So a few years ago I ventured out into the wild unknown for a dangerous hunting trip—Black Friday. I camped out the night before to secure my spot in line. I had my eye on a digital camera that was on sale. I had to have it. After I waited what seemed like an eternity, the doors opened, and I was pushed and shoved aside by others who wanted the camera too, but were too impatient to wait their turn. It still bothers me that they got the deal and I did not, all because they did not wait their turn.
But those hijackers had something in common with the mother in Matthew 15:21-28. She was after something, and what she was in search of was so important to her that she was willing to go to great lengths to get it. In fact, the best word to describe her situation is desperate.
Her daughter was oppressed by a demon—by something bigger and stronger than they could ever dream of fighting off—and this was breaking the heart of this mother. There is nothing harder for us than to watch someone we love suffer, and feel helpless because there is nothing we can say or do in the moment to make things better. But truth be told, if we could we would go to any lengths to fix it.
We could imagine that this mother had tried all of the things that were at her disposal (visiting top professionals, trying the home remedies her friends recommended) with the great hope of resolve, but still nothing. And just when she was at her breaking point, Jesus came to her town.
Yes! she must have thought. Here is where the good news starts, healing happens, problems get fixed, and we all get happy, right? Jesus is in her town. But when she cried out to Jesus (verse 22), He ignored her (verse 23). Rather than flinch at His rejection, however, she kept on pressing Him so much that the disciples asked Jesus to tell her to knock it off.
What happens next is quite shocking.
Says Jesus: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (verse 24). Say what now, Jesus? It appears that even though He came to pay the penalty for the sins of the world, He had a special mission to the people of Israel first. And while that may seem difficult to read, He was fulfilling the assignment on which He was sent. His disciples would be dispatched later to minister to those outside of the nation of Israel. Jesus was not being exclusive here, but focused.
He had focused His earthly ministry on reviving within Israel an understanding of God and His mission for them. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 10:6 when He sent them out, “go. . . to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus prioritized His mission to Israel so that He could send them out to everyone to carry this good news!
So here Jesus tells this mother who is in a desperate situation that He was not sent to her people—in other words, Jesus was saying to her, “Woman, wait your turn!”
What would you have done? Would you have gone home and taken your pager with you so that you would have something to alert you to your turn?
Not this mother. Her desperation releases a faith that will not be denied: “Lord, help me!” (verse 25). Clearly, she was not leaving Jesus’ presence without the blessing she sought.
Jesus said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (verse 26).
Say what now, Jesus? Did you
just compare me to a dog?” she must
Growing up, my best friend had a dog. She loved that dog, and I did too. We played with him and enjoyed his company, and when she got married, he made an appearance in the bridal party. I had always noticed that when I stayed for meals, he always ate when we ate—in fact, we would toss food to him. He was part of the family.
Was Jesus priming the woman’s faith somehow? Was He hinting at something? Was He hoping to signal something such as “You’re a part of the family”?
Her response? “Jesus, if all I can get are the crumbs, I’ll take it!” (see verse 27).
This mother’s desperation released a faith that caused her to be persistent, to not wait her turn, and to see even the crumbs of Jesus’ blessing as more than enough! She affirmed Jesus’ power. If all He gave her were crumbs, that would be more than enough. Jesus was so impressed, that He rewarded her faith and healed her daughter.
Are you desperate enough for God’s blessing in your life that you are willing to not wait your turn? Can you imagine how our lives would be affected if we exercised faith like this mother, persistent pressing into the presence of God until something happens?
I read somewhere that “well-behaved women rarely make history,” and I think that this could be translated: “to be world-changers, we must have faith to not wait our turn!”
What situations in your life are telling you to be passive, to wait and just accept things as they are? Do you have a family member who has hurt you, made a shipwreck of their lives, and you sit by and watch them while harboring the pain inside? Maybe God is challenging you to not listen to the whispers of life that are saying, “Wait until they come around.” This may be your time to cut to the front of the line and exercise desperation, and cry out to God for Him to deliver, and not leave until you hear from God.
What issues internally are you struggling with that you have told yourself, “I’ll grow out of this; time will make me lose my appetite for it”? What if God wants you to recognize your desperation, refuse to wait your turn, and consistently and persistently seek Him for the power to overcome now?
What assurance of God’s salvation in your life are you hoping to experience later in life, and feel as if it cannot be yours now? You think you have to wait until Jesus returns to feel the peace of knowing you are covered by Him. And maybe God is saying, Do not listen to your own internal dialogue. You do not have to wait to experience the joy of salvation. You can have it now!
Chanda Nunes is a pastor and evangelist from Kansas City, Kansas.
Many of us know that God speaks, but how many of us have experienced Him responding? Have our prayer monologues turned into conversations? Most can testify that God hears, but what happens when our encounters with Him necessitate a response? These are all questions that I believe His word can address. Join us as we investigate an encounter a woman in a dire situation had with the Savior of the World.
Day 1 - Read Mark 7:24, 25
Day 2 -Read Matthew 15:21-23
Today it is very important to know that God is real. Sometimes He can seem far, and the stories of Him can be perceived as dated, making it feel as if there is a chasm between the Jesus of the Bible and the one we can talk to daily. That is why the description Mark gives of Him is worth noting. Have you ever not wanted to be bothered, or just wanted some time to yourself? Jesus, the very personification of love, appears to want a breather. Have you seen a side of God that was very real to you? We’d love to hear about it here at Message. Send us your thoughts.
Day 3 - Read Matthew 15:23
I have a tough question to pose. Has God ever come across as rude in His dealing with you? Was there a time you wondered if He was giving you the cold shoulder? In these verses we see Jesus do something that we do not see Jesus do very often. See if you can spot it. Let us know if you see it, and tell us your thoughts on it.
Let us know your responses: #messagemagazine.
Have you ever been introduced to the Jesus who will ignore you? If you notice, the woman who comes to Him is not dealing with what we would call a small issue. Her daughter is dealing with demonic possession, yet Jesus seems unconcerned. Have you been through a stressful or worrisome situation and felt that God did not respond to it with the same passion and expedience that you would have liked?
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Day 4 - Read Matthew 15:24
Day 5 - Read Romans 8:28
While growing up in the church I would often hear people say, “God is not a man.” Jesus’ response to the disciples when they insisted that the woman be sent away is a perfect example of this. Though He did not initially respond to the woman, He said to the disciples, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel,” suggesting that He was not sent to people such as the woman in the passage. Is it possible that Jesus was trying to teach the disciples something through the actions of this “heathen” woman? Has God ever used an unlikely method to teach you something? We would love to hear your story.
It may not seem like a verse that is connected to our story of study, but I ask that you take notice of something. Here is the verse in the King James Version: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
It dawned on me a while ago that I have a tendency to interpret the Bible in a selfish way. I like to apply verses like this to myself and not as they really are. Yes, I believe that God will work out things for my good, but that is not what is really being said here. Instead, things will work together for the good of “them.” “Them” may or may not be “me.” Something may happen to me that is for the good of someone else, and vice versa. This woman was “ignored” by Jesus so that the disciples could see an example of real faith.
What happens in these verses is profound. It is of note that this woman is a Syro-Phoenician. Syro-Phoenician people tended to be Baal worshippers. Jewish people in those days would not customarily speak to them, much less women from that region. Finally, it was traditional for females from that area to be called “dogs” by Jews. The faith of this woman gave her the victory over being treated the way her god had more than likely treated her. It gave her victory over being treated and talked to like every other woman from her region had been by Jewish men. To top it off, this was coming from the Lily of the Valley, Jesus the Christ. No wonder Jesus was enthralled by how she responded.
Day 7 - Wrap Up
I invite you to pray and examine how you respond to the things that God allows you to encounter in your life. Is your response one of rare faith that warrants the attention of Heaven?
Will you cause God to smile because of the special faith deposit now working inside of you? I look forward to hearing your “rare response” to God’s unexpected revelations in your life.
*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Rashad Burden is the associate pastor of the Progression church, in Atlanta, Georgia.