The Bible is a supernatural book and can be understood only by supernatural aid.1
Take this story from Matthew 15:21-28 for example:
Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”
But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”
But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”
Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”
She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”
“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.
I’ve read this story many times, each time glossing over it as quickly as possible because Jesus just doesn’t seem to be behaving as I think he should. Today, this story wandered into my consciousness again, and I was finally disturbed enough to think about it, and ask for supernatural understanding, and what I found, is beautiful.
What I know about Jesus is that he is very intentional. It was not by accident that Jesus went north, I believe Jesus knew the encounter with this woman awaited him and he knew precisely how to engage her, for her own good and for his glory. I’m fairly certain that it is consistent with Jesus’ character to be unconcerned with what others think, but to be more concerned with reaching to the very heart of a person, and if that means using an unorthodox method that may be misunderstood by the onlooker, but completely transformative to the individual involved, then so be it.
This woman could be me. I am a Gentile, and if my daughter suffered as her daughter did, there is no question I would do whatever necessary to see her healed. If a Healer was within my earshot, I would cry out as this woman did. But would I respond as she did? I hope I would.
She cried out to Jesus and “he gave her no reply, not even a word.” I’ve been there. I’ve cried out to Jesus and he gave no reply. At that point, I’ve given up. She did not. She made everyone crazy with her incessant begging for healing for her daughter. When Jesus finally did speak, he told her he wasn’t here to help her! What a blow! Yet she didn’t argue, she pressed in further. She could have ranted on the unfairness of it all, but she did not. She was unflappable. I would have caved, and wined, instead of pressing in further and pursuing Christ. She not only pursued, but worshiped him and again asked for help. She chose worship instead of pleading her case. She chose worship before her request was even considered.
Then, in what seems like a fatal blow to her desperate plea, Jesus says (and I paraphrase) “My power is intended for the chosen ones of Israel not for the undeserving Gentile.” There are so many things she could have said to that, so many ways she could have argued for why this was unfair, her pride, her sense of entitlement, her perceptions of her own goodness that might make her deserving of the Lord’s favor. But she chose instead to agree with Jesus, and say in essence, “Yes, you are right Jesus, I am undeserving, but if you would be willing just to share a scrap of your power it would heal my daughter, and I would be grateful.”
Agreeing with Jesus about who we are is always the best option and will ultimately lead to healing. Jesus gave this woman a rough time. But she pressed in and pressed in unabashedly and undeterred in humility. Her tenacity earned her the greatest prize, to hear the voice of Jesus say to her “Dear woman.” After all that, it turns out she was dear to him all along! And then, as if being dear to Jesus wasn’t enough, he speaks the word, and her daughter is healed!
The take away?
- Prayers are not always answered immediately.
- To continue seeking Jesus in the midst of what we perceive as indifference builds our faith and character, and that may be what God knows we need more than a response to our prayer.
- Worshiping BEFORE a request is granted puts our hearts in the right place.
- Agreeing with God about who we are demonstrates the kind of humility God can bless.
- To a worshipful, humble, faithful heart, Jesus replies, “Dear Child, your faith is great, your request is granted.”
This story is a microcosm of the spiritual journey. This woman accomplished in moments what may take us a lifetime. I will no longer shun this story as difficult and awkward. I will look to it often as a reminder of what it looks like to be humble before an Almighty God.
1. A.W. Tozer: Man, The Dwelling Place of God