Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Recognized by a Canaanite Woman: International Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending February 7, 2010

Purpose: To understand the inclusive nature of Jesus' ministry

Scripture Text: Matthew 15:21-28 (NRSV)

Matthew 15:21-28
(21) Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.(22)Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ (23)But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’

(24)He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ (25)But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ (26)He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’(27)She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ (28)Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This week's lesson from chapter 15 offers an interesting approach to the role of organized religion in our society and to the Church's role in the advancement of Christianity. The chapter starts with the Scribes and Pharisees complaining about Jesus and His disciples not obeying the “tradition of the elders.” Jesus proceeds to condemn them for following the traditions, but not obeying the intent of God's law of love; they had circumvented God's law for their own gain, by creating the “tradition of the elders.” I worry that we may be doing the same thing within our churches. When I was a young Christian, I use to say “it was harder to get into some churches than it was to get into heaven,” now I am more certain that it is a fact. Our “tradition of the elders” has grown stronger and following the simple moral law of Christ is less important than the “tradition of the elders,” “tradition of the elders” has become our new standard. Christ made it simple, “love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself.” Everything else is the “tradition of the elders.” I know good God fearing people that would like to join a church, but the “tradition of the elders,” says they must be indoctrinated first, even though they have been members of the denomination for many, many years, they have not heard the latest pitch or obligation. In verse 14 Jesus says “they are the blind leading the blind.”

That is some of the problem Jesus faced when he traveled to Tyre and Sidon in Syria/Phoenicia. One problem was a “women” wanted to speak to Jesus, which was not in the “tradition of the elders,” another was, she was a gentile or Canaanite women. Jesus appears to stick with the “tradition of the elders” and seemingly ignores her cries for an audience. But after the women bows down and worships Jesus and recognizes him as the promised Messiah, the Son of David, Jesus listens and grants her request. He did not do this without testing her faith and going into a dialog about how she is aware that God's chosen people are to be served first, but she is willing to eat the crumbs from the Kings table, she knew she was not worthy. This gentile/Canaanite woman had just met all the requirements needed to become the benefactor of God's promise of healing and love. She was humble, reverent, and full of faith. She had exhibited God's moral law, she loved the Lord with all of her heart mind and soul and she was willing to love others as she loved herself; she was not asking for herself but rather for a daughter that was demon possessed. This woman knew the power of Christ could overcome the power of evil that was in possession of her daughter.

The “tradition of the elders” in the first century taught men to say “Praise be to God that he has not created me a women.” One rabbi wrote, “Rather should the words of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman.” and the Talmud cursed the man who allowed his wife to say grace for him.

Jesus set aside all of these traditions and rewarded the Canaanite woman for her faith and trust, and she received a “foretaste” of things to come. She got in advance what all of us were afforded after His mission on earth was completed by His resurrection. This women had lots of reasons to be distressed, troubled and to feel unloved, but when she met the Master he blessed her and made her as important as any Jewish man of faith; that is the same with us, we have no right on our own, but after we have been received by His adoption, we can become joint heirs with Him.

How do you think God's message of love is best being spread today, by “the tradition of the elders” or by God's law of love, lived out in people’s lives?

1 comment:

Beverly said...

After reading this lesson, I realize just how lucky I am to have found the church I am a member of today. I have NEVER been looked down upon or pushed aside because I am a woman. I felt welcomed from the first day I set foot inside.
The lesson made me aware of how prejudice has always existed...for some reason this is something I did not realize.