The Tantalizing Tease - Jesus, A Loud Woman, and a Big Faith
October 04, 2017
Jean Colombe (1430-1493)
Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.(26) But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. - Matthew 15:21-28
The Canaanite woman only wanted help for her daughter. She avoided the niceties of traditional greetings and came with desperation to Jesus blurting out the problem and request. Since she was not in the demographic of His initial mission, it was TARGETED strategy to at first ignore her. She persisted and it was TRUTH He spoke when He said He had come to shepherd Israel. Then it was possibly a TEASE when He said that it was not right to give the children's food to dogs - an example of the twinkle in His eye and His bantering humor.
She agreed and the upshot was that she passed the TEST of faith with flying colors in front of all the onlookers. Her request was granted and the mission of Jesus to the whole world was foreshadowed.
TARGET - We have to narrow our focus in life and ministry if anything is going to be accomplished. The strategy of Jesus was attuned to the purpose of God for the entire world. However, the baseline and starting place was with the Covenant people. He had come to fulfill what had begun and there was not skipping steps. This was not Jesus' only positive contact with Gentiles, but it was the only one where He appeared rude and unresponsive. She was loud, rude, and pushy and He tried to ignore her. But, in the end, it becomes impossible to ignore those who persist.
You have to admire her. At first she was met with silence and many of you feel you have been met with the utter silence of God. Some of us give up and that point, but not the Canaanite woman! Then He excluded her. He told her that His ministry at that point was not for her. Some of us who hung on after the silence would have slipped away dejected and offended then. Many have left churches for far less. Finally, He insulted her. Calling her daughter a dog might do that for many. This may have been humor, but she agreed and was ready with a comeback. She didn't want anything other than a few scraps. Jesus' words and her response were would not quit. You have to give her a high five for that.
TRUTH - Jesus was not lying when He explained that He was not called to spread Himself too thin during His earthly ministry. He had come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. i wonder if some of the Pharisees caught that subtle jibe. After all, wasn't it the Canaanites who were the lost and they were the included? You can find lost folks everywhere - even in church.
TEASE - I think Jesus was teasing this woman along. In the tease, He was teaching her and everyone else - including us - about persistence and the largeness of God's mission to the world. In Merriam Webster the fifth definition of " to tantalize especially by arousing desire or curiosity often without intending to satisfy it." He was certainly doing that and she was certainly exercising the third definition, " to disturb or annoy by persistent irritating or provoking especially in a petty or mischievous way b : to annoy with petty persistent requests : pester; also : to obtain by repeated coaxing c : to persuade to acquiesce especially by persistent small efforts : coax d : to manipulate or influence ..." What is Jesus teasing out of you today? In what ways is He challenging and tantalizing your DESIRE for more of what He has to offer? How are you responding?
TEST - In the end, it was a test and she passed. I think Jesus knew she'd pass. Perhaps the real test was of the way this would be received by the people watching through their jaundiced eyes of nationalism and religious supremacy. He was going through a process and he was voicing their arguments. In any sort of training including sports and military, there is a time of initiation and what you might call harassment. During that time, those without desire to succeed (among other things) are eliminated, and those who persevere move on. The time of testing produced elimination or confirmation. In faith, we can come back when we are ready, but we will not move on without deep desire and perseverance through obstacles. Jesus will not do us the disservice of removing the requirement of personal and spiritual development from our lives. He is more interested in us becoming all that we can be than in anything else for us.
This is not about a dislike of Gentiles. He came to draw all men and women to Himself and He certainly remembered Grandma Tamar, Grandma Rahab, and Grandma Ruth, his Gentile ancestors. It is about identifying a target, respecting the truth, teasing out faith, and passing the big test of great faith. In the end, that was the message. She had great faith and that faith transcended any "accident" of her birth and heritage.
It was her faith that saved the day. It was her faith that both Matthew and Mark hold up as an example to the rest of us who would otherwise be excluded from promises of God apart from grace.
God grant us great and persistent faith through every trial of life.