“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.” Matthew 15.21-28
Never before have I read about Jesus wanting to send someone away who was wanting help. But I bet this was a part of Jesus’ plan all along. Part of the story and a part of God’s inclusion to the Gentile people.
The women who came to him was Canaanite. One of the oldest tribes to occupy the Promised Land. It was often referred to as the land of Canna. This woman is not a Jew. She is not a follower of Yahweh and therefore really has no place in God’s plan to save the Jewish world. But she comes to Jesus anyway crying out, “Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Jesus tells his disciples to “send her away, for she keep crying out after us.” Now this doesn’t sound like Jesus. It sounds like someone who is impatient and tired of people coming to him only for what he can do. But this isn’t Jesus’ true intention. He wants to see the faith of this woman and thus make a way for the Gentiles to find salvation.
So they have an exchange of words about how he’s “sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” But the woman, who compares herself to a dog who gathers the crumbs from under the table demonstrates great faith. Jesus even says as much. And he heals the woman’s daughter that very moment.
Desperate people often do desperate things. As a parent, I could not imagine seeing my child suffer. The woman, apparently a loving mother, was no different than you or I. She was willing to keep hounding the Messiah/Healer/Rabbi until he brought healing to her daughter. Even when he told her that the blessing wasn’t for her, she did not stop. She persisted and even admitted her role as not a primary receipt of God’s grace but one who might receive part of the overflow. And as a result, her faith healed her daughter.
Jesus honors those who cry out to him. I love the Psalms because in it we see the openly exposed heart of David crying out to God often in desperation and prayer. God wants us to want him and to rely upon him for all of our needs.
When was the last time you cried out to God for salvation? For forgiveness? For healing? Let’s assume the attitude of the Canaanite woman who pestered the Messiah until she got what she wanted. By His grace and for His glory.
“O Lord God, I need you every hour. I need you in times of feast and in famine. I need you when my breath is shallow and when it is full. Come now, Holy Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Help me win the battle and cling to the cross. I thank you Lord for loving me and for saving your people – both Jew and Gentile alike. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen