Today’s Scripture – January 23, 2017

Matthew 15:21-24 (NIV) Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”
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.”
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

This woman had heard about the wonder-worker, Jesus, and all that He had been doing in Israel, and it had filled her heart with longing.  Her daughter had suffered torment from demons for many years, and no one seemed to be able to help.  She had thought many times about taking her daughter to Israel to try to find Jesus, but the trip was too far, and nobody knew where Jesus was going to be at any given moment.

Then she heard that He had come to her area, and immediately set out to find Him.  And when she did find Him, she fell at His feet, pleading with Him to release her daughter from the continual torment that she suffered from the demons.

Even though the woman was not Jewish, she had heard that Jesus was the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the descendent of King David, who had come with miraculous power.  She called Him “Lord,” elevating Him above, and setting her own position far below His.  She called Him “Son of David,” acknowledging His claim to the throne of Israel.  And then she begged Him to show her mercy by casting the demons out of her daughter.  She had absolute faith that He could do all that she was asking, and she asked as politely, as humbly, and as formally as she could.

So imagine her shock and despair when Jesus seemed to not even hear her, and walked right past.  What more could she have done?  Even the disciples were stunned.  Jesus hadn’t even looked at the woman.  He didn’t even tell her that He wouldn’t help her, and send her away.  As they walked on, the woman kept following them, calling out to Jesus in the most pitiful tones for help.

When the disciples pleaded with Jesus to do something, even if it was just to send the woman away with a definite no, His response took them by surprise:  “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

This was absolutely true.  The people of Israel, even though they were lost and wandering, like sheep without a shepherd, were the ones that God had spent centuries preparing for Jesus’ coming.  They were the ones who had the law of God, so they had an idea of what God expected of them.  They were the ones to whom He had given His promises.  So they were the ones that Jesus was sent to; the people among whom He expected to find a harvest of ripe fruit, ready for picking.

This pagan, idol-worshiping woman (the meaning of Matthew’s term “Canaanite” – by nationality the woman was Greek, born in Syrophoenecia as seen in Mark 7:26) had no real knowledge of God or His laws.  Her heart was not intent on seeking to serve God or to know Him better.  All she had was a deep need, and an understanding that the man before her could deliver her daughter, if only He would.  And Jesus needed more than that before He just started handing out miracles to people who would just go on their own way afterwards, completely unchanged.

Father, we often forget that Jesus had a purpose for His miracles:  they were irrefutable proof that Your kingdom was actually here.  And those unprepared for Your kingdom would receive precious little from just being healed or having a loved one delivered.  Even today, miracles are not just handed out willy-nilly, but are intended to bear the fruit of eternal life.  Help us to never take Your miraculous power for granted, but to always keep Your deeper purposes in mind, so that we can be more effective in being used by You to reach more people for Your kingdom.  Amen.

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