Thought For Today

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Faith of a Woman

Faith of a Woman (Matthew 15:21-28)
My wife Anne.

This morning I was reading about the faith of a particular woman, she was not Jewish, she was called a Canaanite by the Jews of Jesus' era. (There was no region called Canaan during Jesus’ time in this area, it is believed though that the Phoenicians were called Canaanites. The apostle Mark said this lady was a Greek who was born in the region of Phoenicia.)  

A (Greek) woman came to Jesus desiring to have her daughter healed from demon possession.  Jesus spoke to her and said that he was sent only to the Jews.  He said this rather bluntly to her as almost to discourage her from asking any further.  His statement seemed unlike our perception of Jesus in that he asked the Canaanite woman if he should throw the children’s bread to the dogs?  This woman’s faith in Jesus’ abilities and her desire to get her daughter healed was strong though, and she would not be deterred.  Even before this, she encountered her first obstacle, that is, of the disciples trying to discourage her.  They told Jesus that she was "continually pestering them."  What faith this woman had in enduring all these obstacles.  I imagine not only the disciples gave her a hard time but the Jewish crowd as well.  She was not a Jew and in those days, most Jews did not talk to Gentiles, much less a woman.  In Jesus’ time, women were considered second-class citizens that were to be totally submissive to men and their will.  In John 4:27 Jesus is found by his disciples talking to a woman (Samaritan, no less) at a public well.  Even among Jesus’ disciples they could not believe that he would address a woman in public, much less a Samaritan woman.  

Great Grandma Marji
In getting back to our Greek (Canaanite) mother, after she had made it through all these obstacles, the Greek woman finally meets Jesus, and still with Jesus' obstructive statements, she is not deterred.   We now know that Jesus came also for the Gentiles (us) so why did he say these things to her?  In Matthew 15:24 Jesus says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  His mission was to first reach as many Jews that would hear his word.  In Romans 1:16 Paul says that the gospel was sent first to the Jew and then to the Gentile.

In getting back to the Greek (Canaanite) woman once again, what faith she had, to get as far as she did.  Putting up with the abuses along the way and yet if this is not enough, when reaching Jesus, yet another road block was put before her, and that was from the person she knew could heal her daughter.  Jesus was not worried at all what the other Jewish followers were thinking, or that of his disciples for that matter.  He was not the person that went with the crowd to please everyone, nor was he concerned about the crowd’s anger toward him for even talking to a non-Jew.  So, then why do you suppose Jesus spoke to her as he did?  In Matthew 8:5 a Centurion (Roman soldier in charge of 100 men) asked Jesus to heal his servant.  He also was not Jewish and yet Christ said that this man had more faith than anyone he had met in all Israel.  Jesus healed this man’s servant due to his faith and yet he did not deter this man as a he did the Canaanite woman, one must again ask, why? 

Will, Aunt Gayle, and Great Grandma.
Both individuals, the Canaanite woman and the soldier were not Jewish, both possessed faith beyond those in the land.  So why did Jesus make it harder for this woman to have her daughter healed?  In 1 Chronicles 28:9 says that God searches the heart and understands the motives behind the thoughts.   We may never know why Jesus said what he said to this lady.  Perhaps though, it might have something to do with her position in society.  She was a Greek, and many of them considered themselves in the world to be superior to the Jews and all others.  The Greeks as a race of people had at one time been in the place of Rome, master of the world, in power.  Now during Jesus day, even the Romans knew that the Greeks were their fore-bearers, much like the British are to us here in the United States.  They as Greeks held much status in the Roman world.  Now for this Greek woman to take the abuse that she did from the Jews in trying to reach Jesus, it was obvious that her love for her daughter would know no bounds in helping her child to be healed.  Jesus was not into status like the Greeks and Jews of his time, it meant nothing to him.  The Greeks claimed their previous glory where as many Jews claimed their heritage from Abraham as being the elect, and better than those around them.  Jesus knew that all of mankind was created by his Father and if a person’s heart was searching for their savior, then he would reach out and meet them in the place were they were at, because he first searches for us.  Romans 8:27  ". . . And he who searches our hearts. . ."

Our daughter, Abby.
Perhaps this Greek woman was being tested.  The heritage that she was born with, the prominence in society that she held, and belief that Greeks were superior to the Jews, perhaps needed to be finally washed away from her soul.  Would she let go of this place she held for herself in her heart, for the sake of another?  She placed her life and that of her daughter’s into the hands of this man from Galilee.  The Greek woman through her desperation was able to see that nothing in this world was worth keeping, not even status.  It was her love for her daughter that helped her to see this and a mother’s need to give her all for her child.  It was in perhaps her willingness to forsake all that brought her to Jesus, and with this, she became humble and contrite.  Perhaps then it was Jesus, who was testing her?  Would she be deterred from the man that had healed so many?  Was she able to give up all that she held dear before her and see that it is nothing?  In humbling herself, she knelt before Jesus.  In this act alone she was admitting publically that this man before her was greater than she herself, otherwise she would have remained standing.  In response to Jesus’ question, she answered, “Even the dogs eat scraps from the master’s table.”  Matthew 15:27 

Abby with mommy and
cousin Emily.
Perhaps there was some looking on seeing her kneel before Jesus saying to themselves, “A proud Greek finally brought low before a Jew, serves her right.  Now she knows that we are the chosen and she is not as special as she claims as a Greek.”

Or perchance, there were those looking on seeing the whole scene unfold before them and saying to themselves, “If she as a Greek is willing to give up her position in society and bow low and humble herself before this man, then is it my place to condemn her?  Should I as a Jew search my own conscious and see what is holding me back?  Do I falsely hold on to my position of prominence and look down on others?  Is this what is keeping me from knowing God?  It appears that if this Galilean is from God, then he does not care what race I am, or what place I hold in society.  This man Jesus seems to look at the heart.  Is my heart right with God?”