Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But He did not answer her at all. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was immediately healed. (Matthew 15:21-28, NRSV)
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I do not know about you, but at first glance, this passage quickly turned into my least favorite miracle.
What is Jesus saying? Why does He sound so rude? Why is He treating this woman like this?
However, when diving into confusing passages like this, we cannot take them at first glance. Instead, we must always choose to allow the whole Bible - who God reveals Himself to be throughout His whole story - to dictate and interpret the confusing parts.
So, with that in mind, the story begins with Jesus leaving Galilee and entering the district of Tyre and Sidon.
From what just happened right before this passage, we know that He most likely crossed the boards into a “Gentile” land to escape the wrathful questions of the Pharisees (who He had just offended).
And their game plan here was simple: Stay quiet, remain unseen, and lay low. But as we read, this obviously did not seem to happen. For unto them came a loud woman.
She was Phoenician - a Canaanite - unclean, unrighteous, and as pagan as they get. Yet in her shouts we see that her belief and understanding of Jesus was more correct than the “clean,” “righteous,” and “holy” Pharisees. She stood in a direct contrast to the Jewish leaders of the day.
In fact, she calls to Him “Lord, Son of David.” In other words, “Master, the Messiah.”
And He turns and listens, right? Nope.
So she yells more. And more. And more. Yet in her continual pleas, nothing seems to grab His attention.
So, in annoyance, the disciples prod their master, “Just do what she wants and send her away!” They wanted the screaming to end. They wanted the wails to cease.
But Jesus responds so seemingly cold. He states that He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. This woman - who was not among His people - was not His current mission.
You see, on this side of the cross, the veil had yet to be torn - the gateway separating God from the Gentiles was yet to be broken. In other words, the timing was not yet appropriate.
“But she is wailing,” we think. “Her daughter is being tormented. Why is it not yet time? How can you do this?”
In our confusion, our hearts begin to distance ourselves from this “version” of Jesus. But notice what the woman does... She comes in much closer:“But she came and knelt before Him saying, 'Lord, help me.'”
Notice the posture change. The distant wails turn into humble requests as she drew nearer and nearer. But again, Jesus responds so unlikely.
“It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” In other words, how can she expect to eat of the children’s bread, when she is not a member of the family?
In such a disappointing phrase, we are again taken aback by what Jesus is doing; by what He is saying. How can He feel justified by calling this woman a dog?
But once again, His difficult statement does not cause her to react like we do. Instead, in humility, she agrees to His statement in full.
Her words quickly communicate the unworthy stature of mankind in the presence of God. And her rationality reveals her faith.
She knew that even the dogs of the household were fed the crumbs. That the master’s meal was still extended to others - especially when the children would not eat of it.
And to her, she would take the leftovers any day. With this single statement, she proclaimed a heart posture that mirrored her physical one.
And in her final and grand display of faith, Jesus grants her request.
But let us look again at the journey it took for her to get here. It communicates over and over that our God’s ways are not - at all - our ways.
I am reminded of Abraham.
There was a moment in His life when God did something seemingly cold. He tells Abraham to kill His son; to travel up a mountain with His only boy and take his life.
“Why God? How can you do this?,” we think. But Abraham takes the journey. He draws nearer and nearer to the commandment of God - despite his concerns.
With every step forward, He - much like this woman - displays a heart posture of humility and submission.
And when Abraham obeyed with rationality, God saw the greatness of faith. And when this was seen, God looked to His concerns and spared Issac's life.
This is the exact thing Jesus is doing. He tests her faith - knowing that it is there - and when it shows itself evidently, He grants her the concerns of her heart.
When it seems like God is distant, press in more. When it feels like you have wailed long enough, find more to submit. Do not get overwhelmed with irrationalities.
The testing of God, though much greater than our minds can fathom, is always in complete alignment with the faith He knows that we possess.
Today, let’s follow the lead of this woman.
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Greg, Declare Glory