We all have burdens, but whether or not we are able to overcome them depends on how much faith we have in the Lord. Some have great faith while others have little faith or none at all. We need great faith to confront great burdens to be successful; otherwise, we will fail. Little faith will be no match for a great burden, as the apostle Peter learned in his encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. When Peter saw Jesus walking on water, he asked that he be allowed to walk on water too. With great faith, he started walking on water towards Jesus. But when he saw the waves and the winds, he was afraid and started to sink. For this, Jesus rebuked Peter saying, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31).
The experience of Peter was not an isolated one. Many of us often go through the same experience. We are so full of faith in the beginning of our journey, but that faith shrinks when we are confronted with all kinds of challenges, like the waves and wind in Peter’s case. Rather than pausing for a moment to pray and regain strength, we are quick to succumb to fear. As a consequence, we also start to sink just as Peter did. We need to have the faith of the Canaanite woman who was commended by the Lord Jesus Christ: “’Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour” (Matt. 15:28).
But what did the woman do to deserve being commended as having great faith? The story started with the woman asking Jesus for help saying, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession” (Matt. 15:22). She knew that this kind of sickness could not be dealt with through medicine, and doctors would be of no help. She needed someone who could drive demons away, like Jesus. However, the problem was that this woman was a Canaanite – a Gentile. Her plea for help was ignored. As far as Jesus was concerned, she was not the object of his mission because he said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (v. 24). The importance of Jesus’ mission was also emphasized when he sent out his disciples to preach the Good News. He told them, “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt.10:5-6).
Having fully believed that only Jesus could heal her daughter, the woman persisted in her plea. She was not deterred by the fact that she was not the object of Jesus’ mission. She knelt before Jesus and prayed, “Lord, help me!” This scene reminds us of the Parable of the Persistent Widow in Luke 18. The widow in that parable did not stop pleading before the judge until her request was granted. We too need to persist in our prayers. When no answer comes the first time, do not give up but persevere. In the case of the Canaanite woman, she got a stunning rebuke from the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus responded, “It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs” (Matt. 15:26). By now the woman should have reconsidered her plea. She was ignored the first time and then was told that she was not under Jesus’ mission. These last words of the Lord Jesus should have caused her to stop and quickly leave, having been ignored and belittled. But the woman, after she had fully reconsidered her true position in life and admitted that she was not deserving of any special treatment, responded, “’Yes, Lord,’ she said, ‘but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.’ With this response, Jesus said, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour” (v. 27-28).
When Jesus called the woman a dog, was he being racist? Was Jesus’ statement a slur? Certainly not! The word “dog” was a colloquial word during Jesus’ time to refer to a heathen, unbeliever or Gentile. The woman was not offended by Jesus’ words because that was who she was. Being a heathen, she did not want to rob the Jews of their share as Chosen People of God. She was content receiving just the crumbs. That was more than enough for her. All that mattered to her was that she will fall under the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even today, we who were not born Jews are Gentiles, just like the woman. We do not have a right of what had God promised to the Jews, including the salvation of our soul. However, if we have faith like that of the Canaanite woman and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, we can partake of the blessings of the Jews. The apostle Paul said, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). Yes, we need to be born again for us to receive the fullness of God’s blessings through Jesus Christ our Lord. Have great faith. Hallelujah!