A Faithful Mother
I’m glad our country still has a national day to recognize the value of motherhood. The apostle Paul said in Titus 2:5 that mothers are to be “homemakers.” So, what we call “stay at home moms” were God’s idea.
At Heralds of Hope we believe the Bible has a lot to say about the value of women, about their roles, and about the calling of motherhood. Motherhood is a high calling. That doesn’t mean that single women are somehow of less worth, or that married women who are unable to bear children are somehow second-rate. What we say about motherhood is no reflection on them. Those are topics for another time. We simply acknowledge God’s plan and the value He attached to it in His Word. So, on this weekend when we observe Mother’s Day, we want to encourage you with a biblical example of motherhood.
There are numerous examples of motherhood in the Scripture we could benefit from. For our time together in the Word I’m turning to Read Matthew 15:21-28. Listen carefully as I read this portion of God’s Word.
Now before we begin looking at the life of this mother from Canaan and the admirable qualities she demonstrated, let’s look just briefly at the context of this account. In the beginning of this chapter, the Pharisees are accusing Jesus and His disciples of breaking the tradition of the elders because they neglected to wash their hands before they ate. Jesus responds by asking them why they break God’s commandment to honor father and mother. He then points out to the disciples that cleanness is a matter of the heart, not a ritual washing of the hands.
Immediately after Jesus teaches the disciples this lesson on uncleanness, he leaves the Jewish area and goes to Tyre and Sidon, a Gentile area. Here comes this Gentile woman from Canaan. According to the view of the disciples she is unclean; because of where she comes from. She wasn’t a Jew, so she was not part of the “in” group. Jesus uses her need as an object lesson for the disciples to reinforce what he just told them about uncleanness. The disciples needed to understand that uncleanness was not a matter of nationality, any more than it was a matter of eating without ceremonial washing. Let’s keep that context in mind.
As we look at this text together let’s notice three CHARACTERISTICS of “A Faithful Mother.”
The First Characteristic is:
Faith Motivates Petition
As I mentioned earlier, Jesus left the area around the Sea of Galilee and went northwest into the area known as Phoenicia. There he met this mother whose faith we observe. She was a woman of Canaan. This woman’s daughter was grievously tormented and possessed by a demon.
If you’re a mother, you can identify with this woman better than I can. As a father, I have daughters that I care about very much; but a mother’s love is uniquely designed by God. Try to imagine the pain in this mother’s heart as she saw her daughter bound by demonic power day after day, and she was powerless to do anything about it. We don’t know what all the manifestations were of this demonic oppression, but other portions of Scripture give us an idea of how these persons were tormented.
What we want to notice is the faith of this Gentile woman; faith that moved her to petition Jesus for healing. She must have heard of Jesus and His power to heal. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have risked the pain of rejection and humiliation. Her need most likely made her an outcast in her community. She was probably the subject of conversation among the women at the village well. They may have pitied her, or quietly confided to each other that she must have done something wrong to deserve the wrath of the gods. She must have felt the social stigma attached to her daughter’s condition.
Her need was great, but her faith was even greater because it motivated her to action. She came to Jesus with tremendous agony of spirit and poured out her petition in a simple sentence. Her mother’s heart looked past all the pain of rejection, the whispered comments, and the sidelong glances. She had faith that Jesus could help.
Let’s look at her petition. It’s short and to the point. It’s a cry for help from the depths of her soul. It’s a humble prayer with a confession of Jesus as Lord. Mark’s Gospel tells us she fell at Jesus’ feet with her request. It’s a fervent prayer; she cried for mercy out of the depths of her helplessness. It’s a prayer full of faith. Notice there’s no wavering here. She didn’t say, “Lord maybe you can help me.” Her faith was fixed on Jesus and His ability to heal her daughter.
If you’re a mother, and a follower of Jesus, you probably know something about this kind of prayer. Maybe your child hasn’t had a need as great as this daughter, and then again, maybe they have. But as a godly mother you have lifted your children’s needs to the Lord in prayer. Your faith in God, and His power to meet your need, motivated you to petition the Lord on behalf of your son or daughter. This woman’s example should be a challenge and an encouragement to you. One characteristic of her faith was that it motivated her petition.
The Second Characteristic is:
Faith Demonstrates Persistence
This second characteristic of faith is where this woman’s true character shines through. Notice the first words of verse twenty-three; “[Jesus] answered her not a word.” How would you react to that lack of response? Was Jesus being mean-spirited? That would be totally out of character for Him. He seems to be testing this mother’s sincerity.
Mothers, do you have a burden on your heart for a child of yours? Does God seem silent? Does heaven seem oblivious to your cries? Take heart from the example of this Gentile woman.
She didn’t give up; her faith was demonstrated by her persistence. The disciples didn’t know what to do with her. They asked Jesus to send her away. They were uncomfortable with her persistence. They said she keeps “screaming” after us. Picture this; here is the woman with this desperate need, crying out for mercy. Jesus refuses to answer her and the disciples are asking Him to chase her away.
Then Jesus speaks. He says He has been sent only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This leaves the woman on the outside looking in. As a Gentile, she doesn’t qualify. But again, we see her faith enabling her to persist. She comes and worships Him. This word, worship, describes her action as that of a dog licking the hand of his master. It is an acknowledgment of dependence, gratitude, reverence, adoration. This mother’s confidence in Jesus was the basis of her coming to Him. Even after His initial refusal to help her, she’s still convinced He is able. And she cries out, “Lord, Help me!”
Jesus responds again, “it is not good, or proper, to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” I marvel at the persistence of this woman. Here was the ultimate put down. If you were a Jew, you were special. If you were of any other race, you were referred to as a dog! Jesus was teaching His disciples here. This was the concept they’d grown up with, and it needed to be challenged. Jesus showed them it wasn’t valid.
Are you a mother with a deep concern for one or more of your children? Will God hear your prayer immediately? Yes, He will, provided you’re in a right relationship with Him. Will He answer it the way you want, and, in the time, you want? Perhaps, but not necessarily. He may be testing you. He may want to know if you’re serious about what you’re asking. There may be pride in your heart He wants to break. He may want to test your motives. Are you concerned more for your son or daughter, or for your own reputation and what people will think of you? If you are genuinely concerned for your child, your faith will demonstrate persistence.
I know mothers who have wayward children they’re deeply concerned about. Nobody knows how many prayers have ascended to the throne from their lips. Only God knows their anguish or hears their cries in the silence of an empty house, or the whispered prayers in the night, or the tears on their pillow. But their persistence is a living demonstration of their faith in God.
Three times now this woman’s request has been denied. First, by silence, then by Jesus’ mention of his exclusive ministry to the Jews, and finally by an apparent racial slur, insinuating that she’s a dog. I marvel at the persistence of this mother. She wasn’t going to be deterred, side-tracked, or frustrated. She was like a hound on the trail of a rabbit. She had one focus and that was to see her daughter restored.
So, she responds to Jesus’ comment in verse twenty-seven by saying, “yes Lord, I know what you say is true, but the little dogs do get to eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” You’ve got to be impressed with her grasp of the truth. It seems like each denial only strengthened her resolve.
If you’re a mother, let me encourage you; follow the example of this woman. Demonstrate the reality of your faith by your persistence. God is listening, He hears, and He will respond.
The Final Characteristic is:
Faith Activates Provision
Look at verse twenty-eight. “Then Jesus answered and said to her, O woman, great is your faith: let it be to you as you desire. And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” All that this mother had hoped for, all she’d set out to accomplish when she came to Jesus, was now reality. Through silence, through rejection, through insult, she wasn’t going to be pushed away; she was going to receive what she had so tenaciously struggled for. Her faith activated the Lord’s provision. Try to imagine her joy, her excitement, her love for Jesus.
Hers was a great faith; literally,a mega-faith. Not faith in herself but faith in the object of her pursuit. If she’d had faith only in herself, she’d have never come to Jesus in the first place. But she came out of desperation, out of helplessness, and with the confidence that what she was unable to do, Jesus could easily do. And her faith was rewarded.
You know, this truth of faith activating provision is demonstrated repeatedly in the Scriptures from beginning to end. We have examples of people who lacked faith and suffered the consequences; like the children of Israel who died in the wilderness because they didn’t believe God could deliver them from the giants in the land. And we have examples of those who exercised faith and received God’s abundant provision; like Deborah, when all the men “wimped out” she stepped out in faith and led Israel to victory.
Mothers, do you have faith in God? James reminds you in his epistle that those who petition God must do it in faith, without wavering. That was the kind of faith this mother from Canaan had. Her actions demonstrated that her faith was firmly fixed on Jesus. She was not to be denied.
Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t have a need like this woman.” That may be true, but every godly mother recognizes that being a mother is an act of faith. In yourself you don’t have what it takes to raise your sons and daughters in the fear of the Lord. If you think you do, I’m sure God will bring you into situations that will bring your pride and self-confidence crashing down. Only by trusting God completely, by exercising faith in Him, will you be able to fulfill the task of being a faithful mother. That’s the secret of the success of this woman from Canaan.
As we close, I have a few questions for you. These aren’t designed to discourage you; just to make you think seriously. Mothers, where is your faith? Has it motivated you to petition the Lord for His intervention? Or are you struggling along trying to meet the need in your human efforts?
Has your faith been demonstrated in your persistence as you continue casting yourself and your need on the Lord, even when He seems silent? Are you worshiping Him from a heart full of obedience and trust? Is your faith activating God’s provision? Have you experienced all that He wants to give you? Let me pray for you now.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for each person listening today, and especially for each mother. Whatever their circumstance in life, may they be encouraged by the example of this woman of Canaan. May her faith be an example and a challenge to each one.
Father, bless each mother with a renewed sense of her dependence on You. And may each of us do what we can to encourage and support and honor godly mothers. We thank You for the great blessing godly mothers have been to many of us and we ask you to reward them as only You can. We’re asking this in the name of Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, Amen.