I’ve been hesitating for several minutes before typing this first sentence. Do I really want to write this? Do I actually believe what I want to say?
In Matthew 15:21-28, a Canaanite woman comes to Jesus and begs Him to drive a demon from her daughter. I think most of us would expect Jesus to do what she asked. Instead, it says, “Jesus did not answer a word.” Hmmm, not exactly how we’d expect Jesus to deal with her.
She doesn’t give up. But then Jesus tells her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” In other words, my mission doesn’t include you. I came to the Jews.
This woman won’t quit though. She’s fighting for her daughter’s life, so she continues to ask for His help. That’s when Jesus seems to act out of character again. He says, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
Um, did Jesus just call this woman a dog?
Actually, there’s more than one Greek word for dog. The word he uses here is the word used for “puppy.” He’s not calling her a dog. His point is the same as earlier; His mission is to the Jews, not to the Canaanites.
I love her boldness and tenacity. “Yes it is, Lord. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” She refuses to go away. The disciples have probably grown tired of her pleading, because they encourage Jesus to send her away.
I would love to have been there for this whole exchange. Jesus made it clear His mission was to the Jews, but she wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. It’s a stand off. Now what?
The next verse says, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed.
Wait. What happened? Why did Jesus change His tune? We’ll get to that in a moment.
I think we can take away at least two key points from this encounter–one from the woman’s example and one from Jesus’.
First, great faith means not quitting. If our request is met with silence, we don’t give up. We seek God and keep on seeking. Hebrews 11:6 is clear: “…He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
There’s a difference between seeking and earnestly seeking. The Canaanite woman was an earnest seeker and she was rewarded. We don’t see rewards going to the halfhearted, casual seekers.
The second point has to do with how Jesus responded. Even though Jesus was fully God, He had chosen to set aside His rights as God and lived as a man. Philippians 2:6-8 says, “…have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Jesus took on the limitations of humanity, but He was filled with the Holy Spirit and He walked in intimate communion with the Father. Both of those are available to us as well.
John 5:19 says, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
So I wonder if Jesus was in such intimate fellowship with the Father that when the woman kept insisting He help her, the Father whispered, “I’ve also sent you to her.” Could the same thing have happened at the wedding in Cana when Jesus’ mother tells him the wine has run out? He initially responded with, “Woman, why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come.”
Maybe for all His life Jesus had the sense that His hour had not yet come. He may have said this same thing many times. And He says it again at the wedding, but something was different this time. Maybe this time He heard the Father’s whisper, “It’s time now.” And then He turned the water into wine.
Without being in close relationship to the Father, Jesus would have missed the Father’s voice. The same is true for us. So what might God be whispering to you? What encouragement or instruction might He be giving to you today…that you’ll miss if you’re not seeking Him?
In John 14, Jesus goes on to say something even more incredible…
Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Jesus modeled for us how to do life. He even said we would do greater works than He did. And that’s the reason I hesitated to even write this post. Greater works than Jesus? Really? What about the unanswered prayers? The people who weren’t healed? The relationships that weren’t restored? The bills that couldn’t be paid?
I don’t know.
I’ve seen God answer prayers. I’ve seen things that have no rational explanation. But I’ve also experienced unanswered prayers. So I have a choice. You do, too. We can set our sights lower and expect less, which I’ve written about before. We can conclude that God doesn’t do miracles any more and just settle for the best we can do. Of course, we’ll have to learn to ignore large portions of the Bible.
We can be like the Canaanite woman and be bold and tenacious. We can refuse to quit when the answer doesn’t come how or when we’d hoped it would.
We can choose to model our lives after Jesus and remain in intimate fellowship with the Father and believe and attempt things that seem impossible, because it’s the Father doing His work through us.
What are YOU going to choose?