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Have you ever hiked up in the mountains to a look out? Usually there’s a steel railing surrounding the lookout, and maybe you even leaned out on the railing to get a better view. Can you imagine what would happen if the railing came loose?
It was this terrifying thought that led me to research those lookout railings, and that’s how I discovered that those steel railings are held securely in place by vertical posts called rock anchors. The rock is cored out, and the anchor is drilled deep into the bedrock. The anchor undergoes exhaustive weight and pressure tests to ensure it holds. This is not guesswork! Engineer calculations are checked and recheck. You can lean on it. You can put your children on it. The goal is for the anchor to be firmly fixed in the foundation, to hold you true.
In our passage, you will meet a woman who is pressured to declare the anchor of her faith. If you have experienced your faith come under pressure, you will find yourself in the scripture. The woman uses two anchors in God’s Kingdom to strengthen and deepen her faith. It is my hope you will be able to use and return to these anchors when you experience your own faith come under weight and pressure tests.
You may have heard many messages about this passage. I invite you to try to see it for the first time as we go through the story almost verse by verse.
It begins when Jesus encounters a Canaanite woman. Travelling outside of Israel, he heads in her direction. This is a divine appointment.
Our woman is a Gentile and desperate for her daughter to be healed. Gentiles in the time period this meeting happened were considered pagans. Her faith was likely fixed in false gods of pagan traditions. The foundation of her pagan faith has fallen short, and what she thought would be true for her is false. As much as she agreed with her truth, as much as she wanted it to fit into her lifestyle and her world, it was false. Her daughter remains tormented.
Remarkably, word of Jesus’ power to heal travelled outside of Israel, in a day and age when news did not travel quickly. Her faith grows in hearing about Him. Is she ready for her faith to be firmly fixed in the truth of Jesus?
Seeing Jesus, she yells, “Lord, Son of David! My Daughter is severely tormented by a demon.”
Jesus is silent.
Some commentaries say he ignored her. Do you believe a God of love would ignore? What if Jesus’ silence is significant? Silence can pinpoint or highlight a moment. Is Jesus putting his disciples on notice? Encouraging them to pay attention, to learn, as this is a significant encounter.
His silence draws out her desperation, and her cries grow louder. The disciples cry out louder to Jesus to send her away. Based on what you know about her can you determine her heart?
Last week Rusty shared about how the Kingdom of God is the heart of the matter. You will see how Jesus “weight tests” and “pressure tests” her to pull out the truth of what is in her heart.
Are her cries anchored in faith, or is she anchored in outcome? Is she begging Jesus to heal her daughter like a dog begs for a treat? Dogs take their treat and leave. What if Jesus is applying pressure to her to draw out her faith? Jesus knows her heart, but the disciples do not.
Is she ready to relinquish false gods and align her heart with Jesus? Make agreement that He is Lord? This decision will change her life drastically. She will be the first and only follower of Christ out of her people.
Agreements are binding and establish a foundation. She has made agreements with pagan gods. Is she ready to break those agreements, and agree Jesus is now her God?
Agreement is one of the anchors in God’s Kingdom. You can return to your agreement when you are distressed. A simple agreement can be in an earthly relationship. My husband and I made an agreement years ago. We agreed that when life is stressful, we would trust God and take care of each other. It came about as our oldest often ends up in the hospital. When a loved one is ill, it is incredibly stressful and some people make things worse by letting stress torment them. They react with anger or use substances to dull the pain. Our agreement is to trust God first and to have each other’s back. This is an agreement we use and return to. We stand on it.
Is the woman in this story ready to declare she is establishing an agreement with Jesus that he is Lord?
Jesus breaks his silence, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
Jesus could answer in a gamut of ways, but he makes this statement! It is to his disciples. The woman is in earshot behind the disciples.
Jesus statement lines up with Old Testament scripture. His primary mission is for the Jews. They were to receive him first, and through them the Gospel would flow through them to the rest of the world. If this is His only mission, it is not going well. The silence of Jesus and this statement highlight a stark contrast. The Jews reject him, and a Gentile woman receives him. Do you think this statement was as much for his disciples as for the woman? Jesus seems to be using this encounter to teach them about faith in him and anchors of his Kingdom. They will need this as much as the Canaanite woman.
His statement creates urgency. She runs from behind the disciples, falling on her knees in front of Jesus, declaring, “Lord!” In the culture at that time this act is one of humility and honour. It appears she is declaring Jesus as Lord, and she is ready to agree that he is the one and only God. But is her faith firmly fixed in Jesus?
Jesus seems to “weight test” her again. He responds: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” This one verse has many commentaries written about it. It is time to use the Greek dictionary. This Greek word for dog is puppy. A better translation is “the family pet.” Perhaps you may see now how this dialogue is more approachable and friendly than how it translates to English.
Jesus is basically repeating himself. He is using the metaphor of a family gathering. The gathering has the adult table, the children’s table, and the family puppy naturally under the table, waiting for food. He is asking if it is right to take the loaf of bread from the children and give it to the puppy, leaving the children hungry.
Jesus is reiterating his primary mission. The Israelites are offered the Bread of Life first–should he give the Gentiles the Bread of Life instead?
The disciples are witness to all of this. How does Jesus repeating himself impact you? It is possible that this is to create a “pressure test” on her faith. It is important to remember that she is stepping out of her entire life. Her family and all she’s known is Gentile, pagan gods, and rituals. Is she ready to stand on the anchor of agreement that her faith is firmly fixed in Jesus? She will break historical family agreements and agree Jesus is her King. Her agreement will be an anchor to return to. The weight and pressure from her own people and the spiritual forces of Pagan gods will challenge her far more than what Jesus is doing. She will need to use and return to the anchor of her agreement that Jesus is King. Will she demonstrate her agreement by declaring her faith is firmly fixed in him?
She continues to engage with Jesus. “Lord, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.” Did you notice the importance of her answer and how she changes elements? Once again, she says, “Lord”, she switches “bread” to “crumbs”, and moves from the child’s table to the Master’s table. She joins Jesus in using the word “dog”. Even though we are talking specifically about agreements with Jesus, the word “dog” could be a stumbling block.
The Gentiles were referred to as “dogs” by the Jews. It was a slur against them, as they did not have the Law and were considered unclean because of the way they lived. Jesus’ use of this word does not alienate her.
Her use of the word may imply she feels secure, accepted and loved by Jesus. The word “crumbs” may also indicate her deep faith. Crumbs are pieces of the bread. Is she saying, “You are the Bread of Life, and the same power exists in the broken bread”?
She seems ready to agree Jesus is her King. Perhaps she is feeling more anchored in his Kingdom than in the former Pagan world kingdom. Agreements are anchors. Agreements are binding arrangements. Decisions are earthed in agreements. When things go wrong, or a dispute arises, we can go back to agreements and stand on them.
Can you recall a time when your faith was tested? Did it deepen your relationship with him?
Agreement with Jesus is an anchor in the Kingdom of Heaven. When pressure or tests come to challenge your faith, returning to this anchor is a decision only you can make. It is never too late to return this anchor. We see the woman stand on the anchor of agreement in Jesus, and this reveals her faith is firmly fixed in Him.
There is another anchor: authority.
This woman is here for her daughter’s healing. Jesus knew he was going to heal her. Do you think Jesus could be asking her to establish what authority she is choosing to live under?
Ephesians 6:9 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Her daughter is tormented by evil. We don’t often talk about spiritual forces of evil. Our scripture confirms other spiritual forces exist. Our woman is from a Pagan world. She gave authority to spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms. The result of this is revealed by her daughter’s torment.
This mom is in authority over her young daughter. What does authority mean? Authority is a license to act and the power to carry it out. We have all witnessed someone use power and authority to violate and harm. One of the most beautiful traits of God is he does not violate your free will. Free will is like a gate: you decide when or if you open the gate, and whether or not you close the gate. The Pagan gods walked through the open gate. They had the authority and they had the power. She had been powerless to close the gate. It seems Jesus applies the “weight test” again, asking her to declare he is the authority in her life. Why? Remember the definition: authority is the license to act and the power to carry it out. Jesus has both of these.
Giving authority and power in our culture can have a negative connotation. You have probably heard people say “I am in charge of my life,” or “I will not give my power away!” or “Don’t give anyone your power.” Currently, you and I are living through COVID-19. Perhaps it crossed your mind that COVID seems to have power and authority. This may be the first time you have felt like you are not in control and other authorities have the power. Are you able to relate to some of what the woman was feeling? Scared, distraught, desperate for her daughter. Jesus is asking her, “Are you willing to give me authority?”
In our scripture she calls him Lord, Son of David, and Master. The names of authority. She is driving the anchor of authority deeper in the rock. She will stand on this anchor. She will have no gods other than him. Her free will to choose him shuts the gate to Pagan gods. Jesus is the authority.
Scripture tells us that “God raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
Jesus affirms her faith has healed her daughter. The anchor of agreement with Jesus, and the anchor of authority in the truth of Jesus changed everything. Her daughter is free. The woman faced tough decisions to leave familiar false gods and false truths.
She will return to a world that is not anchored in the Kingdom of Heaven, and she will need the truth of the person of Jesus with her. She will need to return to the anchors of agreement and authority to drive her faith deeper into the rock of Christ. She has been “weight tested” and her faith is deeper for it.
What about you? When has your faith been weight and pressure tested? Where is God allowing weight or pressures to test your faith? When you are feeling pressure tests can you choose to stand on the anchor of agreement in Jesus and the anchor of authority in Jesus?
Perhaps the tests have been too much and you walked away. Jesus is here to welcome you back.
Maybe you have never given Jesus the authority in your life. Are you feeling Jesus nudging you to come to him and get to know him?