Dave spoke tonight from Matthew 15:21-28, a rather surprising story where we see Jesus being apparently quite abrupt and unfriendly towards a foreign woman who came to Him pleading for Him to deliver her daughter from demon possession. The woman was a Syro-Phoenician, Mark tells us; Matthew uses the more Jewish term ‘Canaanite’ to indicate that she came from a pagain heritage. She was distraught because of her daughter’s situation and came to Jesus as perhaps her last hope. She knew that she did not deserve to be heard, but she came to him asking for mercy, and in this story, we see several pointers as to how we too can approach Jesus.
First of all, she sought Jesus out, making a determined effort to reach Him. She cried out to Him for mercy, and the Greek word indicates a continual, persistent crying out which could not be ignored. She appealed for mercy, identifying with her daughter’s suffering and acknowledged Jesus as ‘Lord, Son of David.’ She may have been a foreigner, but she recognised Jesus as the Messiah, the One sent by God to deliver His people.
Jesus, unusually for Him, seemed unwilling to respond to her cry; He ‘did not answer a word.’ He seemed unresponsive, and spoke of His primary calling being to the lost sheep of Israel. In calling her a ‘dog’, He seems to us blunt to the point of rudeness, but we see that He was testing her faith. His first duty was to the Jews, but once rejected and crucified by them, He became the Saviour of the whole world and now we are all given that Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations.
The woman was so desperate that she was not put off by Jesus’s comments at all. She knew she was unworthy, but she also knew that deliverance came only for Him. In addressing Him as ‘Master‘, she acknowledged that even ‘crumbs’ from Him could save her daughter; she believed and bowed down to Him in a great expression of faith, for which Jesus commended her.
This story teaches us to come to Jesus with persistence, to bow before Him and believe He is able to heal and deliver us. We can tell Him our needs and never be afraid that He will turn us away. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that without faith it is impossible to please God; we need to emulate the woman’s persistence, insistence, boldness and earnest plea for mercy. We must storm heaven with our prayers, never giving up, asking and keeping on asking until we too receive mercy from God.