Needy. Persistent. Humble.
Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30
“But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, ‘Lord, help me!’” – Matthew 15:25 NLT
Jesus makes a rare journey with His disciples into the predominantly Gentile region called Tyre and Sidon. Once there, He is approached by a Gentile woman who has a desperate and pressing need. Her daughter is possessed and tormented daily by a demon. This woman, a non-Jew, comes to Jesus, the Messiah of the Jews and begs, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!” (Matthew 15:22 NLT). She knows who He is. She is fully aware that He is the Jewish Messiah and she is a Gentile. But her need is great and she has heard about His power and authority over the demonic world. So she takes advantage of His appearance in her “neck of the woods” and pleads with Him to heal her daughter.
The following exchange is a fascinating one. Especially to our western minds. Matthew records that Jesus made no response whatsoever. That would have been normal for most Jews. They would have had little or nothing to do with any Gentile, especially a woman. Evidently, His silence did not deter her. She continued to beg. It was the disciples who finally spoke up and urged Jesus to send her away. You hear no mercy. You sense no compassion. Why? Because they had none. She was a Gentile. These men had experienced what it was like to cast out demons and see people set free from spiritual torment. But that had been among their own people. This woman was a “dog” in their eyes. Jesus knows what they are thinking, so He tells the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep – the people of Israel” (Matthew 15:24 NLT). And Jesus is simply telling the truth. He was sent initially to the people of Israel, His own people – the chosen people of God. But they were going to reject Him and His message of hope, redemption and restoration would be made available to all people – in keeping of God’s promise to Abraham that through him He would bless all the nations of the world. Jesus was a descendant of Abraham and it would be through Jesus that all those who accept His invitation would be blessed – regardless of their nation of origin. This was still hidden from the disciples at this point. He is their Messiah. He is going to be their Jewish king. Any relationship He is to have with Gentiles will be like that that David, His predecessor had – as a conquering king.
Jesus, knowing what the disciples are thinking about this woman, tells her, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:26 NLT). I can see the disciples nodding their heads in agreement. They’re thinking, “You tell her Jesus!” Even the woman agrees with His statement. She knows her place and the prevailing Jewish sentiment about her kind. “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table” (Matthew 15:27 NLT). This woman’s response is humble and incredibly wise. She knows she has no right to come begging Jesus for help. She isn’t even a Jew. But her desperate need drove her. She could not demand Jesus to do anything. But she could humbly and persistently ask. She acknowledged her place as a humble slave, no better than a common dog beneath the table of its master. She knew Jesus could help her. She believed He had the power to set her daughter free. Like the woman with the issue of blood, she took a risk and reached out to the only one who could help her. And He did. Jesus responds, “Dear woman, your faith is great. Your request is granted” (Matthew 15:28 NLT), and her daughter was instantly healed.
It’s interesting that some of the greatest examples of faith were displayed by those outside the nation of Israel. It seems that they needier the person, the greater their faith. The more desperate their circumstance, the more determined they became to seek help from Jesus. Even among the Jews, prostitutes and others like them – those the community labeled sinners – made their way to Jesus. They were outcasts and rejects in their society, but they found help and hope in Jesus. Gentiles who had nowhere else to turn, knew that they could turn to Jesus and not be rejected. It was their need that motivated them. It was their need that humbled them. It was their need that drove them to go out of their way to seek help from Jesus. And it is still that way today. Needy, humble and persistent. That is how we need to remain in our relationship with Jesus. We must never lose sight of our tremendous need for Him. Our powerlessness and hopelessness apart from Him should constantly humble us and cause us to return to Him with renewed hope and gratitude for His help. We must be persistent and passionate in our pursuit of Him. This woman was.
Jesus, I want to remain needy, humble and persistent. I want to keep my eyes focused on You, but also never lose sight of my daily need of You. I don’t want to feel so confident in my relationship with You, that I fail to see my need for You. I bring nothing to the table that makes me worthy of Your love or attention, other than my belief that You are who You are and that You alone can make a difference in my life. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men