The Man for Others
Lord, speak to me today, words of comfort, counsel and command.
Read Matthew 15:21-28
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
We must always respond with both compassion and focus in our interactions with people.
Jesus travels north to avoid further interruptions from the Galilean crowd and the Pharisees, so that he can prepare himself and his disciples for his death and resurrection. This incident is not easy to understand; we might even find it shocking. We expect Jesus to be totally available, especially since from our post-resurrection perspective we know that his saving grace will be offered to the whole world. However, he is not just an itinerant faith healer. For now, he must focus on his immediate task–to die as King of the Jews.
So Jesus pushes away the woman. Why then does he relent? Was he responding to the pitiful cry of a mother for her child? Some commentators suggest that his words (24) are a heart-searching question to himself: “Am I sent only to the lost sheep of Israel?” This was the instruction he gave earlier to his disciples (Matt. 10:5-6). To those engaged in helping ministries, this incident represents a common dilemma: people’s immediate needs often compete with other good responsibilities. Jesus’ compassionate response is a model for us. He is focused, but he is not bound by a program. He has already shown the way–responding to Gentile needs, healing a Roman centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5-13) and shockingly interacting with Samaritans (John 4:4-42; Luke 17:11-16). He chooses compassion.
Jesus seems to be moved by the spunk of the Gentile woman. To be labeled a dog is offensive and would send most people away. Matthew’s Jewish readers would later be confronted by the astonishing uptake of the message of the Christ by the Gentiles. Jesus is commending this woman as a prototype of those who would respond to the Gospel so quickly in the years ahead, while at the same time affirming the specialness of Israel. God didn’t make a mistake in choosing them, but fortunately for us Gentiles, his plans are wider (Matt. 28:18-20)!
What do you learn about the woman? About Jesus? About Jesus’ attitude toward non-Jews?
Loving Father, I am challenged by the attitude of Jesus to others. I confess that at times my attitude is less than stellar. Forgive me and continue to make me more like Jesus.
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