Friday, February 5, 2010

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary

For Sunday February 7, 2010
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THE REWARDS OF FAITH
(GOD tests and rewards our faith)
(Matthew 15:21-28 & Mark 7:24-30)

In the Greek, the word used for “longsuffering” is “makrothumia”, and “it describes a spirit that never grows irritated, never despairs, and particularly, in this lesson, never regards anyone as being beyond salvation”. In Matthew chapter 15, verses 21-28, and Mark chapter 7, verses 24-30, we are told of JESUS’ encounter, outside of Jewish territory (the region of Tyre and Sidon, about 35 miles north of Galilee) with a Syro-Phoenician woman, who, of course, is a Canaanite, one of the most hated enemies of the Jews in those days.
Here we find JESUS’ disciples in a “teachable moment” where HE demonstrates to them, by healing this Gentile’s woman’s daughter, because of her faith, that the Gospel HE was touting would be embraced, by both Jews and Gentiles alike. HE also sought to show them that prayer is made for all men, and, that for the Christian, there would no longer be any such thing as an enemy, except satan, in all the world. HE wanted it to be understood that, no one is to be considered “outside” of HIS love, and that no one is outside of the purpose of GOD. GOD wishes all mankind to be saved.
In the Old Testament, the prophets depicted a picture of the MESSIAH as one WHO would come and set up HIS messianic kingdom only for the Jews, who were considered to be the lost sheep of Israel. But, in reality, Israel was only to be given the first opportunity to respond positively to the Gospel of JESUS CHRIST. Apparently, this Gentile woman was ignorant of the Jewish interpretation of GOD’s plan, and she steadfastly appealed to JESUS for help in the healing of her demon-possessed daughter.
Here in this story, we see the woman addressing JESUS as the “Son of David”, a well recognized messianic title used by most people in those days, who wished to get the attention of our LORD and SAVIOR. When JESUS failed to answer her, she became very persistent in her appeal for help. Then JESUS reminded, both her, and, HIS disciples that HE had been sent to offer help to HIS OWN people first, who had inherited GOD’s promise to King David centuries earlier. She reasoned with JESUS, that, even the family dog was allowed to eat the crumbs from its master’s table.
JESUS seems to be deeply touched by the faith of this Gentile woman, especially on the heels of being rejected by HIS OWN people, twice in HIS OWN hometown, and, by the religious hierarchy at Jerusalem and other places. He knew that it would not be disobedient to HIS FATHER GOD if HE granted this faith-filled woman her request at this time. After all, the lady was not seeking to deprive Israel of its blessing, but rather, she was only asking that some of the blessings be extended to her in her time of need. And so JESUS granted her request, and her daughter was immediately healed.
The faith of this Syro-Phoenician woman was actually what JESUS was seeking from the Jewish populace of Palestine. However, it had been just the opposite, and this woman’s great faith, served to illustrate, first to the disciples, and then, to Israel at large, the great truth that they had all, to this point, missed.
This Canaanite woman, referred to as a “dog” by her Jewish enemies, was able to look through the garbage and take the leftovers from the great meal that the Israelites had squandered. JESUS’ use of this, then familiar term for the Jews enemies, was not meant to denigrate the woman, but rather, it was meant to show the disciples, that, from that day forward, they were to treat all mankind with the same compassion if they were to serve in the Christian movement to come. It was to be a movement that would eventually encompass all the nations of the earth, and present each one with the opportunity to receive the truth, grace, and reward of GOD’s wonderful Salvation through CHRIST JESUS, and, to be a part of GOD’s great work of the HOLY SPIRIT in the lives of all humanity, that chooses to participate.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
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