, I received strength and encouragement thru the story of the Gentile woman who was in great need because her daughter was possessed by demons (Mt 15:21-28).
In this story we see the Lord in a very different light than the way we are used to see Him. Jesus is usually quick to help any needy person. He never sent away any one who was sick or rejected by men. He had compassion on needy people. Jesus did not break a bruised weak reed that cannot stand. He did not snuff out a smoldering dying wick in the oil lamp but He repaired it so that it can shine again. That is why all the nations put their hope in His name (Mt 12:20, 21). But here we see Jesus acting so strangely according to our understanding of Him. He seems cold towards the plight of a needy woman. It seems that He discriminates her based on her faith and nationality. Is this the Jesus that we know? Let’s be careful that we do not worship an imaginary ‘better than real’ Master! Let Jesus be Jesus! Do not worship ‘another Jesus’ that looks better than the real one! Let’s humble ourselves and accept Jesus as He is so that we will not be ‘offended’ by Him, by His words and deeds that we may find unacceptable to our religious fleshy ideas of Him (Mt 11:6)!
This is the background of the story. Jesus miraculously fed the multitudes and did not tell them to wash their hands before eating. The Pharisees were particular about the laws of ceremonial washing. In their minds, no man should receive a miracle except that miracle passes thru their religious approval. They criticized Jesus for breaking the religious rules to help the needy people. Jesus rebuked them sharply calling them ‘blind leaders of the blind’ (Mt 15:14). As a Man Jesus was thirsty and tired. It seems that He became tired by the wickedness and rejection of the religious leaders and took His disciples to a distant place where they can all rest. He left His public ministry in Israel and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon for a little ‘vacation’. This is another good lesson we must learn from our Lord. From time to time, we must leave the routine and the demands of people and just go away by ourselves. Worship is good with the congregation. We should not ‘forsake’ the assembly. But sometimes we need to be alone with Jesus! Another lesson is this: even Jesus has ‘needs’! The Holy Spirit has ‘needs’ that we know nothing about! Doctor Jesus needs to rest from the demands of His medical or religious ‘practice’. As a doctor myself, I understand that it is very hard for the patients to have compassion on a tired Doctor. But the doctor is a human being too and the patients need to learn to respect that. The patients should never control their doctor with their needs, they should never overcrowd their Helper with impatient demands! Men in need should pray and wait patiently until the King comes out of His resting holy separate chamber. Patience and faith is required of us all!
This woman heard of Jesus, that He can heal and deliver everyone who had faith in Him. She had a daughter who was demon possessed. She was seeking help that only Jesus could offer. Jesus was ‘hiding’ in a house in that area ‘yet He could not keep His presence secret’ (Mk 7:24). Lesson: the presence of God the Holy Spirit is everywhere, even in non religious ‘pagan’ places. If you have faith in God, you pray and He will answer you anywhere; in a ship floating on the ocean, in a plane flying in the air or even when crying underground in a forgotten coal mine. Faith in Jesus will ‘locate’ Him everywhere! That is faith!
In this story Jesus seems to reject this woman’s request for help. There are three things that Jesus does here that we find hard to believe. The first is that Jesus ‘does not answer her a word’. The Word did not give out a word! Jesus kept silent only when He was on trial before Herod. But He was never silent before a needy person. But here, Jesus gives this woman a cold silence ‘answer’ to her prayers. Question: can you accept this cold silence from God and still have faith in Him? Will you continue to pray without grumbling that God is ignoring you? Then you are making progress on the path of an expected miracle!
The second thing Jesus does is to ‘discriminate’ this woman. The disciples were probably told by Jesus to let Him rest a bit, to protect His privacy. But this woman comes and cries aloud disturbing the peace. They tried to send her away but she refuses to go. Against their wishes, they now have to ‘disturb’ Jesus too by joining in her requests. They advise Jesus to grant her desires so that they can all rest. But Jesus refuses to be manipulated by all men, even by His disciples. He still keeps on the path He decided to walk on. He continues to delay the answer. Lesson: are you able like Jesus to keep calm under the provocation of demands from men? Or do you answer men just so that they can leave you and your Jesus alone? Do you compromise your conscience fir the sake of peace? Men should never control your emotions or your account with their needs. Do everything lead by the Holy Spirit, even when the Holy Spirit says ‘ignore them for now’! Do not be impatient even when helping men! Learn from Jesus how to behave in the presence of stressful demands from men!
To the credit of this woman she does not take offense with any of the ‘negative’ strategies of the Master. She calls Jesus ‘Lord’ each time she addresses Him. She does not lower her respect for Him. Her worship during difficult times continues uninterrupted. This is called ‘great faith’ and it is commended by Jesus! Lesson: are you able to continue honoring Jesus thru worshiping Him in Spirit and in truth, no matter your ‘urgent needs’? Then you are walking on the Royal holy way of the Cross! Your prayers shall be answered, sooner or later!
Then Jesus calls this woman ‘a dog’. But she does not flinch. She does not draw back from that position of humble faith! In fact she accepts the word of rebuke as a blessing. She said ‘yes Lord, I am a dog. You created dogs too. I am a hungry dog under the table of Your children. I am waiting for some crumbs of mercy falling from their mouth. That is good for me. If I am healed as a dog or as a human, it does not matter. But let Your mercy reach me too’. Lesson: be careful that your opinion about Jesus is not influenced by people’s doubt. Go back to the Word of God and study it! Your life, your thoughts, your emotions and your choices must be ruled by the Word of God! Walking by faith will lead you on paths away from your family and friends’ opinions! Lesson: follow the Holy Spirit and you will arrive at your miracle! If Jesus ‘insults’ you receive that word as the ‘appetizer’ to your miracle! Delay is not denial!
Finally, Jesus removes His mask of coldness, for it was indeed a mask. Behind the Lord’s ‘rejection and disrespect’ His heart of compassion was exposed once again. After the storm of cold words and cold shoulder approach, the rainbow of compassion was displayed on the worshippers’ tears wet face! The daughter was healed and the woman was commended by the Lord. ‘Woman, great is your faith!’ May these words fall on your ears too! May God answer you for His glory and for your good! Happy Sunday to you all! God bless you!