Matthew 15: 21 - 28; Mark 7: 24 - 30
After the death of a dear friend, John the Baptist, Jesus went off with His disciples to a quiet spot near Bethsaida (Luke 9: 10), apparently for a time of reflection. However things did not quite go as planned. This desert plain by the shores of the Sea of Galilee was soon buzzing with the crowds that followed Him.
In similar circumstances we might become upset and consider it was unfair - this was ‘private time’. But Jesus had compassion on the people, and began to heal the sick and infirm whom they had carried with them to Bethsaida. There was no way He could turn them away - He actually preached to them until evening. Then much to the amazement of his disciples He fed them - all 5,000 men, plus their families!
Then He goes up into the hills alone, to spend time with His Father. Later He starts back across the lake (!) to help His disciples, who are in trouble on the water. When they reach the shore, people hurry to bring their sick friends for Him to heal. He had had no sleep - His time had been taken by prayer, walking on the water, and aiding Peter to do likewise. The round of healing and preaching and teaching began again.
Not long after, they set out again. This time to make the journey to Tyre and Sidon. Here Jesus has the encounter with the Greek woman who begs Him to go and drive away a demon from her daughter. The fact that she addresses Him as ‘Lord’ and ‘Son of David’ demonstrates tremendous knowledge and insight on her part, as well as an amazing admission of faith in Him. She was from a place that was despised by the Jews and was often the scene of conflict.
So what was the reaction of the desperately worn out, wanting a rest, end of His tether, sleepless Saviour? He did not immediately say anything. The disciples wanted to get rid of her. Jesus apparently was not going to do anything. This woman must have felt desperate. What was happening with her daughter right now? Was she being thrown around, was she convulsing? What danger was she in?
In her urgency, she had even sought Jesus in a nearby house, and now again she approaches Him. The men who were with Jesus speak over her head - as if she was not there - telling Him to send her away. She must have felt humiliated to be basically ignored. Then, anger, rejection and disappointment, when the only words that Jesus does say to her appear highly insulting. It would have been easy to curse Him and walk away having lost her faith. She doesn’t even argue her claim on Him is as good as that of any Jew. She doesn’t plead for her rights at all. Rather she throws herself at His feet and cries for help. She does not claim any right to the grace of God but rather casts herself on His mercy. She acknowledges that His first commission is indeed to the Jews, and suggests that she would not for one moment presume to take any blessings set aside for them. She would be content with any small blessing unwanted by the Jews - she was not prepared for anything to go to waste. First pickings certainly went to the Jews but she was prepared to be second. After all there had been 12 baskets of food left over when He had fed the children of Israel.
This woman showed great insight, patience, perseverance and humility. Her focus was on her daughter’s needs and not on her own rights, and she was even prepared to be seen as a dog under the table if it meant that her loved one could receive some of the Master’s crumbs of grace. She demonstrated absolute faith and trust in Jesus - acknowledged by Jesus when He told her that her request had been granted!
The Bible never promises to answer our prayers immediately, and the Lord does at times test our faith for our eventual good.
We can be assured that:
1. God is faithful, and will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. But when we are tempted He will provide a way out - so that we can stand up under that temptation. (I Corinthians 10: 13)
2. When we suffer trials and grief, they have come that our faith may be refined and we may be proved genuine. (I Peter 1: 6, 7)
Faith is tested when it is taken to the limits of our endurance - something that only God knows and can determine.
Prayer and Action
When it feels like it just is not fair, let us say like this woman, ‘Yes Lord, I believe You know what is best for me - I am a sinner. I deserve none of Your blessings, but I throw myself before You trusting myself to Your grace and mercy.’