Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.-Matthew19:13-15
When babies are born, they are put immediately in the mother’s bosom to establish the bond and love between mother and child. If the mother refuses, the baby feels this rejection and will carry it out until adulthood.
Jesus loves children, loves us. When we come to Him, He will never reject or turn us away. Like an infant that yearns for his/her mother’s bosom to establish bond, God is perpetually inviting us to remain bonded with Him in love. Trials and difficulties in life will never tear us apart because we grow in love with Him and remain firmly bonded with Him.
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. – Matthew15:21-28
This is a beautiful story of faith. As I pondered, I cannot help but notice several points: Jesus ignored the woman the first time, Jesus sort of rejected the woman the second time, the woman was a non-believer (Syro-Phoenician on other accounts) who believes in Jesus, the disciples asked Jesus to send her away, Jesus was moved by the woman’s sorrow and brokenness and so grants healing to her child.
Jesus ignored the woman the first time. Yes, we have many wishes and desires that were never granted… immediately. But just like the woman, let us not be discouraged by God’s silence towards our plight because He never rejects and never turns anyone away especially if one is in great need or asks help from Him out of love. Then why the silence? Because God wants us to be dead-serious with what we are asking for and He wants us to continue praying until we are convinced we are heard, or until we are convinced that what we are asking for is not good for us, or until we know that it is not the will of God for us. Let’s face the reality that many people ask for absurd wishes and petitions like improved body, a better nose, a flashy car, a date with their crushes or by the school jock, revenge, somebody dies, etc. Perhaps God’s silence is an invitation for us to ponder our petitions. Is it life-giving? Does it destroy?
Jesus sort of rejected the woman the second time. Yes, sometimes God rejects our wishes seemingly. But just like the woman, let us not be discouraged by God’s silence towards our plight because He never rejects and never turns anyone away especially if one is in great need or asks help from Him out of love. But why did Jesus “sort of” rejected the woman? No one knows for sure. It is possible, however, that Jesus is unsure of the woman considering that she is a non-believer, to some accounts she was a Syro-Phoenician. Let’s face it, it is impossible for a devout and practicing Christian to suddenly go to a temple of Zeus and ask for help from that god. It is impossible for a practicing and devout Muslim to suddenly go to a different religion and ask help from their leaders for healing. But why reject a Syro-Phoenician if eventually Christendom will spread amongst the Gentiles too? Jesus did not reject actually. Rather, He wants the woman to be dead-sure she believes that Jesus is the One who will free her daughter from the demon. Jesus wants the woman to be so sure whom she is asking for help, why she is asking for help, and what will happen next after her request is granted. I do believe that this woman will bear witness to Jesus’ mercy and compassion for as long as she lived and actually until now and still in the future. This story is not just about healing, but also of Jesus’ mercy and compassion, and the woman’s faith that will forever change her life.
The disciples asked Jesus to send her away. Yes, there will always be people who blocks our progress, who asks God to withhold His graces on this or that person, who asks that God punish this or that person. Example, John is a good man, but is jobless and is looking for a job. One day, it seems he will finally have a job because he did well during interviews, entrance tests, physical tests, etc. The boss decided to call the reference persons John wrote in his resume. One reference person emphasized more on John’s weaknesses rather than his strengths. Instead of helping and encouraging for John’s acceptance, the reference persons seemingly would like to discourage the employer from hiring John. Perhaps we should bear in mind that John is jobless, running out of cash and been turned down several times already. Instead of rejecting, turning people away, we should be more Christ-like, forgiving, compassionate even to those whom we do not like.
Jesus was moved by the woman’s sorrow and brokenness and so grants healing to her child. Sometimes God’s will is firmly in place and will never be changed no matter what. However, our brokenness, our persevering and persistent prayers, our sorrow can move Him into helping us or showing us mercy as in the case of Jonah. When Jonah went to Nineveh, he announced its destruction unless the people repented. Everybody repented and fasted from the king to the lowliest of animals. God was so moved that He relented from His plan. Perhaps Elizabeth was meant to be a barren woman for life, but because she prayed in faith without ceasing, God chose her to be the mother of John the Baptist.
It is true! God never rejects anyone away.
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. – Matthew19:16-22
Everytime I would read this Gospel text, I cannot help but put a good ending on this story. Notice that the rich young man just went away sad. Is it possible that he went back to his life and found out that it is already meaningless without Jesus? Is it possible that this one encounter with Jesus had a profound change later on? I remember the book, Quo Vadis, as I ponder on the rich young man. When Marcus met Peter and heard him speak in the cave, it changed his life. He had dreams of Jesus in the lake teaching. The simplicity of the Life attracted him so much that the old ways of Rome (games, debauchery, politics, power, seduction, etc.) no longer appealed to him.
Sometimes, all it takes is one encounter with Jesus to change and be a better person. This encounter does not have to be through suffering, death, losses and other unfortunate events. This encounter can happen while at work, while in the park, while having a vacation or simply in the comfort of our homes. Jesus knocks at our hearts all the time. What will our response be? Are we going to walk away sad because we cannot let go of our old sinful ways? Or, are we going to let Jesus in, be happy with Him and follow Him until we reach our eternal home?