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29 September 2021
Man on a mission?

Prepare

What routines or rhythms of rest help you to connect with God, either on your own or with others?

Bible passage

Matthew 15:21–28

The faith of a Canaanite woman

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.’

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.’

24 He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’

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.

New International Version - UK (NIVUK) Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Explore

Jesus has retreated (journeying many, many hours on foot) after facing the pressures of controversy (vs 12,21). Previously, he withdrew to prevent opposition escalating (14:13) or to pray alone (14:23). Here, we see Jesus as teacher, rabbi and man on a mission, needing time away from people, crowds and tension. 
In stark contrast to the Pharisees and scribes’ religious pedigree (15:1), the Canaanite woman is a descendant of Israel’s ancient enemies. Yet she approaches the Jewish Messiah with humble awareness of his power and identity (v 25), and is honoured by Jesus for her faith (v 28). What are the disciples thinking (v 23)? Is Jesus being purposefully provocative in his answers (vs 24,26)? It’s another learning opportunity for the disciples, as Jesus reinforces his own mission to the ‘lost sheep of Israel’ (v 24; Matthew 10:5,6).
The first time Jesus came, he did not visit every corner of the earth – his disciples would begin the full mission to the Gentiles later (Matthew 28:19). But his teaching, miracles, death, resurrection, ascension and the giving of the Holy Spirit show that Jesus is more than a man on a local mercy-mission. These landmark events are pivotal in the earthly life of the incarnational, everlasting Father.

Author: Rachel Butler

Respond

‘Lord, help me join with you in your mission to the world. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me cross boundaries, so I can love others and share your story. Amen.’
 

Deeper Bible study

Within all that I have planned for today, Lord grant me the ability to find the time to sit at your table and be fed.

At first glance this is a shocking story to read in our context, particularly considering the events of 2020 regarding the right of all humans to be considered equal, irrespective of racial difference. Was Jesus really refusing to help someone because she was from a different race? Did Gentile Lives Matter? Having confirmed his mission to ‘the lost sheep of Israel’ (v 24), Jesus encounters a Gentile woman whose hope seems grounded in the salvation offered by Jesus extending from Israel into the whole world. This understanding of what God promised in the Old Testament is recognised by Jesus, alongside her persistence.

What we miss in simply reading cold print is both any sense of irony in the tone of voice employed by Jesus and his facial expressions. Some biblical commentators surmise that Jesus is engaging in a form of banter while simultaneously examining the woman’s faith. It is evident that despite the reference to dogs the woman shows no sign of offence, but rather responds to the challenges of Jesus with a claim on the falling crumbs. This is not the first time in Scripture that someone referred to as a dog finds a place around the king’s table (see, for example, the grace-filled story of David and Mephibosheth).1

The pronouncement of the kingdom of heaven to the Gentiles is yet a whisper in the context of Matthew 15, but as with so much of what happens in Jesus’ public ministry, the future keeps breaking in to the present. We see a parallel in the healing of the Gentile centurion’s servant.2 May we likewise have the faith and persistence to approach the Messiah in the knowledge of the heavenly banquet to come, while not missing the glorious meal on offer today.

‘We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table. But you are the same Lord whose nature is always to have mercy.’3

1 2 Sam 9  2 Matt 8:5–13  3 Prayer of Humble Access, Common Worship, Church House Publishing, 2000

Author: Jonny Libby

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year: Isaiah 57,58; Hebrews 11

Pray for Scripture Union

Give thanks to God for Steve Hutchinson – for his years of faithful service in leading children and young people on the path to faith. Ask God to bless him on the next stage of his journey.

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