Jesus tells the Phoenician woman in Mark 7 “No.” Flat out. Right to her face. “No.” She’s coming to Jesus for healing. Her daughter is demon-possessed. She’s desperate. She begs. And Jesus says, “No.”
But she keeps coming.
Her gender as a woman in this male-dominated society with very little, if any, rights is pressing against her. But she won’t give up. Her nationality as a pagan, idol-worshipping Gentile from the very center of the Ba’al cult works against her in this situation. But she doesn’t quit. Satan is battling her. His demons have taken over her daughter. But she persists. Her timing is awful. Jesus walked 40 miles from Capernaum to be left alone. He didn’t come here to teach or heal. He came here to chill out. But she keeps coming. In an effort to protect their rabbi from the crowds the apostles oppose her. “Shoo! Scram! Beat it!” But she begs even more loudly. Jesus tells her, “It’s not your turn. Get back in line.” But this woman will not stop.
In preaching this story here at Legacy yesterday, I compared this woman coming to Jesus with Earl Campbell running to the end zone. Remember Earl Campbell? Nothing ever stopped him. It always took six or seven guys to bring him down. For those of you who don’t remember him, he ran like Marion Barber. Only Campbell was much bigger, must stronger, much faster, and without all the attitude.
This woman is not the Tyler Rose. She’s the Tyre-and-Sidon Rose. And she will not be stopped.
The Hebrews call that “chutzpa.” Intense persistence. Determination. Gust. I will not quit. I will not give up. I will not let go. There’s more of a negative connotation linked to the word now. We hear ‘chutzpa’ and we might think assertive, pushy, or bossy. But when a Jew sees ‘chutzpa,’ he thinks tenacity. Singleness of mind and purpose. It’s a synonym for Biblical faith.
See, faith in the Bible is never, “Oh, I understand that so I can believe it.” Biblical faith is never, “Yes, that makes sense to me so I’m going to trust it.” No. Faith in the Bible is, “I’m gonna latch onto this thing with everything I have and I’m not going to let go no matter what.” The way Abraham grabbed the promises of God and was forever reminding God of those promises. The way Moses and Joshua hold on with God through thick and thin, victory and defeat.
God honors that kind of faith. God loves that kind of faith.
No matter the sin that’s opposing me. No matter the guilt in my life that’s dragging me down. The broken marriage. The terminal illness. Satan’s grip on somebody in my family. Job status. Financial woes. Peer pressure. Other brothers and sisters in Christ who prevent me from getting closer to Jesus. Even God himself telling me “No!”
I. Will. Not. Let. Go. Of. God. No. Matter. What.
I. Will. Not. Quit.
I. Will. Not. Let. Go.
I. Will. Not. Stop. Coming.
I. Will. Hang. Onto. God. With. Every. Single. Fiber. Of. My. Being. No. Matter. What. Happens. To. Me.
Faith is trusting our God to provide and protect, to heal and forgive, and to carry us into his eternal Kingdom. And not letting go.
Perception is a funny thing.
It’s easy to perceive an apparent insult to this woman but look at it from another angle…
Stop and think about the messy, careless manner in which young children eat their food.
Children with no regard to the cost or value of the meal offered.
I think we miss an important detail to this story.
If you’ve ever been around dogs much you know they never reject anything edible.
Who else is being insulted in this story?
There is a part of me that believes Jesus never for a second told this woman “No” but rather intentionally sought her out in her desperation.
Here is where I have a fundamental difference in belief with some people. Some have Jesus granting her reward because of what she did.
I believe she was granted her reward because of her understanding of what he does.
And because of her understanding of what she is.
I have no proof but I suspect that a dog never “expects” their next meal…
It makes sense to me that Jesus knew exactly how desperate this woman was and how she would react to his put off. But the reference to dogs does apply to this woman, a non Jew. Of course it applies to me also. Her story is a wonderful demonstation of faith and how people who were considered no more than dogs by the Jews of that time can find salvation in Jesus. Even me.