“And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.’ But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and begged Him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she is crying out after us.‘ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ And He answered, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.”(Matthew 15:21-28)
God bless this lady! She had strong faith. Though it doesn’t surprise me, as she had a child to take care of—and there’s just no way this mother is going to leave Jesus alone as long as she has the smallest hope He might agree to heal her.
I’m sure Jesus knew that. I suspect it’s the reason He felt safe doing what He did—that is, testing His disciples. He knew the woman wasn’t going away no matter what He said. But the disciples—what about them? In all their time with Him, had their hearts gotten any softer? Had they learned anything yet about love and mercy, during all the times they’d seen Jesus healing the poor, the foreigners, the women, the children?
I’m afraid not. Just look at what happens! When this Canaanite woman comes asking and Jesus is surprisingly silent, none of the disciples ask, “Lord, why are You being so weird today?” They don’t even say, “Would You please heal her daughter so she’ll stop bugging us?” No, they say, “Send her away.” That is a failure right there.
But Jesus gives them another chance. He says two more things that sound really discouraging, even rude—in fact, exactly what the disciples probably wish He would say all the time! And what happens? Do the disciples say anything—are they even surprised? Nothing. The woman keeps asking, the disciples say nothing—and finally, Jesus gives up on them and reverts to His usual merciful Self. He praises the woman, promises healing, and sends her home.
Failure. And yet, Jesus will heal the disciples, too. Through His suffering, death, and resurrection, He will change their stony hearts into hearts full of His own love and mercy. They too will learn to love the people of the world—all the people, including the Gentiles, women, and children. They will heal, they will show kindness, and they will take the message of God’s lovingkindness to all of us throughout the world. We can see it start on Pentecost Sunday.
We Pray: Lord Jesus, be patient with me when I fail to love, and give me a heart like Yours. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on August 17, 2023
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights
1. What kind of people do you personally feel most uncomfortable with?
2. When you think about Jesus’ acts of love toward you, does that change your attitude?
3. In what specific ways is Jesus teaching you to show kindness and mercy to them?