A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” Jesus did not answer a word. Matthew 15:22-23

Shortly afterwards Jesus says to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Yet Jesus had already healed the Roman Centurion’s servant, even offering to go to his house. The ensuing conversation that Jesus has with this distressed mother seems to draw out her faith.

Whatever the reason for Jesus’ hesitation we find that he had no standard operation mode. On occasions when Jesus was asked to come and heal a sick child, sometimes he went as in the case of Jarius (Matthew 9:18-26), sometimes he didn’t as in the case of the official’s son (John 4:46-54). Sometimes he laid hands on the sick person, sometimes he didn’t. We also see Jesus’ hesitation to help (John 2:4) at the wedding at Cana and yet he does solve the lack of wine problem.

Perhaps the best explanation is found in Jesus’ words, “I do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14:31). Jesus wasn’t following a predetermined action plan but rather he was listening to his Father. Jesus’ description of someone born of the Spirit is a description of his own life, “the wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going” (John 3:8).

What does this mean for us? We can’t assume that we know what God will do in a particular situation, as we can’t predict how God will work in someone’s life. It means it’s essential for us to be listening for God’s directions.