Tyre and Sidon belong to a region in Israel which is inhabited by non-Jews. From this district, a woman came to Jesus and started shouting at Him “Take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.”
Jesus was silent.
The shrieking voice of the woman must have gotten on the nerves of His disciples that they themselves went to Jesus and pleaded to Him to give what she wants. But Jesus was firm, and for a reason: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.”
Earlier (that is, in Matthew 10:5-15) he sent his disciples for ministry, instructing them to go “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and forbidding them to “go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.”
But the woman pleaded, knelt at his feet, “Lord,” she said “help me.” He replied, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.”
The woman was not asking for a ‘full meal,’ she was merely begging for some ‘scraps.’ She knew the situation and she didn’t need to be reminded: There is a great abyss that separates Jews from Gentiles, even if they are just within arm’s reach.
Limitless love, unfathomable faith
Jesus may be ultimately Divine, but He’s perfectly Human, too. His being in a human body situates Him in a human context bound by cultural and societal norms. In this Matthean pericope, we note that he has a clear bias: to search for the lost sheep of Israel.
First, Jesus smashed the boundaries which separate a Jew from a non-Jew. He went beyond the prejudices of his society, and perhaps, even his personal bias as well. He did exactly what she asked.
Here we see the unlimited love of God for everyone. While it is true that at times, we see that certain individuals appear more blessed than the rest, God’s grace silently does its work which transcends sex, geography and race. God’s essence is love, not the cheap brand. It’s genuine, and only a love that is genuine knows no bounds.
Second, the woman had great faith in Jesus.
Jesus was preceded by His reputation. He’s known as a miracle worker, not just in Galilee, his immediate environs, but also in regions which are populated by gentiles. The mother knew that Jesus could help her daughter find healing; she also knew that Jesus was a Jew, and she is a gentile. To approach Jesus, is to make herself vulnerable to be rejected. But she weighed her options: her faith weighs heavier than her fear of rejection.
Jesus was her only hope, and she realized that she badly needed this cure for her child. She cannot afford a ‘no’ for an answer. And so, she exhibited a brand of faith that is not just a mere lip service, she wowed Jesus by manifesting not just a faith which puts her knees to kiss the ground, but also, that kind of faith which makes her act according to how Jesus wills.
At the end, we are told that Jesus does not only recognize the faith of the woman, he marvels at her faith, and finally, does what she asks. Her risking it of paid off. Her daughter’s good health returned.
Do we want to experience God’s unlimited love? Let’s do what that woman did: have faith.