I’m captured today by the scenario recorded in Matthew 15* about a desperate mother who came to Jesus. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”
In my personal life, there is a “daughter in the faith” who is battling the demons of past addiction and abuse. Along with a few faithful friends, we are doing our best to nurture her like spiritual mothers, loving her with discipleship into health and wholeness. In this respect, we can relate to the Gentile woman who has no other solution than to lay the situation completely at the feet of Jesus.
When the woman in scripture pled with Jesus, He initially did not respond. “But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word.” That pause caught the attention of the disciples and prompted them to interject their opinion that Jesus should turn the woman away. “She is bothering us with all her begging,” they said.
Jesus used the crisis and the conversation as a teaching moment. (Doesn’t He always?) Fully knowing what he was about to do for the woman and her tormented daughter, He declared, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep – the people of Israel.” That might have been enough to satisfy the disciples, who were ready to be finished with this “interruption”, but the woman was not to be so easily dismissed.
“But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, ‘Lord, help me!’” (v. 25) It strikes me that the most honest form of worship is our admission that we are totally dependent on the Lord.
Jesus’ next words may have been said with a compassionate but playful smile that signaled to the woman that he was teasing her a bit. In my imagination, He turned slightly toward the disciples and increased his volume so they wouldn’t miss His next words. “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” Now He really is pouring it on and she – hoping with all her heart that she is reading Him accurately– joins in the witty exchange. “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” By now, I think there’s a happy but nervous giggle that erupts into joyful tears when she hears Jesus say, “Dear woman, your faith is great. Your request is granted.”
The disciples were catching on. Shortly before the episode in upper Galilee, they had been witness to a debate in Jerusalem between Jesus and the religious. Some Pharisees and teachers of the religious law had cornered Jesus about ritual handwashing. Jesus said of them “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.”
The disciples’ response had been quite different in the company of the religious elite than their response to the Gentile woman. “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?” And here is where we get the expression “the blind leading the blind”. Unruffled, Jesus settled his nervous disciples with another life lesson. “They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”
So, between the lines of these two stories in Matthew 15, I am learning about worship that pleases my Lord.
- It’s completely a matter of the heart. No ritual, no creative gimmick; and no clever script impresses Jesus. He looks for worshipers who adore Him with passionate, honest abandon (“spirit and truth”). See John 4:24.
- Nothing exalts Jesus more than my white-flag cry for help. Demons of every kind must flee at His command.
I love how songwriter Amy Grant said it in “Better than a Hallelujah”:
We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah.
*scriptures cited from Matthew, chapter 15, NLT.