Mother’s tend to me ones that will go to the ends of the earth for their children. I suppose the reality of dealing with labor and birth pains sets a mother up for going further and giving more than most would imagine for the good of their children. But, there are some who just go further than we would expect.
In Matthew 15:21-28 there is such a story. We don’t even know this mother’s name. Jesus and his disciples had withdrawn to the region of Tyre and Sidon to get away from the crowds. Jesus wanted time with the apostles to teach them and prepare them for the difficult days ahead of them. He kept telling them that the cross was coming for him but their minds were closed to the whole idea. So, he took them off on this trip to spend personal time with them and show them some things they needed to understand.
A Canaanite woman from the vicinity came to him crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
Try to imagine yourself in this mother’s place. She is of a different race than Jesus and knows fully that the Jews don’t associate with people of her race and background. But she has heard the stories of him and how he can cast out demons and free a person from the suffering and agony that Satan puts one through when they are demon possessed. I suspect that if she told anyone in her home town what she was thinking of doing in going to see Jesus, they likely strongly discouraged her from going. They might have reminded her that she was of a different race and color than Jesus. They may have told stories of others they knew of who had tried to get some help from a Jew in dealing with huge problems in their lives only to be ridiculed or abused by these Jews. But her love for her daughter meant more to her than any challenge or warning that anyone could give her. So, she traveled to the region and sought for Jesus. Finding him she quickly made her plea. She longed for mercy and the kind of help in casting out a demon that no one else could offer.
I’ve tried to imagine what it would have been like to come to Jesus and the apostles as a Canaanite woman and make the plea for your child. She surely felt out of place, nervous and fearful. But her thoughts of her child being tormented by the demon, drove her on. Imagine the agony in her voice as she pleaded, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” What happened when she made the plea? “Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” I don’t know what it is like to be a mother. I do know as a dad that it would have been so difficult not to strike back or to verbally attack Jesus for his answer. I would have wanted to say, “Don’t you hear me? It is my little daughter that is being punished and mistreated by a demon. How can you not care for her and drive this demon out from her?” But, thank the Lord, she didn’t react that way at all. If she had she could have justified her actions and talked to everyone about how unkind Jesus was to her and to not care for her daughter. But her child would still have been demon-possessed and tormented by the devil.
“The woman came and knelt before him. ‘Lord, help me!’ she said.”
He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” To be honest it hurts every time I read this. How she kept from saying, “Are you calling my daughter a dog?” is amazing. She could have poured out her heart on what it is like to be abused or looked down on by you Jews. But she was bigger than that. She cared much more about her child and her cure than about her feelings. So, she answered Jesus statement that it wasn’t right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs by saying, “Yes it is, Lord, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” In making this statement she took the Lord’s own message and used it to make her point about needing his help.
Jesus was so moved by her statement and reaction that he said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” What happened to her daughter? She was healed at that moment! Everything changed in that child’s life because her mother refused to be offended and took in the rejection to continue to plead for the help the daughter needed. Her whole world turned around in that moment and would never be the same again.
I think of a time a few years ago when I was needing surgery on my back and the doctor who was sending me to a surgeon said, “I am going to send you to this doctor. Let me tell you on the front end his bedside manner is horrible. But he is the best surgeon for this type surgery in this area.” Well, he was right on both fronts. His bedside manner was horrible but his surgery went great and I never had any problems with it after that. It makes me wonder how many blessings in life we miss because our feelings are worn on our sleeves and we become offended easily. It is often better to put up with some things that don’t hit us right and hang on than to allow our feelings to get hurt and cut off a whole relationship.