Jesus loved the little children, and I think one of the reasons must have been because they are often so humble. How many times have my children come to me or Jackie to ask us for something that they cannot get for themselves. “Daddy, can you put on my shoes?” “Mommy, I’m hongry!”
Of course, most of the time, Jackie and I give them what they need (though not necessarily what they want) without their even asking for it!
This morning’s lesson in faith, taken from Matthew 15, reminds us how we must come to God with the faith and humility of a child. The person of faith this morning is a woman, a Gentle, and a Canaanite, and she is our guide, for she manifested three essential characteristics of a truly faithful person: humility, fervency, and persistence.
Her humility is revealed in the way she sees Jesus and the way she sees herself. Believing that He can help her daughter, and worshiping Him (verse 25), she comes to Him with humility. She recognizes as well who she is: a helpless woman who is a Canaanite, or dog.
But this “dog” utters the most basic and simple prayer of all: “Lord, help me!”
Her humility is matched by her fervency. Her understanding of her need and helplessness, and the power and mercy of Christ, makes her fervent. She doesn’t just ask, she cries out to Him, not only in verse 22 but also in verse 25. She seeks Him with passion and, having found Him, implores Him fervently.
Humility and fervency might fall short, however, if they were not married to persistence as well. This persistent woman outlasted her obstacles: who she is, the Lord’s disciples, people in the way, and the apparent reluctance of the Lord to help her. This woman perseveres, even when the answer appear to be a resounding “No!” The essence of her faith is that she believed, even when she couldn’t see what was going to happen. She keeps asking, even when she doesn’t immediately get what she wants.
Because of her humility, fervency, and persistence, Jesus answers her and heals her daughter.
What’s even more amazing: she’s a picture of us!
We’re just like this woman. We have no right to come before God. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and there is no health in us. And we must approach God the same way she did.
Humbly: Do you know who God is and who you are before Him? Do you freely acknowledge your sin and helplessness and that only God can help you? This is the faith of the Canaanite woman that received the blessing of Jesus. She didn’t come on the basis of how good she was or that she was an Israelite and acceptable to God. She had no illusions about who she was and what she deserved. Like her, we need to come humbly before the only one who can deliver us
Fervently: Do you have a passion to come before the Lord each day? We should not be ashamed to cry out to God. We should not be ashamed to weep before Him. We should not be ashamed to pour forth our emotions and our soul before Him.
I’m not saying that we should necessarily do this in the middle of a worship service, but if we can’t pour out our souls before the Lord in private, then maybe our relationship with God has grown a little cold (and maybe some of us can do with a little emotion and fervency in our Sunday worship!)
This woman came with passion and intensity because her daughter was at stake. We should come with passion and intensity because we are at stake.
Persistently: How easily do you give up in your prayers and life with God? Are you an easy person to shake off and defeat? This woman was truly a dog in one way: she was like a pit bull who had gotten hold of Jesus’ leg and was not going to let go. Do you have persistence – do you have faith like this? When you don’t immediately get what you want, how do you respond? Like this sinful, outcast, Canaanite woman, we must seek God Himself.
This “dog,” this Canaanite woman, was content with crumbs, and yet Jesus, because of her faith, was willing to give her so much more. And if you respond with this kind of faith, with humility, fervency, and persistence, then God will bless you with much more than crumbs. He will give you the very Bread of Life that satisfies the deepest needs of your body and soul.
We’ve looked at the woman and her response, but what of the main character? Jesus Christ is always the main character in our lives. What is His response?
Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you. It was because this woman sought out Jesus that He responded to her faith. We need to come before the Lord, to seek Him out every day, in church and out of church.
Jesus also responds by listening. This is why we pray, as this woman implored and begged Him. He may not always respond immediately. There may be obstacles in the way.
But Jesus will bless those who are faithful. If Jesus so blessed this Canaanite woman, how much more will He bless His own brothers and sisters who seek Him with faith? How much more those for whom he died and for whom He prays?
BONUS: For those who worship using the traditional Book of Common Prayer, I’ve marked some of the places in the Holy Communion service of the 1928 Prayer Book where Jesus leads us, through the liturgy, through our own unworthiness before God and to His mercy and grace in giving us Himself. (If you use a different Book of Common Prayer, you should be able to find the corresponding place, and if you don’t use the Book of Common Prayer, many have found it a rich devotional resource.)
- 93 – “we humbly beseech thee most mercifully to accept our oblations, and to receive these our prayers”
- 94 – “we most humbly beseech thee, of thy goodness, O Lord, to comfort and succour all those, who in this transitory life are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity.”
- 107 – “Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God”
- 108 – The Comfortable Words
- 112 – “Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you; Do this in remembrance of me. . . . Drink ye all of this; for this is my Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins; Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me.”
- 113 – “And although we are unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice; yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service; not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences”
- 114 – Lord’s Prayer – “give us this day our daily bread”
- 114 – “We do not presume to come this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under Thy table . . . . [the rest of the Prayer of Humble Access, too]
- 115 – “Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us, who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ . . . .”
Prayer: I do not presume to come to You today, O merciful Lord, trusting in my own righteousness, but in Your many and great mercies. I am not worthy to gather up the crumbs under Your table. But You are the Lord who is always merciful. Give me therefore, gracious Lord, Your Son Jesus Christ today, that I may feed on Him and that I may evermore dwell in Him, and He in me. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- Which of these three do you most need in your life with Christ: humility, fervency, or persistence?
- What most keeps you from coming more to Jesus today?
- Re-read this Give Us This Day before the next worship service you participate in.
Resolution: I resolve to focus on coming to Jesus today in one of these three ways: humbly, fervently, or persistently.
The Canaanite Woman from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry – In the U.S. Public Domain