Persistence with God
Matthew 15:28This story can be an unsettling one. We think of Jesus as full of compassion, yet when a Gentile woman came to him for help, he at first ignored her. Then Jesus spoke to her, apparently saying that he had come only for Jews, and therefore he would not help her. Finally, Jesus tried to brush off the woman with a comment about children and dogs ("dogs" was a Jewish slur on Gentiles).
We don't know what motivated Jesus in this story. Truly, he had been sent first to Israel. The Gentile mission would come later, after his resurrection and ascension. It's interesting that Jesus did not send the woman away when the disciples encouraged him to do so. Did Jesus envision a teachable moment here? Did he press the woman because he sensed her extraordinary faith? Was he implicitly critiquing the "Israel only" attitude of his followers? We can't know for sure.
What we do know is that Jesus ultimately responded favorably to the Gentile woman's request. He granted her plea for the healing of her daughter. We also know that Jesus affirmed the woman's faith. Her bold confidence in Jesus paid off. Her persistence was rewarded—and demonstrated to the disciples an essential dimension of faith.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever come before God with a request, only to feel as if you were rebuffed? Have you ever asked for something in desperation, yet God seemed to be silent? What did you do? Did you persevere in your prayer? Or did you give up in discouragement? What would help you to keep on asking, even in the face of what seems to be God's silence?PRAYER: Gracious Lord Jesus, I react with such mixed feelings to this story. I admire the woman's persistence and am glad you ultimately heeded her request. But you seem so harsh, so uncaring. I realize I may be missing what's going on here. And I understand that you were sent first to Israel. But your responses to the woman's desperation are uncharacteristically hard.
So, dear Lord, I ask you to teach me more of what is going on in this story. As I continue to grow in you, as I study your Word, as I pray, help me to understand you more deeply and truly. When you don't measure up to my expectations, may I be open to new learning, new challenges.
Finally, I want to thank you for responding to our persistence. One might think that our continual prayers would bug you, even dishonor your majesty. But, in fact, you teach us to ask and keep on asking from you what we need. So, help me, Lord, to be persistent in my prayers. May I be like this Gentile woman as I come before you. May I have such great faith, such strong confidence in you. Amen.