Jesus answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:25-26)
How would you have responded to Jesus if you had been the Canaanite woman, asking Jesus to cast a demon out of your daughter? With indignation? “I am not a dog!” With theology? “You are supposed to love everyone!” With self-righteousness? “I have been a faithful follower.”
I am often guilty when I intercede for my family and my loved ones of responding to Jesus in these ways when he seems to be giving my requests the cold shoulder. I especially throw the self-righteous card on the table. I don’t use these words, but what I often express is “How can you deny me this request after all I have done for you?“ But my righteousness doesn’t seem to impress God.
The Canaanite woman gets it. Her first words to Jesus in this passage were, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.” Her final response to Jesus was, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” She didn’t claim a teaspoonful of her own righteousness; she was just seeking his mercy crumbs.
Jesus’ response was “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”
When we pray for a sick loved one, a wayward child, or a financial crisis, aren’t we really throwing ourselves on God’s mercy? The Bible tells us in so many places that God is full of mercy. Great faith involves unrelentingly interceding by asking God to have mercy on us by helping others.
Bill Hager (serving in Boston)