There is an old saying, “When you get to the end of your rope tie a knot and hang on.” All of us have seen or heard this saying before, and I think it applies to us so often as we make our way through life’s difficulties. There are many times we find ourselves “hanging on the end of the rope” – not able to do much more than hold on for dear life.
What can you do when you have endured long hopelessness – and you are about to lose hope?
What do you do when every attempt to find help has ended in disappointment?
What do you do when you need so badly for something to happen – and it doesn’t happen?
What do you do when things get so bad that you just want to curl up and die?
You hang in there. You keep the faith. No matter how hard it is – the secret is to not give up – even if all you can do is “tie a knot and hold on.”
Our scripture passage for today tells us a story of a woman – a mother – who came to Jesus who was certainly at the end of her rope – who was certainly just hanging on.
Jesus was traveling through Tyre and Sidon when this Canaanite woman started shouting at him and the disciples. I guarantee you this is nothing new to Jesus. News was traveling fast about his abilities to heal and thousands upon thousands of people were coming out to have him heal their sick. If you remember, there were 5000 men and countless women and children all there to get their sick healed when Jesus fed them. A woman coming up yelling about a demon possessed daughter is nothing out of the ordinary for Jesus; in fact, is was probably a very common occurrence.
But Jesus’ reaction to the woman is different than other stories. Jesus isn’t kind and gentle. He isn’t anything like the way we always picture Jesus. When the woman starts yelling Jesus completely ignores her. He doesn’t even start to pay attention to her until the disciples start complaining about her. One of the more modern bible translations actually says, “The disciples came and complained, "Now she's bothering us. Would you please take care of her? She's driving us crazy.’" If this woman is anything she is persistent.
There are many different ideas about why Jesus ignores the woman. Some say that it was a test for the disciples. They had already been given the ability to heal and cast out demons. Maybe Jesus was waiting to see if they took initiative. Maybe Jesus wanted them to learn to deal with these types of situations without him. Maybe Jesus is simply tired of dealing with people who take advantage of him. Maybe Jesus, after healing thousands of people and then feeding them, after walking on water, and then dealing with the silliness of the disciple’s thought processes, maybe Jesus was tired. The Canaanite woman simply met Jesus at the wrong time on the wrong day.
He is 100% God but he is also 100% human. I can envision him tired after his journey, maybe going over in his heads the people who demanded so much from him and did so with the wrong motives. Jesus was having a human moment when the Canaanite woman shows up screaming about her possessed daughter.
Jesus reluctantly turns and faces this loud and persistent woman. It is in this moment that we get a reaction from Jesus many of us are not expecting. Jesus states, “It’s not right to take bread out of children’s mouths and throw it to the dogs.” You heard it right. No matter how you translate that verse, Jesus is looking this woman in the eye and calling her a dog. And this was not a compliment. He was following the traditional customs of that day and setting this woman up for failure. But what is the Canaanite woman’s reaction? Remember if she is anything she is persistent.
She fires back at Christ. She looks Jesus in the eye and says, "You're right, Master, but beggar dogs do get scraps from the master's table." Her daughter was in desperate need and she had faith and hope that the Messiah, standing right before her, could live up to the promises she heard about. After Jesus hears her say that he sees her faith and can tell that she is genuine in her request. "Oh, woman, your faith is something else. What you want is what you get!" Right then her daughter became well.”
The Canaanite woman had hope in Christ. Hope in something that was greater than herself. Hope that this God/Man could do for her what he had done for so many others, even though she was considered a dog. She was determined to get her scrap of food. When Jesus’ eyes were opened to her faith it didn’t matter what her heritage was, she had undeniable faith and hope in her Lord.
You see – when we are thinking about whether to have faith in God or not – when things get so bad that we can’t imagine them getting any worse – but they do – when we feel that we are making our prayers and trying to live faithfully but that God is not listening or paying attention to us because our lives do not improve – We really have 2 choices; give up and fall, or tie a knot and hold on – sure that God will someday – somehow – come to us.
The Canaanite mom chose to hold on – to “hang in there” – and knew that Jesus would eventually bless her.
This Savior, this Lord, this Jesus is who we should have hope in. Hope, true hope, is not found in what we can do by ourselves but it is found in the one who can do more than we ever could dream. Hope is believing in God’s promise and believing it can happen to us.
And so, my brothers and sisters, that is my prayer for us this day, that all of us have that same measure of hope as did the Canaanite woman. She had hope, she had faith, she had the determination to get her child the attention needed. I pray that, like her, when we are at the end of our rope, we can also tie a knot and hang on. Our salvation depends on it.