By Joseph Ametepe
"And Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman came out from that region, and began to cry out, saying 'Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.' But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came to Him and kept asking Him, saying, 'Send her away, for she is shouting out after us.' But He answered and said, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.' But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, 'Lord, help me!' And He answered and said, 'It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.' But she said, 'Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.' Then Jesus answered and said to her, 'O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish.' And her daughter was healed at once" (Matthew 15:21-28).
This story is one of my favorites because of the many spiritual lessons it teaches and the drama involved in it. One of the spiritual lessons preserved in it is this: "Faith expressed in Jesus Christ shines the brightest in the darkest of times." The hymn writer Elisha A. Hoffman says, "I must tell Jesus! I cannot bear my burdens alone; I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! Jesus can help me, Jesus alone." But here was a woman who brought her burdens to Jesus, but Jesus at first seemed to ignore her. He even appeared to be insensitive to her. His disciples made matters worse for her by adding insult to injury with their pressing request to Jesus to send her away. Talk about being discouraged, disappointed, disheartened! This woman experienced it all on that faithful day. She cried to the most merciful Person ever to walk on planet earth but only received "a cold shoulder treatment" from Him. She pleaded earnestly for help, but was told that the priorities that exist in God's household demands that the children (that is, God's earthly chosen people-Israel) will receive God's blessing first before the "dogs" (that is, the Gentiles).
Please understand that the term used for "dogs" is not a demeaning term. It refers to pets or puppies, not to the term the Jews derogatorily used for Gentiles. Also, understand that this is the first and only time Jesus would perform healing outside the land of Israel. Tyre and Sidon are in present day Lebanon. Also, the woman was a Gentile of Canaanite descent. God had commanded Israel to destroy the Canaanites because of their sins against Him. But Israel disobeyed God. And behold, Christ now meets a Canaanite! What a dramatic moment that was! These factors are crucial to understanding this story. Despite all that happened to discourage and dishearten and dampen the woman's spirit, she remained resolute in seeking Jesus' help. What seemed to be a discouragement or denial was Jesus' way of drawing out and deepening her faith in Him. Her faith in Jesus shone the brightest in the darkest of times. Have you cried out to Jesus in your crisis and He seemed unresponsive? Please, don't throw in the towel! Don't give up! Perhaps, He is working in your heart to draw out and deepen your trust and confidence in Him. Depend on the Holy Spirit even when Jesus seems to disappoint you! Determine in the Spirit to look to Jesus alone for help. Draw near to Jesus in humility. When His work of drawing out and deepening your faith in Him is done, you will bring delight to His heart. Your faith in Christ will shine the brightest. And He will bless you beyond belief.