2010-11-18 - Have Mercy on Me
The Persistent Gentile
Jesus and His disciples ventured north toward the coast to Tyre and Sidon. This these are gentile cities and represents the world outside of Jewish faith and culture. Stories of Jesus precede Him even here. A mother whose daughter is in a desperate situation calls to Jesus. She is not Jewish, but like the woman with the issue of blood she seems to find help nowhere else. There is a desperation of sorts coupled with tenacity and faith. She believed that Jesus could help her daughter. The rest of the people in the region don't seem to be very interested. But this mother sought Jesus out when she heard he was in town.
There are several interesting items in the rest of this passage:
She gave Jesus His position - Lord, and Son of David. She honored Jesus and gave Him His title that placed her subservient to Him. She also asked for mercy admitting that she was not worthy.
Jesus didn't answer at first. This apparently went on for some time since the disciples asked Jesus to tell her to go away because she never stopped calling out to Him. She was unrelenting in her efforts for her child. There is a sense that she truly believed that there was no hope anywhere else to find healing for her daughter. I was disappointed when I thought about the disciples missing this opportunity - and wondered how many times have I missed the same kind of opportunity.
Jesus finally acknowledges her presence saying that He was not sent to her and her people. We have seen the Lord come to Matthew's party where Jesus was chided by the Jewish leadership for consorting with Gentiles. He replied back to them that He had come as a physician to help those in need of a doctor. The leadership believed that they kept the Law and the Prophets perfectly and needed no spiritual doctor. Their efforts to keep the Law blinded them to their need of a Savior. They thought they could meet God's standards themselves.
So Jesus was pushing her just like the rich young ruler. Sell all that you have and follow me Jesus told him. The young man went away sad and did not follow Jesus because he had great riches, or they had him, and he wouldn't give them up. This next moment to me is staggering. Here Jesus presses her further saying that He couldn't give to dogs what belonged to God's chosen people. He insulted her and she accepted it with tremendous humility. To call someone a dog was to say they were not a person of any value. She was willing to accept the crumbs from the master's table knowing that it would be enough! This is faith in the face of adversity. Bowing and begging for help she took the rejection and the abuse from the One she came seeking and held on to her belief.
In an instant everything turns and Jesus blesses her - "... your faith is great" Imagine the shock on the faces of the disciples as Jesus accepts this Gentile woman's faith and rewards her with these words. It grips my heart to imagine what she felt at that moment in time. This Gentile woman is not unlike the Centurion who Jesus marveled at the faith the man declared. Jesus blessed The Centurion as well for having tremendous faith. He was also a Roman and outside the Jewish people. Then "... it shall be done for you as you wish." Her request, her prayer for her daughter's healing and release from possession, had been granted. I wonder how her family's story of faith affected the area. It wasn't a story that was going to go untold or unnoticed.
Am I too proud to be pushed that far? Would I persist like this woman did? Would I see the door as closed and not worth pursuing? There is undoubtedly a picture of the heart of a mother's love for her child. But she sought mercy for herself and healing for her child in a place were she was not at all guaranteed an audience. Christians have an understanding of their need for a Savior and physician, but do we really see how dependent we still are? Even Paul decried his spiritual state saying that he did the things he wanted not to do and didn't do and the things he wanted to do for Christ. We are called to persistence in prayer - to pray without ceasing. The world gets in my way too often. This woman went to the Lord with her prayers never losing sight of her need and her certainty that Jesus was the answer.
Humble. Prayerful. Persistent. Selah!
Grace & Peace,