I’ve been listening to a podcast before bed every night called Pray as You Go. (I highly recommend it.) Each day, there’s a new recording with a bit of sacred music, a Scripture reading, and an opportunity for reflection and prayer on the Scripture passage. Each recording lasts about 10-13 minutes, and I find it to be a centering and grace-filled way to end each day.
Last night, the Scripture reading was from Matthew 15. It was a story about a woman who comes calling after Jesus in a crowd to heal her daughter, who is afflicted by a demonic spirit. In the story, Jesus doesn’t respond to her at first, and his disciples ask Jesus to tell her to go away because they think she’s quite disruptive. But she persists and keeps asking Jesus to help her. At one point she lands on her knees and begs him. But still he resists. Yet even when he persists in resisting, she persists in asking … until finally he answers her plea.
I’ll be honest and say that upon first hearing this passage on the podcast last night, all I could think about was how much it bothered me that Jesus resisted her. It distracted me that he did this, especially because I know Jesus to be fully accessible to anyone who wants to know him.
But instead of asking me to reflect on my initial response, the reader of the passage on the podcast asked a different question:
Put yourself in the crowd. What do you hear?
I started thinking about all the other voices in the crowd. How many of them judged this woman for crying out over and over again to Jesus to get his attention? How annoyed were they? What did they say as they whispered among themselves about her? How many verbally cut her down?
And then I noticed: I would do the same.
In fact, I was doing the same thing. It bothered me that she would come so boldly in a crowd to receive something from Jesus — the one person in that mass of people that everyone else wanted to touch and hear and see, too. What made her so special that she would be the one to make the most noise and get the most attention?
Then the reader asked a second question:
What do you see?
I saw a woman bold enough to throw herself at Jesus’s feet. I saw someone who didn’t care about her reputation because she knew exactly what she wanted and cared more about getting it than getting anything else. I saw her tears, her distress, and her despair at her daughter’s pain. I saw her great hope in Jesus to heal. Hope shone through her eyes, even as tears flowed from them.
Then in the passage, we see a even stranger exchange between the woman and Jesus. He calls her a dog! (The reader notes this was a word the Jews commonly used for non-Jews at the time.) And yet the woman is able to use that name “to her advantage,” says the reader. She can hold her own with Jesus. She can match his wits.
And that makes all the difference. Jesus gives her what she wants.
I think Jesus knew she had great faith. There are many passages in the Gospels that speak of Jesus’s ability to know the hearts of those standing before him. Her heart was not unknown to him, even as he resisted her in the crowd.
And yet he waited. He walked on. He let her throw herself in front of him. He resisted her with cultural norms. And then, eventually, he awarded her for her faith.
I found myself wondering: would I have that kind of faith? How boldly do I approach Jesus?
This whole experience made me think of you. It made me want to ask you these same questions:
How do you approach Jesus? Are you bold? Shy? Skittish? Demanding? Do you ask him anything at all? Do you expect him to respond? What would it be like for you to demonstrate the kind of faith this woman did?