This post is one in a series of reflections for Lent. I invite you to go back and read the previous reflections.
In his humanity, Jesus is first and foremost a Jew. He had come to fulfill God's promise to Abraham and the rest of the Jewish people. As God, he would have knowledge that his people would ultimately reject him. His ministry is to reveal himself to the Jewish people, and they would then reveal him to the world. The time for Gentile believers has not yet come at this point in the story. A gentile woman comes to Jesus and begs for his help. He asks her if it is right to take the food that belongs to the children and cast it to the dogs. I don't think he is being mean to her, as much as he is testing her to see where her heart and devotion are. Her response should stand as a lesson to our own approach of God.
First, she freely admits that she is in no position to ask for Jesus' help. She admits that she is outside the people of Israel, and has no right to approach Jesus for his help. Her daughter is possessed with a demon, and she desperately wants the help of Jesus. She says to him that even the dogs are allowed to eat that which the children drop on the floor. She is humbling herself before Jesus. She is showing a greater amount of humility than even the religious leaders have shown toward Jesus. She has no hope. She has no means to help her daughter. She casts herself at the complete mercy of Jesus. She is begging for Jesus to look past what she is not, and to give to her that which she does not deserve. This humility ultimately moves Jesus, and he heals her daughter.
We must to be willing to admit that we are in no position to request anything from God. We have and continue to act in direct defiance of a Holy God. We have taken up arms against God. We have been and continue at times to be a member of the enemy camp. When we come to God, we come with empty hands and no right to ask him anything. We are at the complete mercy of his unfailing kindness. If we never come to this point, then I wonder if there is ever a true conversion. Are we just paying God lip service, all the while believing in our hearts that we are not all that bad? We may fool ourselves, but we can never fool God.
There is an old Orthodox that seeks to put into words the truth of our moral bankruptcy and complete hopelessness. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. If we have not believed this to the deepest part of our being, then what are we doing? Are we still in a hopeless and ridiculous way continued to rely on our own goodness? Do we honestly believe that if we are simply a better version of ourselves that God will accept us? That is ridiculous. There is nothing we could possibly do to satisfy the justice of our rebellion against a Holy God. Christ is the only answer to the problem of our wretchedness. We are accepted when and only when we cast ourselves and all our hope at the divine mercy of God.