Since we focused on the words of Jesus to Peter in Matthew 14 concerning “little faith,” it seems proper to put Jesus’ words to the woman in Matthew 15 in perspective as well. The narrative starts in verse 21 and Matthew reports that the woman is a Gentile caught in a terrible situation. Her daughter is tormented by a demon and she pleads to the Lord for help in freeing her daughter.
The actions of Jesus are off-putting to most contemporary readers, mostly because it appears that he disrespects the woman and, at first, won’t even respond to her…ignoring her. Even the disciples urge Jesus to send her away because they consider her begging to be bothersome. Yet, she persists. So finally Jesus talks to her, but basically claims that she isn’t from the right family line for him to help. Again, it seems harsh. However, she asks for help again. In verse 26 Jesus basically calls the woman a dog, which was a common derogatory term used by Jews against Gentiles, and again the woman is not shaken by the conversation. She asserts that even dogs receive some of the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.
Finally in verse 28, Jesus says this, “Dear woman, your faith is great. Your request is granted.” It must have been a jaw dropping moment for the disciples to see this Gentile woman continuing to beg Jesus and he finally respond with such complimentary language. She goes from dog to “dear woman.” And as mentioned above, her “faith is great” which stands in contrast to those whose faith is little. So, what are we to make of this?
Well, in the last post we made a distinction between trust and belief. And while this Gentile woman might have had pagan roots and has no unfolding narrative of lifelong faith in God…it is her trust in the moment of great distress that makes Jesus take notice. Her trust in Jesus allows her ego to be insulted without affecting her resolve. It is her trust in Jesus as the one who has the ability to remove the demon from her daughter that compels her to keep begging no matter what response she receives. After all, if you know that he holds the cure to your child’s affliction, then his reactions don’t change your resolve. It is this resolve that shows great faith, and so this Gentile woman shows utmost trust in Jesus, and she returns home to a healed daughter.
What we receive from Matthew is a snapshot of this woman, and we would like to now her future but we don’t get that. The lesson is in this snapshot—she trusted Jesus and her story challenges us to have great faith in the moment.
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.