There is a strange and most unusual picture of Jesus in a scene in one of the stories about Jesus. It sure looks like Jesus ignored a woman’s pleas. But that would not never happen! We just know that Jesus would never turn His back on anyone. The scene in question shows a Canaanite woman begging Jesus to heal her sick daughter. So, what is going on here? First of all, she is a woman, and at that time, women did not speak to a man in public. Besides, she was not Jewish. So, she had two strikes against her. It is true that sometimes Jesus said or did things that were surprising, even shocking. First there was His silence. We are surprised that He would give no word of response to a desperate woman’s pleas. That seems so unlike Him.
We expect God to be there for us when we call on Him with our problems and concerns. And we do get impatient with God when He does not answer our prayers right away. So, in spite of our impatience with God, we can still appreciate why He delays in responding to our plea. This is so not only because He is not our personal Santa Claus and because God is not at our beck and call. Just answer me this question: Would you really want to live in the kind of world where all our questions are answered immediately, and all problems are solved for us? Perhaps an example or two may be helpful. We would stop dreaming of what could be, or stop being inventive. Think about a growing child who reaches a stage, early in life, when he resents having everything done for him. He soon learns to say, “I can do that myself.” And a wise father and mother find ample opportunity for him to do just that. It is part of the growth and discovery process, and a large part of the fun of living.
We also agree, I am certain, that God is the wisest and most loving of all fathers on our earth. He will not do for us what we can and ought to do for ourselves. The last thing God wants to do is prohibit His children’s growth or rob them of fulfillment. God made us with a capacity to dream, and He would be most unkind to us if He left nothing for us to dream about. He gave us a zest for discovery, and He would be very unfair if He left nothing for us to discover. The bottom line is, we need problems to solve. We need hurtles and other blocks in our way to our future. And that is just because we can handle them.
So, no matter what it looks like or what it sounds like, Jesus is not uncaring about human suffering. Jesus cried about the destruction of Solomon’s famous temple. He cried when His friend Lazarus died. And there are many more stories of healings by Jesus. He even raised people from the dead. This is the real Jesus who loved and cared for the sick and poor. The woman had a sick child. And we know how much Jesus loved children and even encouraged us to become like children. In His sermons and stories, Jesus was always teaching His disciples real values. So, this may well be the reason, as I see it, for Jesus’ strange behavior at the beginning of this encounter with a Canaanite woman. This mother and her daughter became a powerful example of persistence in prayer. It means we must never stop praying, but at the same time, let’s not try to push God around to carry out our wishes. The rest of the story is a happy ending for the woman and her child and did you notice that Jesus complimented the woman’s great, unwavering faith.
It is faith, a great faith; a defiant faith that enables us to believe in God’s caring for us in the face of all odds. When we face the confusing and, sometimes, tragic events of life, we need to remember the ending of this story and hold on to our faith, like the Canaanite woman did, until the whole story has been told.
God bless you and your loved ones.