I sat in the pew, taking notes, attentive to the pastor in front of me reading the story of a Canaanite woman’s encounter with Jesus (Matthew 15:21-28).
I confess the story is one I mostly glaze over, because it seems weird and uncharacteristic of Jesus. This day, God had primed my heart and mind to hear something new.
Prior to this moment in Scripture, Jesus had held conversations with people driven by religious achievement. He then encounters a woman in great need asking for mercy purely out of belief that He is the only one who can change her circumstance. But He responded so uniquely, throwing up obstacle after obstacle. He spoke hard words, and she persisted. She was determined that even a crumb from His hand would be enough to change her life. And He was delighted by her faith!
I imagine she had exhausted all other options, abandoning idols of her friends and family, desperate for any semblance of breakthrough. Nothing was working. Nothing was changing.
I can relate. I can relate to the madness of seeking deep peace and durable joy by ways not God. I can relate to the feeling of getting so close to freedom you can smell it, but never experience it work its way into your system. By grace, His Spirit is renewing us. I saw the reality of the gospel in full color that day: a life of faith, by way of God’s Spirit, is fixed on God and His perfect, crucified, resurrected, reigning Son – not self.
Like this woman encountered obstacles in her pursuit of Jesus, an obstacle to wholehearted surrender to Jesus I fight every day is self-reliance.
Maybe that’s why I’m deeply inspired by the Canaanite woman’s response to Jesus referring to her as a pet dog. She doesn’t respond with a report of why He should consider her worthy of His help or recite back to Him his resume of past healing. She agrees with Him! In my imagination I hear her say, ”You’re right. I’m not enough. But I believe You are the answer. I believe You are the one to bring wholeness to my life again. And I don’t need much but a little of Your mercy.”
For a long time, self-sufficiency, with its cycle of anxiety and constant critique, kept me from a deep understanding of Jesus, the only true connection to God (Romans 6:1-14).
How so? Because fear and pride drown out the freedom that comes with repentance (2 Timothy 2:24-26). Fear and pride load us down and cloud our vision of Jesus. Fear and pride don’t want to admit unworthiness. They preach loud that we should hide our humanity from others. And they stifle the joy and rest of our identity as Christ’s beloved.
Are there “paths” you continually exhaust, for life and love, only to have them crack under the weight and leave Jesus standing there steadfast and true?
Jesus marveled at the woman’s faith, calling it ‘great.’ And her daughter was healed.
Jesus said that this Canaanite woman had faith like none in Israel. And she is our example. We can never hope too much in the grace of God, never lean too fully into it. Would we rather be dogs feasting the crumbs off of God’s table or “heroes” asking God to reward us for our greatness? I’ll take the path of the dog every single time. J.D. Greear
Great faith aims at the right object, God, not self, not marriage, not work, not wealth. Great faith is courageous and humble. Great faith doesn’t mask or hide sin, it repents. Great faith seeks wisdom, works for peace, and gives generously. Great faith stands in the storm of uncertainty on the power of its unchanging Author and Finisher (Hebrews 12:1-2). Great faith is absent of fearful, self-protecting pride. Great faith magnifies the grace of God.
Great faith says every single day: Jesus, I’m here because You are the only way, truth, and life. Nothing less than You is enough, and there is nothing better than You (Philippians 3:7-12).
You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:4-6