A Great Faith Rests upon a Great Jesus!
O Lord God, send Your Holy Spirit to strengthen my faith in Jesus as my Savior and Lord. Help me to persevere in my prayers, even when it seems those prayers go unanswered. Give me patience to await my Lord’s timing, for He knows best when and how to meet my needs. Open my ears to His gospel invitations, so that I come to Him with joy and with confidence and be enriched by the preaching of His truths. Bless my worship this day, O Lord! Amen.
The night before Jacob met his brother Esau upon returning to the land of Canaan, God came and wrestled with him. Jacob, knowing he was dependent upon God’s grace, refused to let God go without first receiving a blessing. A truly great faith clings to God and counts on His blessings!
The object of great faith is Jesus, the Son of God and our High Priest, who learned obedience through suffering, but then was granted all power in heaven and on earth and so became “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”
Text: Matthew 15:21-28
Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
In Christ Jesus, the foundation of a great faith, dear fellow redeemed:
“O woman, great is your faith!” Did you know that Jesus only said that about two people in His entire ministry? He never told any of His disciples that they had a “great” faith. In fact, on several occasions He chided them for having such “little” faith (cf. Mt. 8:26) or for being “faithless” (cf. Mt. 17:17-20). Nor did Jesus ever commend one of His countrymen for having a “great” faith, although that might be expected given the devotion many of His Jewish followers showed Him. Rather in both instances He spoke of a Gentile believer. In this case it was a woman of Canaan—a woman living in the area we now call Lebanon. The other instance was a Roman Centurion living in the city of Capernaum (cf. Mt. 8:10).
What constitutes a “great” faith? Jesus once said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (cf. Mt. 17:20). Because none of us can go out to Mount Kato and say, “Move into my back yard,” and actually make it happen, we might readily conclude that we simply do not have a great enough faith. But if we are looking inside to judge how great a faith we have…if we are just considering the things we are capable of doing, then we have missed the point. Greatness of faith is not found inside ourselves or in the things we are able to do, but rather greatness of faith is found outside ourselves in the object of our faith and in what that object can do! A faith as small as a mustard seed can do great things, because the object of that faith is great when the object of that faith is Jesus, for Jesus can do anything! Let us examine the incident in our text to see how it demonstrates that A GREAT FAITH RESTS UPON A GREAT JESUS!
That is true even when Jesus’ response seems to be silence! We are told: “Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.’ But He answered her not a word.” Jesus’ response to this poor woman seems so uncharacteristic of Him. We think of Jesus as always being gentle and always being responsive to those in need, but here He seems so very distant and unfeeling. We know that cannot be the case, for Jesus is true God, and the Bible describes our God as “merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth” (cf. Ex. 34:6). Consequently, we can rest assured that Jesus had a reason for His silence in this case, and that thought can be so very comforting and instructive for each of us.
There are times, are there not in our lives, when Jesus seems to remain silent to us too. At times we pray, and we pray, and we pray, and nothing seems to happen. It is at such times that we may be tempted to question whether God is even listening. On a bad day we may even wonder whether He really cares about us, or at times whether He even exists. But at such times, we ought not to give up. We are not alone when it comes to such thoughts and experiences. The Psalmist David went through such trials three thousand years ago. He wrote: “To You I will cry, O LORD my Rock: do not be silent to me, lest, if You are silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to you, when I lift up my hands towards Your holy sanctuary” (Psalm 28:1-2). At such times we need to keep on trusting in our Savior God. David did and was able ultimately to say: “Blessed be the LORD, because He has heard the voice of my supplications! The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped!” (Psalm 28:6-7) As the woman of Canaan discovered, Jesus is ever-faithful and will ultimately respond. Her persistent prayers were finally rewarded, for Jesus broke His silence! Yet, the woman and we need to learn and to know more. A GREAT FAITH indeed RESTS UPON A GREAT JESUS even when His response seems to be silence…
…but also when Jesus’ response seems to be delayed! The constant cries of the Canaanite woman were a distraction for Jesus’ disciples. Embarrassed they came to Jesus and urged Him to “send her away.” Jesus' response once again sounds uncharacteristic of Him, but it was intended to teach the woman and us even more. He told His disciples within the woman’s hearing: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” To what was Jesus referring? He could not possibly be speaking about God’s overall plan of salvation, for that plan knows no ethnic limits. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” Jesus told Nicodemus (cf, Jn. 3:16). God did not give His Son to be the Savior of merely a small portion of the world. Hundreds of years before Jesus entered the world God spoke prophetically through the prophet Isaiah and said to His pre-incarnate Son: “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved one of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). Jesus came to save absolutely all people. Consequently, Jesus would later instruct His disciples just prior to His ascension: “Make disciples of all the nations” (cf, Mt. 28:19).
The key to understanding Jesus' intentions and also His instructions is found in the word “later.” During Jesus’ ministry He limited His ministry almost exclusively to God’s Old Testament chosen people. He preached, taught, healed, and helped His fellow Jews while fulfilling His calling as the promised Christ and laying the basis for a world-wide gospel outreach that would come, but which was to follow His ascension into heaven. The apostle Paul later followed that same strategy when he entered a new community by preaching first to the Jews and then later to the Gentiles.
Jesus wants us to know that we can trust in His timing. In Jesus, after all, “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (cf. Col. 2:9). He is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (present everywhere), as well as gracious, merciful, and faithful. If Jesus does not respond immediately to our prayers, He has good reason to do so. He may well know we are not ready for His answer, or perhaps He will be working in the hearts and lives of those around us to prepare them for His response to our prayers. Our Jesus is a great Jesus and A GREAT FAITH RESTS UPON A GREAT JESUS even when His response seems to be delayed! Keep on trusting that Jesus will respond at just the right time and in just the right way!
Yes, keep on trusting even when His response seems to be insulting! The woman, upon hearing Jesus speak, persisted in her advances, coming to Him and pleading:“Lord, help me!” Jesus’ response seems almost insulting. He said: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” What were Jesus’ intentions? To be sure, Jesus was not insulting this woman. He would never do that! In reality, hidden within these words was a subtle invitation to the woman—an invitation she both understood and accepted. There were two different words that Jesus could have chosen when He mentioned a dog. The first was a word used for common mongrels—the stray dogs who belonged to no one and who roamed wild in the streets of that day. The second, which was the word Jesus chose, referred to the small lap-dogs which were loved by people and served as their pets. The woman grasped Jesus’ invitation and responded in faith: “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” She knew she was unworthy of God’s grace, but she knew of the greatness of that grace and desired only a small portion for her daughter.
When we approach Jesus, we must do so with complete humility, confessing our sins and admitting that we deserve nothing but His judgment. We cannot come boasting in our own good works and personal righteousness. If we do, Jesus will judge us to be “an unclean thing,” and all of “our righteousness” to be “like filthy rags” (cf. Is. 64:6). Our Christian faith is most humbling, for we cannot contribute anything at all to our own salvation. We must admit that we are completely dependent upon the grace of God. To the world that seems so very insulting, but in reality it reveals ultimate spiritual truth. It is, ironically, in understanding and accepting by faith that seeming insult that we find absolute security as we look to the future, for as the apostle Paul reveals repeatedly in his epistles: We are “justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28); we have “become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21), that is, in Jesus; we are saved “by grace…through faith, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9); and we “are complete in Him” (Col. 2:10). It is only when we admit our own complete inability that we can understand, truly appreciate, and receive the blessings of Jesus’ perfect and complete work on our behalf! A GREAT FAITH RESTS UPON A GREAT JESUS even when His response seems to be insulting!
It indeed does, finally, knowing that Jesus will meet your needs and desires! Hearing the Canaanite woman’s expression of faith moved Jesus to commend her: “O woman, great is your faith!” Then He blessed her by meeting the needs of her daughter and thereby so fulfilled her deepest desire. “Let it be to you as you desire,”Jesus said, and we are told that “her daughter was healed from that very hour.”
My dear friends, the Scriptures are filled with encouragements to come to Jesus in prayer, to bring before Him our every care and concern, our every need and aspiration. We are to do so with confidence, for He has commanded us so to pray and has promised to answer those prayers (cf. Mt. 7:7-8). He has assured us that He is much better than any earthly father and so will give us good gifts to meet our every need (cf. Mt. 7:9-11). He does not want us to worry about anything, but urges us through His apostle “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”(Phil. 4:6). There is nothing too great for our Jesus to handle! He possesses all authority in heaven and on earth (cf. Mt. 28:18). He is seated at God’s right hand and is the head of His Church, which is His body (cf. Eph. 1:22-23). We are that body! He will take care of us!
Consequently, let us learn from the woman of Canaan what it means to have a great faith. She simply persisted and would not allow herself to be dissuaded from trusting in the One whom she knew to be the promised Christ of God, the very Son of God—Jesus! May the object of her faith—her great Jesus, become and ever remain the object of our faith—our great Jesus, for thereby our faith too will find greatness! Amen.