Bible Study, Faith, life, Spiritual Encouragement, Stories from Scripture, Uncategorized
Comments 8

The Anatomy of a Crumb {God’s mercy & messy faith}


photo credit – Rina Peru

It is a Bible story that always troubled me.

When I was a sunday school student, there were no flannelgraph pictures to depict the desperation that consumed the woman who met Jesus on the road, calling out, inhibitions flung to the wind, pride non-existant.

She fell at his feet, caring not that sharp rocks dug into the flesh of her palms, undeterred by the glaring expressions of his disciples.

She had but one thing on her mind.


Eleos. Checed.


Not for herself, but for her daughter, a helpless thing attacked by demon possession. She had watched, impotent, as the battle for her darling girl waged on leaving the child’s body and mind a wasteland. Perhaps she’d consulted with her local witchdoctors, perhaps she’d tried charms and concoctions and prayed in tears to whomever might listen.

Why not try this Jesus? He was the Jewish revolutionary of the day–might he not take pity on a child, regardless of her race or social standing?

So into the sun-drenched and scorched air she screamed:

“Lord! Son of David! Have mercy (lovingkindness) on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”

Jesus did not answer a word.

So his disciples urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

{Can you hear her, crying out her plea over and again?}

He answered, “I was sent to the lost sheep of Israel.”

The woman came and knelt before him, “Lord help me!”

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

“Yes, Lord,” but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. Your request is granted.”

And her daughter was healed that very hour.


For many years, that story offended me. I felt pity on the degraded woman and I just hated the conversation between Jesus and herself. And the disciples raised my hackles! Had I not myself experienced men in the church that responded this same way?

Why did Jesus make her go through that awkward and dismissive exchange? What would it have cost him to just generously heal a poor, darling girl; couldn’t he see she had faith he could do this?

But, I didn’t understand the story. Today, lets unpack it, take it out and roll it around upon open palms.

Today you will see this story clearly, I hope, in the light of the lovingkindness of God.

In the 29 truths about me, the words I am reading over and over this month of love (February), I was reminded this past weekend of these two truths:

Ephesians 1:4 – I have been chosen to be holy (meaning chosen to be useful to God and complete) in Christ.

Ephesians 1:4 – I have been chosen to be blameless in Christ.

And in basking in the lovingkindness of God, I read this weekend in Psalm 36:7 – How priceless is your unfailing love (lovingkindess)! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

No, our God, the God of the bible, is not dismissive or arrogant nor does he play games with emotions.

So in reading the account of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15, we must read it in light of the truth of his word.


The clue to understanding this story is in the response of the disciples: Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.

She made them uncomfortable.

She made them look bad.

What kind of king, deliverer, mighty son of God and revolutionary leader of God’s chosen people, the Jews, wants a screaming, freaked out, howling, idiot Canaanite running after him? And a what’s worse, a woman!

They had been nursed on the lovingkindness of God since infancy, yet they failed to understand this attribute of God, this characteristic of the rabbi, teacher, they now followed. For it was lovingkindness that moved him to search out and lavish love upon humankind.

God’s lovingkindness trumped their pride. It does every time.

The conversation between Jesus and the woman was for the benefit of the arrogant, short-sighted men he discipled. It became a teaching moment that the woman eagerly participated in since his questions were more rhetorical than personal in nature.

Jesus knew from her first words, that this woman “got it”: Son of David, have mercy on me.

She acknowledged in these few words that she realized that he was of the royal line of King David and the promised messiah that would come through the davidic line. She also knew that God’s lovingkindness, in this case eleos, mercy, is available to anyone who calls out for it.

Jesus was not testing her or gauging her faith.

Jesus was telling his disciples to check their Hebrew pride at the door and look full in the face of God. He was telling them that birthright, entitlement, sex or good breeding mean little in the kingdom of heaven. He was telling them that she understood that even crumbs, droplets of mercy, that scatter to the earth are life-giving, life-changing morsels, like manna.

God’s grace is not to be hoarded, wasted, counted or apportioned.

God’s grace is free to fall where it may according to his perfect will. And his perfect will is that everyone has equal access to “put their trust in the shadow of his wings” {Psalm 36:7}, that everyone who calls on the name of Jesus has been “chosen” already and “blameless” in him {Ephesians 1:4}.

He was telling them that great faith looks like a desperate woman, a crying parent, a realization of that tremendous chasm of need that can only be filled by the lovingkindness of God. It’s raw, it’s ugly, it’s humanity at is ragged-edged worst and best and most shining.

Great faith is the shedding of ideology that discriminates. Great faith is the corporate and individual sloughing off of pride, that distorted sense that we can determine whether or not a person is worthy of salvation based on our own criteria.

Great faith knows that miracle-life is in the crumbs of love.

Really, with love that great, that deep and expansive and pure, do we need much more than a drop? Do we need more than a taste upon our tongues or a bit in the palm of our open hands?

Great faith is merely the receiving of mercy in whatever form God so chooses to deliver it.

Great faith is not accomplished. It’s unaccredited and plebeian and so simple that even a child can do it: because it’s the opening of a gift.

And when your hands are free, carrying none of your own accomplishments, they are free to receive lovingkindess.

For it’s the faithfulness of God that heals you, not the great faith of your own trying.

It’s the faithfulness of God that favors you and changes your life, not the great faith you may have inherited from your parents or your church.

It’s the faithfulness of God that meets you on the desperate road and fills you up with crumbs of hope.


Oh God, make me grateful for the crumbs of mercy. The miraculous sprinkling of grace you’ve shown me. All I need is a taste. I want there to be plenty left over for others. Teach my heart to be generous, like yours, my ego to be sacrificed and my hands to be open.

I have begun naming the gifts…

1. Clean January sunshine

2. Air crisp, pools of sunshine warm.

3. Sliced pear, sweet and earthy

4. ticking clock and the silence to hear it

5. home -safe and sharable

6. walking (no limp, no cane, less pain)

7. patch of blue overhead

8. crunch of gravel underfoot

9. time with my Bella

10. her unexpected and sincere “I love you, mom”

11. hope in a text from a suffering sister

multitudesonmondaysbutton2 playdates



  1. Oh my. I am so grateful to have found you at the Wellspring. There is so much to be learned and loved in your words. What a blessing it was to find myself here, today. I will return.
    Peace and good to you, sister, in Jesus’ name.

  2. Gail Justesen says

    Lovely and inspiring, Aly…you are blooming again and we are loving the fragrance! Gail

  3. Thank you for unpacking this story so well, Alyssa. It has always given me pause also. This makes so much sense. Weren’t those disciples always needing a lesson? Aren’t I? I wonder who, in my small world, I look at in the way they looked at this poor desperate woman. You have given me food for thought today, friend.

  4. Pingback: God’s Greatest Preoccupation {lovingkindness in hot pursuit} | Alyssa Santos – Rocks.Roots.Wings.

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