By J.R. Miller
Much of the public life of Jesus was devoted to caring for sufferers.
The doctor's little girl told the messenger where she thought her father could be found, as he was needed immediately, "I don't know, sir; but you'll find him somewhere, helping somebody." When people sought for Jesus and could not find Him, He was usually away with someone in need, doing good, helping somebody. At this time, however, He was trying to get away from the crowd. He certainly was not trying to hide from His enemies, for He never had any fear of men. Probably He needed rest for Himself and His disciples. At least we are told "He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it." We are sure Jesus never hides away from those who need Him in their distress. It is never true that He cannot be found. He never shuts the door upon those who pray to Him, or those who come to Him in trouble and want to find Him, refusing to see them. We will never find Him absent nor in hiding when we go to Him with any question or any need.
Try as He would, Jesus was not able to get away from the people. His attempts to have a little rest, were always thwarted. We are told here that though He wished to remain in seclusion, He could not be hidden. We cannot hide flowers--their fragrance will tell where they are. Jesus could not be hid from human need--there was something about His love which revealed Him to all who had any need. In this case it was a mother with a great sorrow who sought Him. Her little daughter had an evil spirit. We cannot understand how a child could be possessed by a demon--but in this case it was a child. Very great was the mother's distress. This woman had heard in some way of Jesus and of His casting out of evil spirits over in His own country. She had never expected that He would come into her neighborhood, as she was a Gentile, living outside the limits of His country. But when she learned from some of her neighbors that the Great Healer had come to the town, and was in a certain house, she lost no time in finding her way to Him. She came with strong faith. She was sure that Jesus could free her little girl from the terrible trouble. She fell at His feet, in the attitude of deepest humility.
Mothers may get a lesson from this Gentile woman. If their children are sick--they should hasten to Christ with them. If they are in the power of any form of evil--they should especially seek the help of Him who alone can give help in such cases. There are evil spirits besides the demons who possessed people in our Lord's Day. Every child is exposed to constant temptations and my receive hurt. In every child there are natural evil tempers and dispositions which, if not cast out, will greatly imperil the life.
The first difficulty in this woman's way, was the fact that she was a Gentile. Christ was not sent to her--but the gospel now is for all the world. No nation has any exclusive claim to it. It is for the world. But Jesus devoted Himself only to His own people. Not until after He had died and risen again--were His disciples sent to all the nations. The woman's nationality was a barrier. Jesus was not sent to any but the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Matthew tells us that when the woman began to plead with Jesus, "He answered her not a word" (15:23). This is one of the strangest incidents in our Lord's whole life. Usually He was quick to answer every call for help. His heart responded instantly and lovingly to everyone who came to Him. A Christ silent to the cry of a mother, pleading for her child, seems so contrary to what we know of the sympathizing and helping Christ, that the record seems almost incredible. He was never unsympathetic, unloving, indifferent, or cold. We may be sure, however, that His silence in this case did not show lack of interest in the woman. His heart was not cold to her. All we can say, is that the time had not yet come for Him to speak. The woman's faith needed still further development and discipline to bring it to its best.
People sometimes think now that Christ is silent to them when they call upon Him in their trouble. No answer comes to their cries. He seems not to come for their distress. But they may always know that the silence is not indication of indifference. Christ's delays are not refusals. When He does not speak to answer our pleadings, it is because He is waiting for the right time to speak.
Matthew tells us also that the disciples interfered, begging Him to send the woman away. They seem to have been annoyed by her following after them, and her continual pleading. The fact that she was a Gentile may account for this. The Jews had no sympathy for the Gentiles. It took the disciples a long time, even after the day of Pentecost, to be willing to carry the gospel to a Gentile home. Here they wanted Jesus to send the woman away and to stop her annoying cries. This is the way some people try to get clear of the calls of human need, even in these Christian days. They cannot stand the cries of those who are suffering. They cannot bear to see those who come with pleas of distress. They turn away from their doors, those who come asking for help. They do not know that they are turning away Christ Himself, for He says that in the needy who stand before us, asking for aid--He Himself stands, hungry, thirsty, and sick, a stranger. "Inasmuch as you did it not unto one of the least of these, you did it not to Me" (Matthew 25:45).
When Jesus did speak to this woman at length, it was a very discouraging word that He said. "First let the children eat all they want--for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." The children were the Jewish people. They were in a peculiar sense God's family. It seems very strange to hear the word "dogs" falling from the lips of Jesus Christ, applied to Gentiles. It does not seem like Him. It would not have been surprising to have heard the disciples use this offensive designation, for they still were full of the narrow Jewish spirit. It was common for the Jews to call the Gentiles by this name. However, Jesus was different. There was never in His heart even a shade of contempt for any human being. No doubt there was something in the tone of the voice which Jesus used, or in the look of His eye as He spoke to the woman--that took away from His words, the offensiveness.
Certainly she was not insulted by what He said. Perhaps she was encouraged by the word "first", "First let the children eat all they want." A first implied a second. Or she may have detected in His language, a play upon words which gave her hope. There were little pet dogs in the home as well as children. She was only a dog--but the dogs had a portion. They lay under the table and got what the children left. The woman with her quick wit seized upon the picture which the words of the Master suggested. She was content to be a dog--and to have the dog's share. Even the crumbs off that table--would be enough for her.
There is strong faith in her reply. At last she had won her victory. Jesus said to her, "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter." In all the New Testament, there is no other such striking illustration of the persistence of faith. Obstacle after obstacle was met and overcome. The woman believed from the beginning that Jesus had power to heal her poor child, and she determined that she would not go away without winning from Him the help which she so very much needed.
The lesson for us is--that we should never be discouraged by delays in the answering of our prayers. Even God's silence to us should not dishearten us. He before whom we stand, can do for us whatever we need to have done. Nothing is impossible to Him. He waits to draw out of faith--until it reaches its fullness of power and wins its victory.
If this woman had turned away at any time, discouraged by Christ's seeming repulse of her, by His silence, or by His seemingly scornful words--she would have missed the blessing which at last came to her in such richness. No doubt many people fail to get answers to their prayers, because they are not importunate. A man spent thousands of dollars drilling for oil. At last he became weary and gave up the quest, selling his well for a mere trifle. The purchaser, in two hours after he began work, came upon one of the richest oil wells in the country. The fist man had lost heart just two hours too soon. The same lack of persistence causes failure, no doubt, often, in praying. Jesus says we should always pray--and not faint; that is, not give up.
We can picture the joy of this mother as she at last went to her house and found her child well. Her home was not longer darkened by this old-time sadness. The child was no longer under the power of the demon--but was happy and well and beautiful. Whatever the trouble with their children may be--mothers should always find the way to Christ and should plead with Him in patience, persistence, and faith, until their children are blessed and happy.