In Matthew 15:21-28, Jesus said to the Gentile woman whose daughter was tormented by a demon, “I was sent only to help the people of Israel- God’s lost sheep- not the Gentiles.” This quote, along with Jesus’ statement, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs”, portrays a completely different Jesus than what we see in the four Gospels and Paul’s messages in latter books in the New Testament. Can you explain how our loving Christ would speak in these terms? – Barbara
We read the Scriptures as Americans living in the 21st Century. But we need to recognize that the stories of the Bible took place thousands of years ago in a different part of the world. That means there will often be things which are difficult to understand because of the cross-cultural context. Something that is offensive in one culture may be common in another culture.
Also, when we carefully read the Gospels, we will often find a Jesus that is much more controversial and offensive has been portrayed to us. Certainly, Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love to this sinful world. But that love would lead him to confront sin and be intolerant towards wickedness.
Think about Jesus overturning the table of the money changers. He starts by braiding a whip. Then he trashes the area by tossing tables. It doesn’t sound like something from Jesus. It sounds more like a professional wrestler creating a scene for entertainment. This was not mild-and-meek Jesus. This was get-out-of-my-way Jesus. It may be hard to picture Jesus’ rage in this scene as “zeal for God’s house would consume him.” (see John 2:15-17)
In the Mark 14:14, it says Jesus was indignant towards the disciples who were preventing the little children from coming to him. Being indignant is not a word that I would associate with being “nice.” I picture a scowl on his face as he rebuked his disciples with a tone of disgust.
Jesus also had choice words for the religious establishment. He called them a brood of vipers, hypocrites, and blind guides (see Matthew 23:1-36). In another situation, he called Peter Satan (see Mark 8:33). Jesus spoke the truth. The truth was not always pleasant to hear, but it was what needed to be heard. Compassion is often shown by saying the difficult and unpopular things that may be upsetting.
In this particular story, Jesus confronts this Gentile woman who was described as a Canaanite. The Canaanites were often portrayed in the Scriptures as idolators. They did not worship the Lord, Yahweh. They worshipped man-made idols. They did not seek the Lord. Rather they used idols to manipulate the gods to accommodate their worldly passions and desires.
As a sinner, she was unworthy to ask anything of Jesus. She only came before him as a beggar. Jesus had every right as the Holy God to ignore her and refuse her request. The compassion is that he grants her request. But he does not grant her request because of who she was nor because of what she did. Jesus grants her request because of who he is.
I believe the reason we struggle with this story is that we struggle with the depth of our depravity. God does not tolerate sin. We are not worthy. We are the dogs that are fortunate enough to get the crumbs that fall off the master’s table. But we don’t deserve even the crumbs. We fail to grasp the fact that we are beggars before a Holy God.
The only way we have to come before God is to humbly come before him. That is we mourn and grieve our sin. We should not only expect harsh words. We should expect his temporal and eternal punishment. All we have is to beg of God’s mercy. The truth is we have rebelled against him and offended him. He should cast us all to the pit of hell.
We also need to know that God does not overlook our sin. Our sin is not dismissed as being nothing. The full consequence of our sin is measured out. But the consequence is brought upon Jesus at the cross. He took our place as the dog on the floor so that we could become the children at the table. Our unworthiness is more than we ever imagine. Yet, God’s grace is more than we could ever conceive.
The cross is offensive because it exists. It is needed because I am a sinner. It is something that I don’t want to hear. I would rather have a God passes off my sin as nothing. The cross is offensive because people in this world don’t think they need it. We would rather stand defiant in our sin than beg for mercy.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy upon us.