A cry for help

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pastorbernie@yahoo.com

21Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” 23Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” 25The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 26He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 27“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 28Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

A Canaanite woman suddenly found herself in a very hopeless and desperate situation. Her daughter became demonic-possessed and she came to Jesus for help. Jesus’ reaction to her plea came in three interesting expressions. First was that of silence. Jesus did not answer her at all (v.23). The disciples took advantage of this silence to urge Jesus to drive the woman away. That would have been an understandable reaction. The woman was a Canaanite. As far as the Jews were concerned, she was second-class pagan, undeserving and unworthy of the Lord’s time and attention.

The second response of Jesus was so shocking and seemingly very inappropriate, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” He was obviously insinuating that since she was a Canaanite and not a Jew, Jesus had nothing to do with her. But instead of turning away or taking offense, she humbled herself further and said, “Lord, help me.”

The third response of Jesus was simply so outrageous, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” In this third response, Jesus was referring to the Canaanites as “dogs” unworthy to partake even the crumbs of the Jews. At this point, the woman, instead of giving up, showed greater perseverance, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” At this moment, Jesus knew that this mother was not going to take a “no” for an answer. To this reply Jesus could only say, “Woman you have great faith. Your request is granted.” Her daughter was healed that very hour.

Persistence

Like the Canaanite woman, there are times when our needs are seemingly met with nothing but silence. Remember that gospel account where the disciples were caught in a big storm and Jesus was there in the boat with them sleeping? His disciples cried out in frustration, “Jesus, don’t you care that we drown?”

The disciples just couldn’t understand how Jesus could afford to sleep or be silent in such a situation. All they concluded was that he simply didn’t care. But you see, this is what persistence is all about, persistence in knowing and believing that even when nothing seems to be happening, God is certainly at work.

Imagine if the Canaanite woman walked away form Jesus and never persisted in her asking? She would have missed out on a miracle. This happens to many of us. We miss out on God’s blessings because we walk away too soon. One of my best friends in college is now based in Glendale, California. She narrated that when a Jollibee store opened in their area, she and her husband had to cue for over 2 hours just to have a taste of Chickenjoy! Now that’s persistence! In a world where people want instant gratification and quick fixes, it is important that we stop and reflect the value and power of persistence.

Being persistent and being presumptuous are two different things, however. Genuine persistence is not just insisting on what we want. True persistence is grounded on one’s relationship with Christ that is nurtured in faith. It is standing firm in our conviction that the moment we hit rock bottom and when all else fails, all things are still always possible with the Lord. “Woman you have great faith. Your request is granted.”

Peace

The biblical definition of the word peace is “well-being” and “security.” Peace is never about the absence of conflict. True peace is having a full grasp of the presence of God. Our gospel account today teaches us that every time we cry to God for help, we are opening the door for God’s presence and God’s participation in our specific circumstances. It is when we turn to God that we receive and experience peace. Unfortunately, we are living in a world that is so obsessed with peace, but so ignorant of its real meaning. Many so-called peacemakers have risen in our times and yet, nations continue to live in great fear and insecurity. Jesus Christ came to offer a different kind of peace, a peace that the world cannot understand, as the song goes. Sadly, during his earthly ministry, many rejected his peace. But for the Canaanite woman and those who humbled themselves and called upon the Lord by faith, the results were great wonders and mighty miracles.

Friends, there are times in our lives when we feel that our prayers are falling on deaf ears and we feel that we are so alienated from God. We learn today from the Canaanite woman that it is in our times of need and in our moments of vulnerability that we are able witness the glory of God in our lives. In faith, let us therefore be confident that even when nothing seems to be happening, the Lord hears our every cry for help. Let us persist. Let us learn to hold on. Let us not give up too soon. God’s help will surely come—a lot sooner than we have imagined. Peace to us all in Christ’s Name! Amen!

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