But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”
Matthew 15:23, NLT
This is exceptional. Jesus is always engaging people around him. He teaches and preaches, fully energized by the Holy Spirit. He is a veritable hurricane of goodness and love. He heard every request, and healed every disease. But yet. On this occasion he is completely silent.
The woman’s piteous crying, and begging was seemingly ignored. “If Jesus won’t respond to me, I will go to his followers.” She presses, and cajoles. She falls on her knees. Have you ever seen a person truly beg? It is a very disconcerting experience. Yet, Jesus does nothing, in spite of being able to do all things.
She is a Canaanite; a pagan widow, and her daughter was demonized. Curiously, there was a large heathen temple to Eshmun, the Canaanite god of healing, was just three miles down the road. But her desperate cry was for something real. Something authentic and real that would heal her daughter’s affliction. Only Jesus has what she needs.
Jesus is astonishingly silent. He stands and sees, he hears her cries. She is sobbing, clutching at the disciples robes, disheveled and distressed. It was a desperate scene. Very ugly and very sad.
Jesus responds to his disciple’s plea. Then there is something that seems like a negotiation. A protracted conversation with a ‘seemingly’ reluctant Messiah. It is somewhat disturbing as we listen. Jesus seems to treat her callously. I have always been mystified by this, troubled by his behavior. I can only conclude that what he did was necessary in some way.
But the Son of God sees through this.
And then she makes an incredible statement. Jesus is suddenly amazed at her faith in him. This faith is what he has been waiting to see. She may have known despair, but that isn’t enough. Jesus leads her from the edge. Until she moved to a position of belief, nothing will change. Faith seems to change everything. This is key. It isn’t her words that alters things– it is her heart! At that moment, Jesus declares a healing for her daughter. She is now free from the demon’s grip.
So often I have also felt the pressure from the darkness. I am often embattled and driven into a despair that seems to cripple me. But Jesus is waiting for me, to come to him through an unflinching faith. My good works can never, ever be enough. I’m just like a dog, waiting for food under the table. I have little, if any, decorum or sophistication. There is nothing at all, to commend me to him. Nothing at all.
“Our Lord sometimes yet seems to be silent to His people when they cry to Him. To all their earnest supplications He answers not a word. Is His silence a refusal? By no means. Ofttimes, at least, it is meant only to make the suppliants more earnest, and to prepare their hearts to receive richer and greater blessings. So when Christ is silent to our prayers, it is that we may be brought down in deeper humility at His feet, and that our hearts may be made more fit to receive heaven’s gifts and blessings.”