Jesus is on the move again. This time He goes to the district of Tyre and Sidon. According to bible maps, they are some distance apart and in the area labeled as Phoenician. Why did He go there? This was not an area populated by a lot of Israelites. Was the lack of Jewish people the main reason He went? Did He go to get away from the crowds for a little bit?
The more I think about the question of “why Tyre and Sidon”, the more I think Jesus was seeking a momentary break from the crowds for His disciples and himself. Jesus was followed EVERYWHERE He went. Finding private time was very difficult. He would snatch moments here and there for Him and His disciples, but the crowds always found them. And when they found them, Jesus put His and the disciples’ needs aside to minister to the crowd’s. This was time to meet the needs of Jesus and the disciples; time for them all to take a breath.
I don’t know how Jesus and His disciples managed to sneak away from the crowds, but we find them without a following in this instance. He is almost unknown here. One woman has seen through His disguise of anonymity. Somehow she has heard stories about Jesus and the works He has been doing, and she believed them. I am going to name her Cassandra. I’m going to name Cassandra’s daughter Abigail.
Tyre and Sidon are both very large cities so it is not unusual to have strangers walking about town. Cassandra worked in the kitchen of Inn By The Sea. Her husband had been killed at sea many years ago, so her position as a server was her only means of support for herself and her daughter, Abigail. Life was even more difficult for Cassandra since her Abigail had been struggling with illnesses following her father’s death. Abigail would take to fits of rage where she would be so destructive that Cassandra’s only protection would be to lock Abigail in her room and wait out the storm. Then Abigail would sink into depression so severe that Cassandra could not even get Abigail to eat. These episodes initially were easy to control and short lived. Cassandra sought every available source and pleaded with god to help Abigail, but nothing worked. Abigail’s condition continued to get worse. Dealing with Abigail’s behavior was beginning to impact Cassandra’s work now. Cassandra was desperate for help.
One day a group of travelers came through the Inn and she overheard them talking about a Man from Israel named Jesus. Cassandra spent as much time at their table as propriety would allow so she could learn more about this Man. The things the group was saying about Him sounded impossible, but her heart told her different. The group would be staying in the Inn for several days, so Cassandra made it a point to notice which rooms they were occupying. She had to hear more about this Jesus. Maybe He could help her daughter. Cassandra decided she would be bold and actually approach someone from the group to learn all she could.
Cassandra spoke with two members from this group and learned as much about Jesus as she could from them. Over the next few months Cassandra overheard others who came through the Inn talking about Jesus too. All the stories spoke of amazing miracles of healing and deliverance. But they also were set in the region of Galilee. Cassandra had no way to take Abigail on such a long journey. If only Jesus would come here. Abigail’s condition was so severe now that Cassandra was in danger of losing her only source of income. Cassandra was nearly hopeless over their situation!
Today Cassandra was late again because of dealing with another of Abigail’s rages. The depressions were easier to handle. At least Cassandra didn’t have to fear for her own safety during those episodes, only Abigail’s. Cassandra had to remove every item from Abigail’s room last week when during one of her depression episodes Abigail had tried to strangle herself with one of her bedsheets. Casandra hated what this illness was doing to her precious daughter; her once happy and carefree child.
As Cassandra enters the kitchen the owner of the Inn meets her. He has extended Cassandra every courtesy and as much grace as he can. Today, he has the task of firing Cassandra. He is deeply sorry for her trouble, but he has a business to run and he cannot do that with help that he cannot rely on to do their jobs. He gives Cassandra a full weeks wage as her severance, even though she has not earned it. It is all he can do.
Cassandra leaves the Inn after tying the last of her wages into her skirt. She doesn’t know what to do now. She slips into the shadow of a nearby building and begins to weep quietly. People flow by on the street just few feet away. No one notices the woman huddled in the corner crying.
After several minutes Cassandra dries her tears and decides it is time to go home. As she straightens her dress she overhears a conversation in the street. Someone says the name Jesus. She has been listening for that name to be mentioned every day in the Inn for months now. Her mind is attuned to pick up any mention of Him by now so she naturally looks to see where the conversation has come from. She notices a group of men walking together and talking as they make their way down the street past where she is hiding. She notices that they are not telling stories about Jesus but appear to be addressing one of their members by that name instead. Could they actually be talking to THE Jesus she has heard so many stories about? She has to know, so she begins to quietly follow them.
After a little while following this group she is certain that the Man at the center of this group is the one and only Jesus. This Man is her daughter’s only hope! She HAS to talk to Him; to get Him to help her! After hearing all the stories and talking with as many people as would allow her, she has learned of His identity as the Son of David, the Messiah of Israel. She has also heard of His compassion for the sick and oppressed. Surely He will have compassion on her tortured daughter.
Cassandra scrounges up every last ounce of courage she has. She speeds up her pace to catch up to Jesus and His group. She calls out to Jesus asking for His help for her daughter who is being tortured by a demon. She calls to Him using His title of the Son of David, to prove to Him that she recognizes His power. But He does not respond. She continues to follow Him and His group, pressing further and further into their company; begging for His help for her daughter the whole time.
Jesus heard her the first time she called out to Him, but He purposefully didn’t answer. This woman is not a child of Israel but her pleas still touch His heart. He has a mission and a chosen people to minister to, and she is not a part of it.
Jesus’ disciples have enjoyed the anonymity that this city offered them and this woman is threatening it. They ask Jesus to send her away before they are all found out and another crowd gathers. This was supposed to be their vacation; their time with Him, away from the pressures of ministry. “Please Jesus, quiet this woman before she ruins everything.”
Jesus stops walking and addresses His disciples by saying, “I only came for the lost souls of Israel.” Within His spirit though He is praying for the woman’s faith to push past the barriers. He will help her if she is sincere in her pursuit.
Cassandra, as if hearing Jesus’ inner thoughts, ignores Jesus’ words excluding her from His help. She pushes past the last disciples separating her from Jesus and falls at His feet. Again she pleads with Him; “Lord help me!”
Jesus words sting, but she also hears some hope in them. When He likened His miracles to bread belonging to the children and her to a dog, he actually used the words comparing her to a household pet instead of to one of the wild dogs of Israel. The household dogs didn’t eat first, but they did enjoy the food from the table to some extent.
She caught this slight invitation and held onto it with all her might! By her response she told Jesus that she understood and accepted her position, and that she recognized that she was not His first priority. But that she also knew that He had enough compassion to extend to her too. “Please, Lord Jesus, just a crumb for Your lowly pet. I will accept anything You can offer me.”
Jesus heart nearly bursts with love and pride for this woman. She has been so persistent in her search for help for her child. Her mother’s heart has shown through. She willingly humbled herself for the sake of her child, and in doing so has opened the pathway for His healing power to flow. Her faith is amazing! “You have your heart’s desire.”
“Thank You Jesus!” Cassandra cries over and over again as she rises to her feet. Jesus smiles at her and says, “Now go home in peace.”
Cassandra rushes home, knowing that her daughter has been made well. When she enters the house, she finds Abigail sitting in the middle of her stripped room with her face reflecting perfect peace. Cassandra rushes to Abigail, kneels beside her, brushes strands of dirty hair from her temple and says, “Let’s get you something to eat. Then we will get you all cleaned up. I have an amazing story to tell you, my beautiful daughter, about how you touched the heart of the Master.”
Lord Jesus, this story touches my heart. Reading it as Matthew records it has hurt many times. When he records You ignoring this mother’s initial pleas. When You likened her to a dog. But hearing it how You put it into my heart today shows me how You gently built the bridge through which You could pour Your love into this woman’s situation. The stories she had heard before her encounter with You instilled in her the drive to seek You out. Her desperation and love for her daughter kept her reaching out to You, in spite of Your initial barriers. Her identification of Your compassion for those in need allowed her to see the hidden hope You offered her in Your exchange.
You could have legally turned her down, but You didn’t. You opened an avenue of blessing for her, but she had to be willing to pursue it. She couldn’t sit back and receive what she needed. She had to press in to You. You do the same with us when we come to You. You have so much You want to bless us with but we have to ask for it. We have to seek Your will. We have to knock on the door of Your storehouse. If we simply sit back and wait, we won’t receive all You have for us. You won’t force Your blessings or Your presence on anyone. Even the first step of asking You into our hearts begins with us reaching out to You. Since You completed Your work our access is easier than hers was, but we still have to be willing to recognize You as Lord and call out to You along those channels. Thank You for opening the way into Your presence and into Your family. Keep me continually pressing ever closer to You.