Matthew 15:18-28 “The words you speak come from the heart . . .” Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely. But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. She is bothering us with all her begging . . . “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.
Silence is powerful. In this case, when Jesus stayed quiet for a while, the hearts of the disciples were revealed. Jesus had just been teaching that what is inside comes out through what we say. Master teacher that he was, he used this real-life incident to vividly illustrate his point. “She is bothering us; send her away,” the disciples said. Not, “Oh, this poor girl. Her mother loves her so much. How can we help her?” In what way were they more righteous than the Pharisees Jesus had just criticized for not caring for their aging parents?
The disciples still had not learned compassion, the heart of Jesus’ ministry, the ministry they were apprenticed to learn (see Matthew 9:36, 14:14, 15:3, 15:32). They still hadn’t captured Jesus’ vision for the nations, not just for the Jewish people. They still hadn’t internalized the kind of love that compelled Jesus, in deep grief following the death of his cousin John, to pour himself out for the people who thronged him. “Send them away,” the disciples had said on that occasion as well–and would do again in chapter 19, when the children bothered them.
By being quiet and waiting to see how they would respond, Jesus let the disciples implicate themselves. So much more powerful than a lecture or confrontation! Matthew doesn’t give us the debrief on this story, but can you imagine the conversation after the woman left, not rejected but rejoicing?
So, I have a challenge for you and for myself: Notice what happens in the quiet spaces, when the avalanche of words stops. And write a comment. Tell us what you see.
Be still and know that I am God! I will be honored in every nation. I will be honored throughout the world. (Psalm 46:10)