It is easy to view the stories in the Bible two dimensionally. Mentally we can clean up the reality, give it a polishing so to speak—not as loud, not as dirty, not as human. This is a tremendous disservice to our relationship with God. It makes a number of us pew-itent rather than penitent. What is pew-itent? Fit for the pew!
Real life with Jesus is a little more base. Our desperation is loud, our need is dire, and our human condition is grimy. Thankfully our Savior is not afraid of the mess of it all.
In my last post, I spoke about our faith-filled insistence. I can assure you that my insistent prayer is not done with a high collar, perfect posture and British accent. My prayer life at some points is earthy and guttural, certainly not an inside voice. As I said in that post, this seems to be what God loves: insistent, faith-filled prayer.
I want to show you some of those in the New Testament who caught the attention of Jesus and were commended for their faith. They were Gentiles, unclean ones who didn’t fit in any pew. But here is Christ, commending them.
A Look at the Canaanite Woman
Let’s look first at the Canaanite woman. The Canaanites were a cursed people coming from the line of Ham (Noah’s son who exposed his nakedness). They were slaves and deeply troubled Israel in the Promised Land. The Canaanites included the Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Hivites…just a bunch of “ites.” They were never seated at any good Jew’s dinner table. And they were low born. Slaves are not refined.
Jesus’ response to this woman would have been expected. They were dogs in the eyes of the Jews, just common and trashy, a godless bunch of heathens. He ignored her while the disciples attempted to scuttle her away. But she would not have it. She was desperate to the point of shamelessness. Louder and louder and louder she got. The Holman Christian Standard Bible says, she came and KEPT crying out. Her situation was desperate; her daughter was severely oppressed and tormented by a demon. This woman didn’t care how humiliated she would be; she had to have His Answer. Jesus was a healer and delivered and He HAD to do so for her daughter. Jesus was even insulting to her, stating the Jewish view of the Canaanites, but she didn’t defend or become angry. He just HAD to have her daughter healed.
Insistent Prayer of the Canaanite Woman
Now don’t you know she had been to every Canaanite witch doctor and potion seller in the land? She had suffered sleepless nights and deep heartache. We don’t know how this demon manifested, but I assure you it wasn’t pew-perfect. This was an ignoble mess and this mother readily displayed her desperation with a less-than-inside voice.
Then Jesus replied to her, “Woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.” And from that moment her daughter was cured.
Matthew 15:28 HCSB
Jesus commended her faith – not her prayer, not her will, not her volume, but her faith. She connected faith to her desperation and shameless persistence. And in response to her faith, Jesus answered.