Along the Road of Voluntary Humiliation

Why doesn’t God always answer our prayers? What if, instead of answering your prayer, He publicly insulted you instead? Would you continue asking God for help?

This weekend in the Orthodox lectionary there is a reading from the Gospel of Matthew 15:21-28. It is one of the more difficult passages in the New Testament to read. Even many of the saints throughout the history of Christendom, when commenting on this passage, validate how offensive Jesus could be considered in this passage. when he called the mother of a demon possessed girl a “dog.”

Can you imagine being called a “dog” by God?

These days when nearly any offense is justification for criminal accusation, Christ likely would have been taken to court and thrown in prison for speaking words like these. Yet this woman to whom Jesus spoke – whom he ignored when she first made her plea about her daughter – did not take offense. Rather, she affirmed her place as a dog under the table of the Lord, having absolute faith that He was God, and that there was no one else who could help her.


What love this woman must have had for her daughter. What faith she must have had in God. What courage, persistence and humility she must have acquired during this trial with her daughter to willingly endure such humiliation. In the end she received what she sought from the Lord, the healing of her daughter and relief from her own suffering. But why was her prayer finally heard?

In several other areas of the Gospels we find Christ identifying with and opening his ears to those who are voluntarily humiliated. Take Zacchaeus for example, who also received what he sought, which was to meet the Lord. He was a tax collector – a public official – who recognized his sin and was willing to publicly endure shame and ridicule by climbing up into a tree to see Jesus. The Lord, who knows the condition of our hearts, spotted Zacchaeus. Jesus recognized Zacchaeus in the midst of the crowd because of his voluntary humiliation. As we know, at that time Jesus was on the way to be voluntarily humiliated upon the Cross, for the purpose of saving those who he loves.

The same thing happened with this woman. The Lord intentionally waited to grant this woman’s request so that her deep faith and perseverance could be drawn out and displayed for everyone there. Even his disciples did not understand in that moment; they asked that she might be sent away because of her boldness. But the Lord knew her heart, and the work on her soul that had been accomplished while suffering alongside her daughter. He revealed that work to everyone through his offensive words to her, and then praised her publicly for enduring it. She was voluntarily humiliated for the sake of her daughter’s healing, and in the end found her own heart’s greatest desire as well.

We can learn much from this woman, who did not doubt or reject God in the midst of her trial but trusted that He knew what was best for her. May we also strive to know God so deeply, and draw near to him even though he may allow insult to injury along our way. In doing so, the Lord will identify with us and save us.