DayBreaks for 8/14/14 – Just Four Words
Matthew 15:21-28 (ESV) And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
What would you think if I told you that on your tombstone would be inscribed a four-word epitaph? “Well”, you might respond, “it would depend on who would write this epitaph–an enemy or a loved one. It might also depend”, you might say, “on how well this person knew me.” Here’s an example: if a newspaper critic wrote of a concert pianist the four words: “He was a failure,” you could always say: That was his opinion. But if one of the world’s great musicians wrote, “He was a genius,” then you are apt to take the remark more seriously.
There was a character in the Gospel who Jesus once described with four immortal words: “Great is your faith.” She was a Canaanite woman (not even Jewish) who came from the country to the north of Palestine, a country hostile to the Jews. She was presumably married, she had at least one child; but that’s all we know about her. We don’t know whether she was a good woman or a bad woman. We don’t know her name. All we know of her is that in this single encounter with Jesus he spoke to her this four-word epitaph: Great is your faith.
Just those four words spoken by Jesus immortalized this woman forever. We can trust these four words as being true of this woman because the expert on faith spoke them. Jesus searched for faith, as a gem collector would fine jewels. He did not always find it in his disciples. On no occasion that we know did he ever say of Peter, James, and John: “Great is your faith.” More often the words he spoke to them: “You of little faith.” On only one other occasion did Jesus praise a person for their faith. Interestingly, that was a Roman soldier stationed in Capernaum.
We regard this Canaanite woman with more than just an academic interest. She awakens in us a feeling of admiration, perhaps even envy, because she stands where most of us would like to stand. If I were to turn the corner of the hallway today, or round into the next aisle in the grocery store and come face to face with Jesus, what four words might he speak of my faith? Of yours?
In order for faith to grow only one thing is necessary: to exercise it. Our fear leads us to play it safe and not strike out on a path that requires great faith. Jesus loves it when we exhibit and demonstrate faith.
There is much for us to learn from this Canaanite woman.
PRAYER: Jesus, I know that I am such a coward, that I hesitate to launch myself out in faith, depending on nothing but you to catch me. May we grow daily in our faith, until one day you may be able to say of us, even in one instance, “Great if your faith!” In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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