Christ's seemingly inexplicable conduct
(J. A. James, "The Practical Believer Delineated" 1852)
Behold the Canaanite woman appealing to Incarnate Mercy
for her demon-possessed daughter, beseeching for a cure from
Him who alone could effect it, and whom she believed could, if
He would. What a plea! "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!
My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession!" One
would think that such an appeal of course will be instantly heard
and granted. "But Jesus gave her no reply--not even a word!"
What! the 'ear of pity' deaf to such a petition! "What!" one
would have imagined she would say, "is this the mercy, the
fame of which has reached even my afflicted home? Will He
not hear me, look on me, answer me? Must I return, and tell
all who come to inquire about my plight--that He would not
bestow a word or even a look, upon me?"
To increase her distress and discouragement, the disciples
urged Jesus to send her away. "Tell her to leave," they said.
"She is bothering us with all her begging." Is this all the mercy
that could be found in the hearts of all the twelve apostles?
Poor woman, we pity you. There is very little hope for you!
Jesus at length breaks silence, and says, "I was sent only to
help the people of Israel--God's lost sheep--not the Gentiles."
His harsh words are more distressing than His silence!
Still her faith holds on, and her prayer continues, for "she came
and worshiped Him and pleaded again--Lord, help me!" To this
He makes a reply that seems to add insult to neglect. "It isn't
right to take food from the children--and throw it to the dogs!"
Mysterious answer! O Savior, how apparently unlike Yourself!
What must have been the poor widow's reflections--"My heart is
now almost broken--am I not a Gentile woman? and must I be
called a dog? Is it thus He will deny His own character, and
break the bruised reed? Must I go home and look upon my poor
child with the sting of this insult and its venom rankling in my
Surely she will now give up her suit--stop her plea--and renounce
her faith. Yes, she would have done so--had her faith been less
strong. "Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even dogs are permitted to
eat crumbs that fall beneath their master's table!" Marvelous reply,
one of the finest responses which language ever formed, and the
most ingenious reasonings ever drawn.
Jesus could hold out no longer. He could protract the trial no
farther. Like Joseph under the influence of his feelings, when his
heart was moved by the discourse of his brothers; Jesus drops
the innocent disguise which His bursting compassion could not
sustain another moment, and with delighted surprise He exclaims,
"Woman, your faith is great! Your request is granted!"
What was the meaning of all this? What was the secret of Christ's
seemingly inexplicable conduct? What? He saw He had a subject
which would enable Him to exhibit to the world an extraordinary
instance of faith in prayer, and He determined to draw it forth in
all its power and beauty. His heart was moved towards her from
the beginning. He knew what He would do--and though He beat
her off with one hand, He held her fast by the other.
Here then we have an instance of prayer continued under delays,
apparent neglect, and repulse--and continued through the power
of faith. The woman still believed that there was mercy in that
heart, to which she for a long time appealed in vain, and that
she should ultimately succeed--and she did. "And her daughter
was instantly healed!"