Sunday, 1 December 2013

Faith is often tested

When we read the story of the interaction between Jesus and the woman of Canaan (Matt. 15:21-28), we may be surprised at the way Jesus initially responded to her plea for help. It is possible that his way of dealing with her was designed to correct some misapprehensions that she had.

The lady was in a desperate state because of the health of her little daughter. She must have heard that Jesus was able to cure people with the same problem. When she met him, although she was not a Jew, she used terminology that only a Jew would have been expected to use when she addressed Jesus as ‘the Son of David’. Was one of her misapprehensions that she had to behave like a Jew before Jesus could help her? His answer to her, that he was only sent to help the lost sheep of the house of Israel, seems to suggest there was a difficulty about her race. I suspect she had to learn that she had to draw near as a needy Gentile sinner.

Whatever the reason, the disciples misread the silence of Jesus as a sign that he wanted nothing to do with her (v. 23). It was good for the lady that during her time of crisis she set her eyes on a silent Lord and not on the speaking disciples, for if she had listened to them she would have no hope. We have to be very careful when speaking about providences that happen to other people.

But Jesus was testing her regarding the reality of her faith. What kind of faith did she have? It is possible to be convinced that somebody can work a miracle and for that conviction to fall short of true faith; this would especially be the case when Jesus was healing numerous others. For many of those whom Jesus healed did not become his followers because their faith was limited to his ability to heal.

The outlook of faith, for which Jesus aimed, was for her to reveal humility. Her humble mind was displayed when she likened herself to a pet dog that sat below the children’s table as they were fed. She willingly put herself to the bottom of the pile. This is what made her faith great, that she realised that although she was an unworthy sinner Jesus had the power and love to help her. The lesson to us is that desperation itself is not enough when seeking the help of Jesus – there also has to be humility. Jesus was prepared to delay answering her request until she expressed her plea in a humble manner.

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