GROWTH AND SUCCESS IN LIFE – Lessons Learned at the Feet of Jesus
In the midst of the declaration of religious war on Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus does the unthinkable. He begins to teach that salvation which began with Israel in the Old Testament is now being taken and offered to all men and women. He is leaving Israel proper and going to Perea, to Gentile regions, to clearly begin the message of “salvation to all who believe.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. Matthew 15:25-281.
1. Jesus’ Ministry Extended to All. Within the ministry of Jesus, during his lifetime, two groups form the greatest and highest examples of faith and devotion. This first was the women who followed him, and consistent with that, it is these disciples who go to the tomb, find it empty and announce his resurrection. The second group is the non-Jew, the Gentiles, the ones who seemingly have the least to commend themselves to the Messiah predicted from the Old Testament. Example 1. The faith of the centurion (Matthew 8). To him, Jesus proclaimed, I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. (Matt. 8:10). Now to the Canaanite woman, first a part of the religious outcast, second, a woman, and third, with a seeming objection from Jesus to her request for her demon-possessed daughter. Huge odds against this woman.
2. Understanding Jesus Reticence to Help.This section is all about teaching the disciples about the blessings of God going beyond Israel. First, Jesus seems to ignore the woman. To her plea, Jesus did not answer a word. Secondly, to the disciples’ protest of her plea, Jesus reminds them, I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. Third, to the woman’s direct plea at the feet of Jesus, He said, It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs. While the word “dogs” here are domestic pets, not the wilder version of the region, even so, the woman fights through all of these obstacles, even the initial refusal by Jesus.
3. Incredible Faith Against All the Odds. Putting ourselves on that road and time, how many of us would continue to persist for help and healing? This woman understood the grace and mercy of God as seen in Jesus. It was there for the having but only through persistence. To the logic of the woman, who said even the dogs get the crumbs on the floor, Jesus now affirms: Woman, you have great faith. Your request is granted, and her daughter was healed.
What is the message of this incredible passage? It is twofold: first, to the disciples and Jews, Jesus reaffirms that His first purpose was to go the sheep of Israel and to fulfill His role as the Great Shepherd of Israel. Second, and this is a tutorial message for all, salvation is now available to all men and women. It is not reserved for just the children of Abraham. Rather, fulfilling Genesis 12, 15 and 22, the Covenant with Abraham, blessings will be extended to all men.
Did those hearing this message understand it. I think so, in spades: 29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
There is a message embedded in this story that resounds through the New Testament. It is the message of the persistence of faith and prayer. The unjust judge who, upon the persistent pleas of the widow for justice, he relents to the woman. Jesus’ application: (1) He taught them this parable to show them they should always pray and not give up (Luke18:1), and when the son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8). Prayer and faith, Faith and persistence. Nothing suits the spiritual journey better.
What a wonderful message during this Christmas season. This is not just the message of the manger, of the birth in Bethlehem, it is the life of Jesus as he fulfilled the will of His heavenly Father, “to seek and save those who are lost.” Remember, prayer, faith and persistence. Blessings to you this month and season.
— John MooreP