Tuesday 25 October 2016

Bible Book:

“Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.” (v. 28)

Matthew 15:21-31 Tuesday 25 October 2016

Psalm: Psalm 36


Dogs are not the Bible's favourite animals. They were 'unclean'for 1st-century Jews because they ate 'unclean' food,catching vermin and scavenging, and were rarely kept as pets. 'Dog'was term of abuse, much as it is today. It was certainly not anaffectionate name to use for a non-Jew, who would also beconsidered 'unclean' because they ate 'unclean' food. So this isone of those awkward bits of the Bible, where Jesus speaks in, wemight think, an uncharacteristically harsh way. But this isMatthew's Gospel - a Jewish Gospel for Jewish Christians - and theemphasis here is, undoubtedly, on the Jewishness of Jesus, the "Sonof David" (v. 22), whose primary concern was for "the lost sheep ofthe house of Israel" (v. 24), whose God was the God of Israel. AndJesus, as a 1st-century Jew, had a1st-century Jew's attitude towards Gentiles (non-Jews) -one that would have been shared by many 1st-centuryJewish Christians too. And the woman's request was only answeredwhen she acknowledged her second-class status as a Gentile,standing at the back of the queue for God's grace.

While this may seem a bit tricky to us as modern readers it doespoint towards another of Matthew's concerns - to show Jesus as thelong-awaited Jewish Messiah, whose coming would exalt Israel overall other nations, and whose great 'messianic banquet' would feed,not just Israel, but all peoples (eg Isaiah25:1-10). So this gentile woman recognised Jesus as the JewishMessiah, the "Son of David" (v. 22) ("Lord", here, is just a termof respect) and her faith was rewarded. And, continuing this theme,Jesus then goes up a mountain, and the crowd sees "the mutespeaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing"(v. 31) - which is just what would be expected of the Messiah ofthe "God of Israel" (eg Isaiah35:5, 6). It is worth remembering, perhaps, that whenChristians refer to Jesus as Christ they too are identifying him asthe Jewish Messiah - 'Christ' means 'anointed' in Greek, the sameas 'Messiah' in Hebrew. But that's not usually what Christiansmean, of course.

To Ponder

  • What does the word 'Messiah' mean to you? Is it, for you, thesame as 'Christ'?
  • As a modern reader, who do you identify with in the story?Why?
  • Who, in your view, stands 'at the back of the queue for God'sgrace'?

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