21 Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” 23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting [a]at us.” 24 But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and began [b]to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26 And He answered and said, “It is not [c]good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 But she said, “Yes, Lord; [d]but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”Matthew 15:21-27
- That Jesus who stooped to welcome and bless the children brought to Him, should have raised an objection to granting the request and responding to the plight of this Syro-phoenician woman is ,to a superficial reading of the passage ,incomprehensible
- That Jesus who in the past, refused to conform to typical Jewish prejudices regarding Gentiles, should seem to fall back on them in this dire case is stranger still.
The woman’s daughter was in the worst plight imaginable and it would take a very hard heart not to be moved to action by it. Yet here was the most compassionate man who ever existed, acting and speaking with typical Jewish exclusiveness and showing unwillingness to help.
The disciples re-acted accordingly and bade Jesus send the woman away because she was becoming a nuisance
- Maybe this woman had caught Jesus at a bad time, perhaps in a time of weariness or despondency?
- Or did Jesus have one persona for the nation of the Jews and quite another for the Heathen gentiles?
- Did He have a “public face”, or was He in fact quite a different person away from the public gaze?
If Christ was any of these things it was a great departure from all that He showed Himself to be up to this point.
There was a lot more going on here than what appeared to the casual observer.
The answer Jesus gave to the woman’s plea for help gave little to encourage her and too many may have seemed rather hurtful in that He compared the gentiles to pets worthy only of scraps.
This woman however had no intention of being put off; she was not the sort who would be discouraged by difficulties placed in her path: her daughters need was such that only Jesus, the proven healer of all manner of diseases could help her and if it took humbling herself to the position of a beggar she would.
If she as a gentile and alien was of no more consideration than a dog, only worthy of scraps, she would recieve them and be thankful .
Like an apparently stern father that moves further away and bids his unsteady infant to come to him, Jesus had drawn out the faith of this woman for all to see and emulate.
28 Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once. Matthew 15:28
For all His disciples, then and now, with their small and deficient faith, Jesus objectifies the necessity and possibilities of great faith in the great Saviour and bids them believe and do likewise.
Christ demonstrates here, that though sometimes he seems far away and we may be conscious of our unworthiness, he is no less willing to save and help.
He also shows that it is only our lack of persistence in prayer and feeble faith that holds us back from growth in grace and victory over sin and fear.
We today, think of God merely as a cornucopia who gives instantly and on demand. If this were the case what need would there be for faith.
He departs from us that we may seek Him more diligently. He delays the answers to our prayers that we may pray more fervently and grow spiritually.
Had Jesus immediately ceded to this woman’s plea she would have been just one of the great numbers of nameless beneficiaries of his power and healing. Instead she is now an object lesson of the importance of powerful faith in the followers of Jesus.
Her short discomfort at Christ’s seeming refusal is repaid abundantly not only by the healing of her daughter but by the confirmation of her faith and its being placed in the one truly worthy of it.
God grant us like faith.
Nurture and Admonition
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
The Authorized has it “The nurture and admonition of the Lord”.
While this verse specifically refers to children of Christian parents it surely has a wider application to the attitude of God’s children to His teaching and discipline.
In the days of the Judges, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes”, if ever an age could be described like this, it is this one in which we live.
This is not a very teachable age. People nowadays do not react well to correction or admonition. Not everyone is called upon to exercise these functions but for those who are it is certainly getting harder.
In the Church especially the function of pastor and teacher has, as it seems to me greatly diminished. What is worse is the teach- ability and correct- ability of the taught is at a very low level. The emphasis today is not so much teaching and equipping the followers of Christ to live holy lives but instead it is more about offering them purpose and fulfillment. These are not wrong but they are essentially man-centered and not God-centered.
Today we hear a great deal of the need to deal with negative thoughts and behaviours but very little about the need to mortify our remaining sin and practical Christian living in an otherwise Christ less world.
Due to the fact that much of the Bible and scriptural teaching is regarded as obsolete and outmoded, even by those who profess Christianity, today’s Christian is very likely to behave in some situations just like the non Christian. He is not being taught otherwise by the leaders who should be doing so.
The nominal Christian who is in an unhappy marriage is just as likely to file for a divorce as the non professor.
The person who regards the Bible as unclear or obsolete on some subjects will point to the rule of grace over law and the mercy and love of Christ as an excuse to engage in sinful practices and lifestyles and still be expected to be regarded as a Christian.
The corrective Bible teaching so necessary today is regarded as offensive and unpleasant so it is is foregone and neglected in the hope that God will by some other means convict the erring “believer” and correct him or her sooner or later.
It was here that the Apostle Paul pulled up the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 because they had neglected to deal with a blatant case of immorality in their midst. The church it seems was so intoxicated by their own seeming success that they saw no need to rock the boat give offense to the people who saw nothing wrong in this behaviour and knew no better.
Fortunately they heeded the Apostle and dealt with the situation and as 2 Corinthians shows the admonition had the desired effect and restored the offender to fellowship after their repentance.
One wonders what some of our modern churches would do in a like situation.
I fear there are many who would turn a blind eye and hope the wrongdoer would disappear from the scene and thus preserve the peace and status quo.
Others would say that we are no longer bound by the dated ideas of morality espoused by scripture or the “puritan” kill joy disciplines of the past.
The line of thinking being that as long as the actions of the persons involved do not upset the moral sensibilities of society or intefere with the organization of the church, it is better to let it pass without too much fuss being made: “We all like a quiet life”.
The Church today does not see its role as teaching right from wrong on moral issues and indeed the “World” openly discourages it from doing so.
The pressure to allow greater latitude and laxness is not all coming from without but much of it is now coming from within the christian church.
The pressure to tone down doctrine , discipline and correction is given impetus by the fear of congregations losing members, splitting the church or being sued by disgruntled former members for discrimination, vilification and emotional hurt.
As most churches today see themselves in a “business” model and paradigm they regard the teaching of doctrines unpleasing to modern man or inconvenient to some of the members , as bad for their bottom line.
The church’s faithfulness to God and His Word is of less consequence than the numbers and frequency of attendance as well as the healthiness of the offerings and bank accounts.
This is not a blanket condemnation but in many denominations and churches we cannot help but see the temptation to sacrifice Truth for expediency and faithfulness for growth and seeming success.
- The fact is your average Christian is not being called to the discipleship and self denial that they would have been in the past.
- Right and wrong are treated as something the congregation should already know or left in “shades of grey”.
- There is nothing hard and fast in the Church anymore.
- We desire harmony and look to give people a good experience from their church attendance rather leading them to Christ and true salvation and discipleship.
- The Church may indeed speak about Christ but it tends to blur the need for accepting His commands and yielding to His Lordship.
We need a return to an uncompromising proclamation of Christ and His Word regardless of what it does to our popularity or attendance.
Our aims in all we do must be God- centered and God-pleasing.
Otherwise regardless of our seeming success it will be found at last to be nothing more than “wood, hay and stubble’.
The cult of Celebrity is predominant in the thought and business practice of this current age.
The media, business and other organizations are adept at utilizing the drawing power of celebrities to further their various ends.
The church it seems is not unaffected by this phenomenon in that it seeks to further its cause and validates its endeavors by pointing to the famous and successful people who profess Christianity and use them as role models and draw cards.
How valid this practice is I leave to the judgment of God.
The inference seems to be that “success” and Christianity go hand in hand.
I fear that sometimes this “success” has more to do with the benefits pertaining to this worldly life being enhanced and guaranteed by the mere fact of becoming a Christian.
“for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come“. 1 Timothy 4:8
While it is true that the Christian has the promise of this life and the next, this seldom translates into an opulent lifestyle and freedom from earthly ills.
What is does mean that the Christian is able to triumph in whatever circumstances he finds himself and despite appearances otherwise is being blessed abundantly: yet he looks chiefly to his heavenly reward at last.
While fame used as a tool in Christian witness may guarantee a hearing, it has the real danger of focusing and terminating people’s attention on the celebrated person themself, and not truly on the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have pointed in past articles to the action of John the Baptist when he came under scrutiny at the height of his”Fame” and notoriety.
He in his day, was widely known and had no shortage of “Groupies” and could have ,if he had wished, pushed himself forward, yet rather than taking advantage of this celebrity to expand his own ministry , he pointed all the attention to “He” who was coming after himself, the One to whom the glory and adulation truly belonged.
The Apostle Paul could have laid claim a measure of fame and celebrity. His career as a persecutor of the church was widely known as was his unique conversion experience and subsequent labours.
When the need to speak of his past arose, the apostle makes very little of his own contribution or accomplishment but attributes it all to the power of Christ working in and through him.
The sinful world may place its admiration where it will; it has proven itself exceedingly fickle in the past and will continue to do so.It will set up and pull down those it admires at any given time.
We must not take our lead from them,rather we must
“Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly”.John 7:24
The truth is most Christians will pass through this life unknown and nameless to the “fame intoxicated” masses.
Our end as believers, famous or not, is to point people to Christ and lose ourselves in the light of His glory.