November 2, 2012

Food for the Heart, 11-2-12

"O taste and see that the Lord is good." -- Psalms 34:8

Sherrie Lambert,
The Express-Star

— Her heart was pounding so loudly she could barely think straight. Her breaths became more rapid as the excitement inside of her continued to build the closer she came to the group of Jewish men on the road ahead of her. What were they doing here in Tyre, forty miles northwest of Capernaum? This was Gentile territory. Her mind raced. Was it accidental or had Yahweh, the God of Israel, truly heard her prayers for her daughter? Would He listen to her plea? Would He even allow her to speak? She could hear the other men asking the man they called Jesus, 23) “send her away for she crieth after us.” It was apparent they did not want to be bothered by her.    At last, close enough to touch them, she cried out, 25) “and, fell at His (Jesus) feet.” 26) “and she besought (begged) Him that He would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.”

I am describing a scene as I see it in my mind from a story that can be found in it’s entirety in Mark 7: 24-30 and again in Matthew 15: 21-28. It only consists of a few verses in either account, but it is a touching, intriguing, inspiring, and wonder-filled incident in Jesus’ ministry.

When you read the Word, do you ask yourself questions? I do, and I encourage you to as well. Questions such as, what was Jesus doing in Gentile territory? Was it a reprieve from His enemies in Jerusalem or a glimpse of His eternal mercy for all of mankind? Romans 2:10) But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that works good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11) For there Is no respect of persons with God.”

Why did the disciples ask Jesus to send this woman away? Was It because she was a woman and women were at that time of less importance than men? Was It because she was a Gentile and they considered her unworthy of their Master’s attention? Or, was it simply because her begging annoyed them and had interrupted their conversation concerning spiritual things? Sometimes we can all be found guilty of wrapping ourselves in spirituality, while ignoring the immediate needs of those around us. Whatever their reason, the disciples certainly were lacking in their compassion towards her.

What had this woman based her faith in Jesus on? Had she heard of Jesus’ great miracles or was her faith founded upon the Word? Was it Isaiah 49:24-25 in the Old Testament? 24) “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? 25) But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contented with thee, and I will save thy children.”

Had Jesus come to this woman’s country to temporarily escape His enemies or to make a statement about inner purity, which He had been addressing in earlier verses with His disciples? Or, was it  because of this mother’s prayers for her child the Word does not specify.

Furthermore we are not told how long this child had been ill, nor how long this mother had prayed for her daughter or how far or how treacherous her journey to reach Jesus had been. We can correctly assume however one thing for certain … their meeting was anything but accidental.

It is apparent by this woman’s actions that she was familiar with the stories, prophecies, and/or possibly even some of the scriptures of the Old Testament concerning the Living God of the people of Israel. Otherwise, she would never have had the courage to seek Jesus, the faith to ask Jesus to heal her daughter, nor the wisdom to address Him as 22)“Oh Lord, thou Son of David.”

In fact, the fact that her ancestors the Canaanites and the Israelites were mortal enemies should have prevented her from even speaking to Jesus, much less asking and believing that Jesus could or would heal her daughter. In her mind she was well aware of the fact that a Jew would never soil his lips with unclean food nor his life by contact with an unclean person.

What this mother must have been hoping for with all her heart and soul was that this man  was no ordinary Jew.

Imagine, if you will, the Gentile mother kneeling at the feet of Jesus. She has just asked Him to cast a devil out of her daughter. Head bowed, hands clasped tightly together, she awaits His response. He doesn’t answer her … not yet.

    The scripture does not denote how much time passed between the mothers asking and Jesus’ first words. But speaking from experience, as a mother who has beseeched the throne in prayer for her children, I can tell you that no matter the actual amount of time that had lapsed … to this mother, waiting to hear from Jesus must have felt like an eternity.

What was she thinking during this time? Was she thinking that desperate love for her daughter had brought her this far and that she would not be denied her miracle, or was fear entrenching on her faith even while she awaited in the very presence of the Messiah for an answer to her prayers.  

It is interesting to note here that this is the only recorded time that Jesus was ever outside of Palestine and outside of Jewish territory. I say this at this point because personally I believe His reason for being here now was to answer this mother’s request. Prayer gets God’s attention … faith moves God’s hand. Some people pray thinking to themselves, ‘it couldn’t hurt and that they just might get an answer.’ Others pray, thinking to themselves, ‘I’m HURTING and I MUST get an answer!’

This was the case with our Gentile mother. Prayer for her was no taught ritual or learned habit. Prayer for her was an outpouring of the passionate desire of her soul. This woman came to Jesus, not as a possible answer to her need, but rather as the only answer. Her daughter’s misery was her own misery. This can be seen in Matthew verse 25) where she cries out to Jesus, “Lord, help me!” The force that drove this woman was a mother’s love … and there is nothing stronger or nearer to God than love.

She would not give up. She could not. To give up would mean to have no hope. He had not sent her away as His disciples had requested Him to do. That was a good sign, she may have assured herself. She braced herself. She would wait. It was love that had brought her to the feet of Jesus, and it would be that same love that would sustain her as she waited in the silence for His response.

26) Jesus answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and to throw it to the pet dogs.” He had not said no, she must have thought to herself. And He had used the diminutive form of the word dog, which in Greek was characteristically affectionate. What then? Was He testing her faith, or was He simply giving her the “Jewish’ response that a Gentile would have expected. She was uncertain. She was a little confused. She couldn’t be sure, but it seemed to her that the tone of His voice had sounded almost playful.

Then she raised her head and their eyes met ... her eyes that were filled with desperation, and hurt ... His eyes that were filled with deliverance and healing. 27) She said, “ True, Lord, but even the dogs eat of the pieces which fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was restored to health from that hour.

At this point, if you will shake any religious ideology that might possibly restrict you, you might imagine the two laughing heartily together with delight. Jesus over this mother’s bold, undoubting, unmovable, and complete faith in Him that opened His heart and Heaven’s doors to her. And her because she knew something by the receipt of this miracle that Jesus’ own disciples had not yet grasped … that Jesus had come into the world for the world … first for the House of Israel, but ultimately for all the houses of the world.