Posted by: pmarkrobb | February 27, 2014

His crumbs

Have you ever had to plead for mercy?  Have you ever had a desperate need or desire and had to swallow your pride, acknowledge your place and persevere in your plea?  We meet a woman in our scripture reading for today (Matthew 15:21-28) who has me considering these questions in my own life and offering them as a challenge in yours.

In the events of Matthew’s gospel, we have just witnessed a dramatic failure of faith by the disciples, another episode of the bold and the pitiful starring the religious elite, and one of Jesus’ closest followers asking once again, “now, exactly what did you mean by that story?”  No one would blame Jesus for being a bit frustrated or even angered with His own people at this point.

At the close of His parable translation with Peter and the disciples, Jesus “went away.” (Matthew 15:21)  I think I’d be ready for that too.  But the event that soon follows makes it resoundingly clear that His “retreat” was not an escape, and was anything but random.  While in the district of Tyre and Sidon, a Canaanite woman approaches Jesus with a cry for help.  Her daughter is severely possessed with a demon, and she cries out for mercy to the Lord, Son of David.

This is a woman who has a desperate need and desire, and a clear understanding of “her place” in the shadow of the King.  She is powerless, but persistent, and continues on in her plea even after the Master passes by with not as much as a word in response.  The frustration that Jesus would have rightly felt with the disciples after the events of the recent days seems to get the better of them.   They pursue Jesus and beg Him to please deal with this woman who is “crying out after us.” … so little faith in the boat, so little understanding of the story, and now so little patience and compassion in responding to this “outsider” in grave need.

As I read and reread the story, I was overwhelmed with the enormity of this woman’s faith.  What an amazing response of humility, steadfastness and belief as Jesus first ignores, then rebuffs her with His divine disclaimer that He “… was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  She doesn’t relent, and cries out again, “Lord, help me.”  I close my eyes and try my best to experience the desperation and determination in her voice.

As if she hadn’t endured enough already, Jesus rebuffs her passionate cry again.  It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.  Is there a circumstance in your own life where you can relate with this woman?  Desperate, powerless, ignored, scorned, yet not even the hint of a retaliatory tone in her voice. “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  And there it is … the only response that you could never say if you possessed even an ounce of pride or self-determination, yet the only response that is right and just to offer the Master.  I am nothing, You are I AM!

The faith of a Centurion and the faith of a Canaanite woman …
Two “enemies” in the eyes of earthly kingdoms …
Two models of true faith and a Kingdom not of this world.

“O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”

May we hear those words from our Master in response to our faith.  May we believe as fully and as humbly as the woman from Canaan.  Jesus met her where she was.  The retreat that was seen by some was, in fact, a pursuit.  He pursues us in the same way.  Have you answered as she did?

We do not read and study the words of Jesus to learn.  We read and study because He is the Bread of Life, and His crumbs have the power to redeem us, and to change us.  Have they redeemed you?  Are they changing you?


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