14–20 January 2018.
We often divide people up into those who are our friends and those who aren’t; we then treat both groups very differently. When our friends need something we are happy to help. But when others want something from us we turn away, pretend not to hear, or find reasons not to help. While, sadly, it’s normal for us to behave this way, the good news is that Jesus doesn’t act this way at all.
This surprised Jesus’s disciples. They expected Jesus just to help Jews and Israelites. But Jesus shows his disciples (and the world) that he is here to love and care for everyone regardless of whether they are Jews or non-Jews, men or women, young or old.
In Mark 7, a woman comes to beg Jesus for help to heal her young girl. But the woman and her sick daughter weren’t Jewish. To Jewish men, foreign Gentile females were counted as nobodies, and they were treated no better than filthy dogs. Jesus indeed calls the woman a dog! It shocks us to hear the disgusting way Jesus talks to this worried mother – but I don’t think it would have shocked Jesus’s disciples. If anything, they may have wondered why Jesus even bothered talking to this woman at all. But maybe Jesus talks to the woman in this harsh way to teach his own disciples an important lesson about their own bad behaviour.
The disciples were raised in a culture that treated foreigners and non-believers like rubbish, looking down on them as if they were worthless and disgusting. But in Jesus’s brief discussion with this woman he shows the disciples how wise this foreign woman is, and how great her faith is. And in front of the disciples Jesus allows this foreign woman to win the argument and change his mind! It’s no wonder that the disciples remembered this brief but amazing encounter and wrote it down for us to remember today.
Here in this story Jesus starts to teach the disciples an important lesson that they don’t fully grasp until after the resurrection. It’s a truth that Peter finally understands only in Acts 10:34, and a truth that Paul proclaims to the world in Romans 2:11. That wonderful truth is that “God does not show favouritism.”
Christ loves you and me regardless of our backgrounds, our histories, and even regardless of our sins! Indeed it was while we were still sinners that Jesus loved us and died for us (Romans 5:8). We sinful human beings show favouritism. But the wonderful news of Christ is that he doesn’t show favouritism at all. He loves you and me and the whole world.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis