Jesus will address issues of tradition and ceremonial uncleanness, which were very important to Jewish life. He will also go out to Gentile areas and begin a ministry to people there.
Dear Heavenly Father,
There are times when we feel completely helpless, but this chapter shows us that Jesus is willing and able to help us in those times of our desperate need.
As in the case of the demons, we declare Christ’s power over the spiritual realm and any spiritual attack we may undergo.
As in the case of the woman, we believe that there is no sin, disease or condition that we may face that puts us outside of your grace, your love and your ability.
As in the case of Jairus’s daughter, we declare that Jesus has conquered even death.
Teach us to come to him for help, whether our needs are small or great. We understand that we truly depend on your grace and your provision through him, first of all, for our sin. That was our greatest need.
In Christ’s name we pray,
Coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration, this was the scene for Jesus and his disciples (from the ESV).
14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Let’s admit right from the start that rebuking a demon and getting immediate, happy results is no small thing, unless you are Jesus. He did this kind of thing all the time. Most of us, let’s also admit, probably fall into the category of the disciples. They failed.
Sometimes failure just happens. Maybe what we tried was a bad idea. Maybe it wasn’t God’s will. Maybe the failure was in our approach, so we need to go back and try again with a lesson learned. Sometimes we fail due to lack of faith. That was the case here.
Jesus doesn’t attribute all problems to demons nor all failure to too little faith, so neither should we. Sometimes, however, the battle is purely spiritual. The gates of hell are busy in their futile efforts to prevail against the church. Their failure is assured in the long run. Jesus will see to that. In the short run, we have to take a little responsibility.
Let’s willingly engage in the work of spiritual warfare, remembering that we serve a big God who promises victory. And let’s not be hindered by our all-too-usual lack of faith. The strength of the church, the souls of the lost and the advancement of God’s will in the world are dependent, to some extent, on our faithful engagement.
Sometimes we think of great faith as the kind of faith that prays for great things and sees amazing answers to prayer. That is probably how great faith frequently looks, but great faith need not always look the same. Consider the case of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15.
21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
The greatness in the woman’s faith is not that she asked for anything more than others might ask. The Gospels give several examples of people coming to Jesus on behalf of their children and Jesus healing them or even raising them from the dead. He cast out plenty of demons.
Jesus commends her faith before granting her request, but only after an interaction in which Jesus seems to refuse her. First he says nothing (v.23), then he pushes the Gentile/Jewish distinction beyond what we might even consider polite (vv. 24-26). Her humility and persistence in the face of Christ’s seeming condescension and persistent refusal brings out his praise (v.28).
If you are like me you have several prayer requests that God has not seen fit to answer even after many years, maybe decades or most of your life. And like me you struggle and are tempted to give up. You might see numerous reasons why God would never answer these prayers. “I’m not worthy. I’m really not worthy. God doesn’t answer prayers like these for people like me. Why should he?” These reasons (and I have more) sound a lot like “The Jewish Messiah isn’t about to grant the request of a Canaanite woman, is he?” But he did.
The point is that neither an unanswered prayer nor what looks like a humiliating refusal are the same thing as a final “no.” Jesus used his delays to draw out further expressions of the woman’s faith. That faith was in her all the time, but had Jesus responded quickly, none of us would have seen it and we might never know.
Let’s be the kind of people who hang on like the devil – or better, like this Canaanite woman – with whatever faith we have and then even more. Sometimes faith grows in its praying, its asking, humility and continuous kneeling before God. Sometimes God’s answers come only after long delays. A paltry, weak and sickly faith can be satisfied with quick answers, and then it may mislead us into thinking such faith is great. In fact, great faith, like this woman’s, may be the faith that keeps asking without any answer in sight.