It’s a confusing story, really—the disciples are annoyed with her and Jesus seems to call her a dog.
Matthew tells us the story in 15:21-28 and Mark does the same in 7:24-30. Between the two of them, we learn Jesus is tired. He and His disciples head north (modern-day Lebanon) … out of range from demanding crowds and arguing Pharisees. Jesus tries to keep His presence a secret … He’s hiding away … worn out.
A woman (Gentile, Canaanite, specifically Syro-Phoenician. Read: Not of Israel) recognizes Jesus and comes pleading—falling to her knees—begging Him to heal her daughter who lies home tormented by a demon.
The disciples are annoyed … drained perhaps. “Tell her to go away” they say.
Jesus pauses. He explains to her His mission is first to Israel.
She won’t take “No” for an answer.
She pleads with Him.
She pushes harder.
Calls Him Lord.
Even with a long history of animosity, war, and the influence of Baal worship on Israel, Jesus’ response is confusing to every scholar I read. Jesus replies to the woman with, “It isn’t right to take food from the children (Israel)and throw it to the dogs (Syro-Phoenicians).” Commentators debate: “He was just testing her.” “He was using local slang.” “He was rude.” It seems we don’t really know what was going on in Jesus’ mind (surprise). But we do know Jesus is God in-flesh. Therefore we know the comment was somehow not unloving. We know from other stories Jesus never rejected someone who came for healing (even Gentiles). I, too, don’t really understand Jesus’ response. But, that’s okay.
What I do understand is that the woman didn’t give up!
She came back at Jesus with, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” I can imagine Jesus smiling as He praised her, “Your faith is great. Your request is granted.”
That is the part of our story I’d like us to take away.
The Leaning-In, Moving Closer Part.
We hear this same lesson many times from Jesus. His story about the persistent widow was instruction on tenacity in prayer. And the undeterred neighbor who needed bread in the middle of the night was a tutorial on perseverance in prayer.
When times are hard and we are in need, Jesus teaches us, lean in. I’m here, He says. When you’re feeling Heaven is silent. Move in closer. When it seems God is ignoring you. Keep asking. When you think there’s no answer. Be persistent. Maybe even a little pushy.
It’s a challenging time in our world right now with COVID-19. It may be an even more challenging time for you personally … loved ones who are ill … children far from God … depression … frustration … economics. Whatever it is, it’s harder right now because we are alone—isolated.
So I’d like to invite you to share your prayers in the comments section below … and I’d like to ask this online community of daughters of Eve to take those prayers to God with doggedness. And if you don’t feel comfortable sharing online, that’s okay, but lean in … lean in to Jesus till He says to you, “Your faith is great. Your request is granted.”
The Syro-Phoenician woman? Her daughter was healed that instant. But even if her daughter wasn’t healed instantaneously, I have a feeling this woman wouldn’t have given up. She would have keep persisting. Kept begging. Kept worshipping. And kept calling Him Lord.
May we do the same.
>…the persistent widow… Luke 18:1-8
>And the undeterred neighbor… Luke 11:5-13
Pictures in Order of Presentation:
>The Woman of Canaan at the Feet of Jesus by Jean-Germain Drouais, Paris, 1783-84. Resides at Musee du Louvre, Paris. Retrieved 6/11/20 from: https://www.wga.hu/html_m/d/drouais/jeangerm/canaan.html
>The Canaanite Woman Asks for Healing for Her Daughter by Bazzi Rahib, Ilyas Basim Khuri (Coptic Monk), Egypt, 1684. Retrieved 6/9/20 from: http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55922
>Woman of Canaan by Sadao Watanabe, Tokyo, Japan, 1965. Retrieved 6/11/20 from: https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/woman-canaan-26809
>Jesus and the Woman of Canaan by Michael Angelo Immenraet, 1673-1678. Resides at Unionskirche Idstein Collection, Germany. Retrieved 6/5/20 from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37307817
>Jesus and the Canaanite Woman from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry. Manuscript Illumination. French, 1412-1416. Retrieved 6/9/20 from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Folio_164r_-_The_Canaanite_Woman.jpg