The woman had a daughter who was being tormented by demons and she was not going to let the Healer go until she got her request. She believed that this Jewish Man had the power to heal her daughter and she was not going to miss this opportunity to bring her request before Him (Matthew 15:22).
When you are in a place where you must hear from the Lord and He must answer or all will be lost, what does it take to deter you? When the Lord is not the last resort, but He is the only resort, for He is the only one who has the power to change the situation, how much resistance does it take to cause you to give up? The disciple of the Lord Jesus has been invited into the throne room of the living God to make our requests known to Him (Hebrews 4:16). In Jesus, believers have been given “boldness and confident access through faith in Him (Ephesians 3:12).” The Lord Jesus Himself told us that “our Father who is in heaven gives good things to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11).” But do we take these promises as seriously as we should? When we must have an answer from the Lord, what will stop us from praying? We have much to learn from this Canaanite woman.
In this episode, Jesus has traveled outside of Jewish Galilee into Gentile territory. A Gentile woman approaches Him and His disciples and begins crying about her daughter, who is “oppressed by a demon (Matthew 15:22).” Jesus and His disciples try to ignore her, but she keeps making herself a pest. Finally, Jesus implies that she is a “dog” and that she is not entitled to His blessings, but she replies that even dogs get crumbs. Then Jesus grants her request.
THE LORD TESTS HER FAITH
What is going on here? What is going on here is that Jesus is testing this woman’s faith to reveal to her and to us that her faith is the genuine article. As Lord of the universe, Jesus reserves the right to test faith, but this is not so that we will be discouraged, and Jesus is not playing games with us. Jesus takes faith very seriously and He never plays games with His children. Jesus does test our faith, but we must remember that Jesus is God and, as God, He already knows that outcome of the testing. Also, true faith manifests itself in perseverance and in persevering prayer. If the woman’s faith is true, she will persevere. True faith will not rest until God answers.
THE WOMAN HAS BOLD FAITH
Notice how the Canaanite woman cries out to the Lord Jesus: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon (15:22).” First, she cries out for mercy. There is no pride or feeling that she deserves a response, but rather a humble request for mercy. She calls Jesus “Lord,” meaning that she is seeing Him in some sense as the Hebrew God, Yahweh. Although not a Jew, she cries out to Him with the covenant title, “Lord.” And she calls Him the Son of David, meaning that she believes He is the promised Messiah, the one from the line of David who will be the King of the Jews. So, her request is marked by reverence and respect.
But notice also that the woman made her request boldly and directly. Both her words and her actions (kneeling and begging) displayed reverence and honor to the Lord Jesus, but that did not blunt the force of her request. She needed the Lord to act on her behalf, and this was no time for undue politeness. “If You, Lord, do not act to change this situation, all is lost. Hear my cry! Do not delay! O Lord of the universe, my King and my God, answer me and grant my request!”
HOW HER FAITH WAS TESTED
Instead of granting her request right away based on her faith, however, the Lord allows her faith to be tested.
- She is a Canaanite and a woman. She is a “dog” outside the Abrahamic covenant promises. The initial test would be to believe that she had any part in the messianic blessings. Would the Jewish Messiah even respond to her? Does she have any part in the Messiah?
- The next test is that Jesus does not even speak to her (15:23a). She calls out to Him, but He does not even talk to her. He ignores her. But it is important to notice that He did not say “no.” He has not given His answer yet.
- Jesus’ disciples beg Jesus to send her away (15:23b). This must have been discouraging.
- Jesus says that He has been sent only to the house of Israel (15:24), clearly implying He has not come to help Canaanites. But it is again important to notice that He did not say “no.” Jesus has not given His answer yet.
- When she continues kneeling before Him and asking for help, the Lord tells her that the children’s bread should not be given to dogs (15:26), making painfully clear that she is outside the messianic community of the Jews and not entitled to their blessings. But please notice that Jesus has still not given His answer. He has tested her faith and He has rebuffed her, but He has not given an answer yet, yes or no. And since He has not given an answer, the woman continues to ask.
HER PERSEVERANCE IN FAITH
Despite what I see as five separate tests to her faith and five separate opportunities to stop requesting and to give up, the woman only leans in harder. Her daughter needs Jesus to heal her, and this woman will not relent until Jesus either heals her daughter or gives her an unambiguous no. So, after being called a Gentile dog (maybe “puppy” would be a better translation, so it is not quite as insulting as it may sound), the woman accepts the label and continues pressing her case. “Yes, Lord (she always calls Him “Lord”), but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table (15:27).” The woman has gained her request. Her faith has proven true and the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, praises her. “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire (15:28).” The Lord answers, “yes.”
As the Lord tested this Canaanite woman, so He may test our faith and may delay His answers to our prayers. He may bring us all the way to the edge of the cliff before He gives us His answer. But does He not have the right to test the strength of our faith? But the question is, “How do we respond to these tests?” We persist and persevere in our prayers until the Lord gives us His answer. We do not take delays or periods of silence or even apparent setbacks and rebuffs as His “no,” but we persist until we either receive our request or the answer is unambiguously “no.” We maintain the fervency of our prayer, believing that the Lord will answer the prayers of His children made in faith (John 15:7).
SDG rmb 11/27/2020