… A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” Jesus did not answer a word …
Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (verses 22-23, 28)
This woman is outside the circle. She’s a non-Jew. She’s a foreigner. And yet, she knows exactly who to come to for help in a helpless circumstance. Her daughter is demon-possessed – this mother knows she needs divine intervention.
How did she know about Jesus? How did she come to understand who he was? We don’t know, but already we see her faith as she approaches. “Son of David,” she calls him, indicating her belief in him as promised Messiah, the anointed Deliverer. That being the case, when she calls him “Lord” it seems unlikely she’s using the term as a common equivalent of “sir.” It seems certain she is using this title for divinity deliberately, with full faith.
Yet hearing her heartfelt, faith-filled request, Jesus “did not answer a word.”I’ve been in that very place. Have you? Crying out, but hearing no response from the Lord, receiving no indication he was even listening?
But he was. Keenly. He knows what he’s doing, even though the woman can’t see it clearly right then. Even though I can’t see it immediately when I pray.
He’s testing the woman’s faith, not in the sense of “toying with her,” but in the sense of strengthening it under strain. The strain comes in Jesus’ apparent non-response. Yet the woman doesn’t falter – she keeps pressing in. “Lord, help me!” (verse 25). This is the true heart of prayer. Throwing yourself on the only one who can help.
Again, Jesus puts her off, focusing on the fact (tried and true) that he is called to the “lost sheep of Israel,” that it is not right for him to take the provision of the children and give it to their dogs.
The woman, unfaltering even with this apparent slight, presses in more keenly yet. “Yes, Lord,” she says, using that fully-loaded title, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
“Woman, you have great faith!” he says. He’s given this evaluation only once before, interestingly, also with another non-Jew, the Roman Centurion back in Matthew 8:10.
We don’t notice, reading only the text, but I swear I see a twinkle in Jesus’ eye throughout, knowing the woman’s faith, already strong, will rise wonderfully to the strain, increasing in strength and depth and determination. This is his purpose.
O Lord, may I, too, rise in the strain. May I press in, without faltering. May I see the love in your eyes as you make me wait. May I not shrink from the challenge. Oh, may you strengthen me like saints of old who didn’t see what they prayed for, yet kept on keeping on pressing forward, trusting you (Hebrew 11:39). May it be.
Reflect: What long-prayed prayer will you re-commit into the Lord’s hands today?