Focus Scripture – Matthew 25:34-40.
I’m thinking about the Syro-Phoenician woman described in Mark 7:24-30. Here again, we find Jesus traveling. He was out there among the downtrodden every day, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, making the lame to walk, and casting out demons. Word got out about what Jesus was doing among the people from all walks of life. And not all of them shared his heritage. You know how some people put it – you’re not from around here, are you? But that did not impede Jesus. He typically welcomed all.
But keep in mind, now, that Jesus had been traveling. Although he was fully divine, he was also fully human, and he, too, needed to stop and rest from time to time. So, on this day, when he entered a house in Tyre, he didn’t want a lot of people knowing about it. He wasn’t up for company.
At the same time, some people had been following him faithfully because they believed he could do the miraculous things they had heard about. One of these people was a mixed-race woman – a Greek, born of Syrian and Phoenician descent. She was probably poor and had not lived a comfortable life. But she had heard about Jesus, and she was determined to seek out his help. Somebody told her that they had seen Jesus entering a house up the street, and she made it her mission to see him as soon as possible.
Stepping out on her faith, she entered the house and fell at Jesus’ feet. Now mind you, Jesus was tired. He was trying to get some rest before this woman appeared. Then she started to make her appeal. An impure spirit possessed her little daughter, and she wanted Jesus to cast out the demon from her child.
I imagine it took a little convincing in her part. When she saw Jesus looking at her without expression, she probably wanted Jesus to know that life hadn’t been easy for her to this point. If we put this in a modern context, I can imagine the woman saying in words that Langston Hughes might have penned:
“Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. It had tacks in it, and splinters, and boards torn up, and places with no carpet on the floor … but I’se been climbing on.” And now my daughter is in trouble, Jesus. She is possessed by a demon. And I been hearing of your miraculous work and following you because I know you’re able to cure my child. I know you can feed her with the bread of life so she can be made whole …”
At that point, as weary as he was, Jesus probably looked at her and said:
“First let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (v. 27)
This woman was not going to be put off, so she persisted. She might have said something like Lord, I know I’m not one of the chosen few, ‘but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (v. 28)
Who could deny such faith? Jesus didn’t. From a distance, he rebuked the demon – did you hear what I said? – From a distance – Jesus didn’t have to leave the house in Tyre. All he had to do was speak the words, and the child was made whole.
This poem and this scripture made me think about a song by Juanita Bynum – “Heart’s Desire.”
The prophetess sings:
“I’m running after you. You’re watching over me. You’re all I want. You’re all I need. You are my heart’s desire. You are everlasting joy, never-ending peace. With my arms open wide, in you I confide – You are my heart’s desire.”
And then she goes on to sing, “You are greater than the great, so much wiser than the wise. In you, I find my hope. I find healing. Your love is deeper than the deep. Lord, you’re strong when I’m weak. In you, I confide. You’re a place I can hide. You are my heart’s desire.”