The Admiral and I have been cherishing Wednesday night bible study at our church. This time of teaching has been focused on the life of Christ as he moved through His ministry from the Jewish rejection of His mission forward to his ministry to the Gentiles. This past week one of the incidents that we discussed was from Matthew 15:21-28 & Mark 7:24-30. It is the story of the Phoenician woman who comes to Christ begging Him to heal her daughter who is possessed of a demon. This woman was not a Jew. Yet comes to this man begging for her daughter's life.
Christ at first ignores her. She calls to him over and over. The disciples say to Christ " send her away she is being obnoxious." Then he tells her "I was sent to the lost sheep of Israel" She asked again. Christ replies " it is not right to take the children's food and feed it to the dogs." The woman tries again saying " and yet even the dogs the eat the crumbs that fall from the children's table." He responds "Woman, how great is your faith! It will be done as you want" And her child was healed and made well.
I looked at this and was appalled at first. Isn't my Jesus unfailingly nice, completely kind, unceasingly loving? Why would he ignore her? Why would he insult her? I listened as the pastor explained that Jesus was teaching lessons to the phoenician woman AND to the disciples. You see the disciples had this attitude that non Jews weren't really important to Christ. They weren't cruel.... this was the culture of the day. They had grown up for generations as the chosen people. To shift paradigms suddenly and accept all people into the kingdom was a huge mental stretch. It would be like die hard Colts fans being happy the Saints won the Superbowl. Turning centuries of attitude around was a tall order Jesus undertook. Yet with this simple statement by a persistent, humble woman "even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table" ( Mt 15: 27) Jesus illustrates profoundly the care the Father has for the gentiles. The lesson to the woman, as I see it is two-fold. The first part is the lesson of persistence. She must ask three times, humbly beseeching, three times for her daughter's healing. She knows she is unworthy. She knows He will likely deny her. She also KNOWS within her that Jesus can heal her daughter if He chooses to do so. So in verses 22, 25, and 27 of chapter 15 she asks. And asks. And asks again, knowing He can heal. He rewards her persistence. The second part of her lesson is the humility lesson. Christ does not set aside her difference, her outsiderness. Facing His rebuke, She doesn't argue her unworthiness. She simply says "may I have the crumbs?"
These lessons apply to us too. So often what we have believed forever proves to be wrong or a misconception. We have to twist our brains around something new, a new way of thinking. We don't like change as a race and therefore changing the way we think is a struggle. But Jesus is there gently nudging saying quietly " see I love them too". The lesson is to be open to His leading and teaching. Be open to the paradigm shift.
Second is Be Persistent. Do not back down in prayer. Do not shy away from asking. Whole heartedly go after the Father's desires for your life. The woman was persistent to the point of annoying. The disciples wanted her to be quiet and go away. Yet she persisted and received great blessing in the healing of her child.
Lastly is the lesson of humbleness. None of us not one deserves his grace.We each have fallen short of the mark. Romans 3:23. Be Humble. Be willing to seek with humbleness and willingness to work whatever task He sets before you. Be willing to to set aside self pride for the joy that comes from giving whole heartedly.
Father God, I pray for your mercy on this child who does not deserve mercy. Lord.God come. Teach me to be Open, Persistent, and Humble.