Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jesus’ Gifts and Power Are Not Limited

Matthew 15:21-39

“Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.  And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.” (Matthew 15:21-23)

When Jesus went into the area of present day Lebanon, a Canaanite woman began to call out to Jesus for help with her demon possessed daughter.   Like many ethnic groups, the Jews tended to associate only with their own people.    Jesus deliberately ignored her, acting just like most of the Jewish leaders would have done, to call attention to their wrong attitude.    Instead of asking him to heal her, the disciples became upset at her cries and asked him to send her away. 

“But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to dogs.

And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.” (Matthew 15:24-27)

Instead of sending her away as the disciples asked, Jesus stopped to talk to her.  He told her exactly what the disciples expected, that his mission was to the nation Israel.   It was the standard attitude of the Jews that only Jews could receive the benefit of God’s promises.  Whether his message was solely for the Jews or not, her daughter needed healing and woman believed Jesus could help her. 

Jesus pointed out that it was not proper to take what was meant for one group and use it for someone else.  That he used the illustration of dogs emphasized the Jewish attitude that others were inferior.   The woman acknowledged that his statements were true, but as she pointed out, allowing others to benefit as well did not deprive the intended recipients. 

“Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” (Matthew 15:28)

Jesus complimented her on her faith, and gave her what she asked.  It was an important lesson for the disciples to learn that even if their primary ministry was to Israel, they could reach out to others as well.  It was the first recorded step in teaching the disciples that the gospel was not limited to Jews only.

“And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there.  And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and he healed them: Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.” (Matthew 15:29-31)

Jesus then returned to the coast of the Sea of Galilee, to one of the hills where he sat down to receive the people who followed him.  They brought all kinds of sick and injured people to him to be healed.   That he was able to heal every problem including problems that had existed since birth, the people were intrigued that he had such power and thanked God for giving it to him.

“Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.

And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?” (Matthew 15:32-33)

He had been there three days healing people and Jesus knew some of them had been there the whole time with nothing to eat.  Jesus was concerned about them, that they might faint or collapse on their way home.   It was a wilderness area with no nearby towns, and the disciples asked where they could buy food for so many people, completely forgetting how he had fed the five thousand men a few days before. 

“And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes.

And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.  And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.   And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.  And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.

And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.” (Matthew 15:34-39)

When Jesus asked how much food they had, they had more than they had the first time.  He did exactly the same thing he had done the first time, and the entire multitude was satisfied, although it was smaller than the first time.  Again they had far more left over than they started with.  God doesn’t run out of power because he has done something before.

After sending the crowd away, Jesus and the disciples sailed  across the Sea of Galilee to Magdala, on the west coast, south west of Capernaum. 

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