For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet:…
Through her natural affections she had mounted up, as it would seem, to higher and spiritual things; for to a wonderful degree did she enter into the secrets of His mysterious nature; "she worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me!" She pierced, as though by the intuition of some blessed instinct, through the veil in which He was shrouded. Her faith laid its hold at once upon His very Godhead, and on His true humanity. As God, she fell before Him — she worshipped Him; as man, she appealed to His feeling for the sorrows of man's heart, crying to Him, "Lord, help me!" She reached on to that entire sympathy which was to be the fruit of His being "perfected through suffering." "Thou that art the Man of Sorrows; by Thy man's heart, and by the covenant of Thy suffering, help me in my woe." Twice more, we know, she seemed to be refused; and yet she persevered. He had but tried her faith, and perfected her patience. There was in her heart a hidden treasure which was thus brought forth; there was in it the fine gold, to which this hour of agony had been as the refiner's fire. Her importunity had won its answer; for indeed it was itself His gift. The fire upon the altar of her heart had been kindled by the beams of His own countenance; her cleaving to Him was His gift; her love the reflection of His love to her; He had put the words into her mouth, and He had strengthened her to speak them. And so the end was sure: she had knocked, and the door had opened; she had asked, and she received: "O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." Such is the narrative; and in all its parts we may read that which concerns ourselves most closely. For what else are our lives, with all their varying accidents and issues, than, as it were, the shadows cast forward into all time by these dealings of the Son of God with man? He has come nigh unto us; yea, He stands amongst us — He, the Healer of our spirits; He, our heart's true centre — He is close beside us; and we, have we not each one our own deep need of Him? Have we not each one our own burden? — the "young daughter who lieth at home grievously afflicted," whom He only can heal? And then, further, do not characters now divide off and part asunder even as they did then? Are there not those who, like the Jews, know not the office of this Healer; who hear all His words, and see all His signs, and languidly let Him pass, or angrily murmur at Him, or blasphemously drive Him from them; from whom He passes, even to the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, to pour on others the blessing they refuse? But then there are also those who do seek Him with their whole heart — unmarked, it may be, by any of the outward appearances which catch the eye of man.
I. There is the lesson taught us by the Jews, that He does pass away from those who will not stay Him with them; that He goes on and heals others: and that they die unhealed, because they knew not "the time of their visitation." And the root of this evil is here pointed out to us: it is a want of faith, and, from this, a lack of the power of spiritual discernment. Such men are purblind: the full light of heaven shines in vain for them. They do not intend to reject the Christ, but they know Him not; their gaze is too idle, too impassive, to discover Him. They know not that they have deep needs which He only can satisfy. They yet dream of slaking their thirst at other streams.
II. But there is also here the lesson of the woman of Canaan; and this has many aspects; of which the first, perhaps, is this, that by every mark and token which the stricken soul can read, He to whom she sought is the only Healer of humanity, the true portion and rest of every heart; that He would teach us this by all the discipline of outward things; that the ties of family life are meant thus to train up our weak affections till they are fitted to lay hold on Him; that the eddies and sorrows of life are meant to sweep us from its flowery banks, that in its deep strong currents we may cry to Him; that for this and He opens to us, by little and little, the mystery of trouble round us, the mystery of evil within us, that we may fly from others and ourselves to Him.
III. And, once more, there is this further lesson, that He will most surely be found by those who do seek after Him. For here we see why it often happens that really earnest and sincere men seem, for a time at least, to pray in vain; why their "Lord, help me!" is not answered by a word. It is not that Christ is not near us; it is not that His ear is heavy; it is not that the tenderness of His sympathy is blunted. It is a part of His plan of faithfulness and wisdom. He has a double purpose herein. He would bless by it both us and all His Church. How many a fainting soul has gathered strength for one more hour of patient supplication by thinking on this Canaanitish mother; on her seeming rejection, on her blessed success at last! And for ourselves, too, there is a special mercy in these long-delayed blessings. For it is only by degrees that the work within us can be perfected; it is only by steps, small and almost imperceptible as we are taking them, yet one by one leading us to unknown heights, that we can mount up to the golden gate before us. The ripening of these precious fruits must not be forced. We have many lessons to learn, and we can learn them but one by one. And much are we taught by these delayed answers to our prayers. By them the treasure of our hearts is cleared from dross, as in the furnace heat. He would but teach us to come to Him at once for all, and not to leave Him until we have won our suit.
(Bishop Samuel Wilberforce.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: