There is a call, a challenge for all of us to have faith, persistent faith. The kind that does not let go even in the face of no change in our circumstances. Should we pray over and over about a matter until God answers? The struggle is real when we read scripture passages that say we are to ‘Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you….’ Matthew 7:7 Amplified Bible.
In a most unlikely town outside of Jewish territory, Jesus encounters a woman with ‘great’ faith. In Mark’s gospel chapter 7 verse 24, it is recorded that Jesus withdrew, retreated possibly for some downtime to Tyre, a seaside town in Phoenicia. In this greek township, a local woman hears of his arrival and earnestly entreats Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter.
“Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed” (Matt. 15:22 NASB) she cries out and does not get a elicit a response from Jesus and so she continues her plea. It appears that the situation gets so intense, Jesus’ disciples ask the Lord, and based on the tense used by Matthew in the original Greek, they were asking repeatedly for Him to send her away.
Maternal passion or faith?
The maternal instinct is not unique to humans. The animal kingdom exhibits strong maternal instincts as well. In her article, Maternal instinct in the animal kingdom Channing Sargent cites that female octopuses may lay thousands of eggs, they keep the developing babies in safe, bacteria-free surroundings where she does not leave them in the process however long it takes them to hatch. The longest such scientifically observed period was four and a half years. Once the littles ones are safely out, the mother passes away from starvation.
The Syrophoenician mother no doubt realized this was possibly her one and only chance, a never to be repeated opportunity for her child to be set free. This Greek woman might have heard of Jesus before evidenced by her correctly addressing Him as ‘O Lord, Son of David’ and hence makes her impassioned cry. It is not hard to emphasize with her especially if one has had a sick child or maybe we were the recipient of the faith of a mother or grandmother. What happens next shows the true measure of her faith.
The first response we get from Jesus is a terse statement about His mission being only to the Jews. This does not deter her and she pleads bowing down before him ‘Lord, help me!
Jesus adds ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ Matt. 7:26. Her persistent faith replies, ‘Yes, Lord but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table’ (verse 27). At this Jesus remarks ‘O woman, your faith is great: be it done for you as you wish’ (verse 28).
There will be times when the genuineness of our faith is proved by our persistence. It is evidenced by what we do and what we refuse to give up on. There are only two times recorded in the New Testament where Jesus commends ‘great faith’, both times by non-Jews, the other being the Roman Centurion soldier for his servant. Several times in scripture Jesus had to rebuke the disciples for their little faith, one being when Peter walked out on the water but then began to sink.
But God seems to honor faith, even mustard seed-sized faith. What seems to matter is the object of faith, the importance of hearing the Word of God for it to grow, its genuineness, persistence, and tenacity.