Bread for the Gentiles
AUGUST 31- Nº 243 Matthew 15:21-39; Mark 7:24 – 8:9
Not long after he had been rejected by his own people for claiming to be “the bread of life that came down from heaven” (see #242 - August 30), Jesus and his disciples left Israel and traveled north into Gentile territory. Jesus wanted to spend some time alone with his disciples. However, a woman, whose young daughter was possessed by a demon, found out that he was there. She came to the house where he was staying and fell at his feet. She begged Jesus to drive out the demon that was tormenting her child. “Oh, Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!” she cried. Even though she was from a pagan, Gentile area, she recognized that Jesus was the Messiah the Jews were waiting for, and she believed that he could heal her daughter. At first, Jesus ignored the distraught woman. But she kept begging until his disciples finally complained, “Lord, would you please send her away. Her crying is starting to annoy us!” Jesus looked at the young mother and explained, “God sent me to help His lost sheep—the people of Israel. It is not right to take the bread that belongs to the children and feed it to their dogs.” The woman was persistent, “Yes, Lord, but even the puppies under the table can eat the crumbs that fall on the floor.” She was not asking Jesus to take anything away from the Jewish people. She just wanted him to give her the leftovers—the bread they refused to accept for themselves. Jesus said, “Woman, your faith is great! You can go home now; the demon has left your daughter.” When she arrived, her daughter was lying quietly on her bed—the demon was gone! Then Jesus and his disciples headed to Decapolis—another Gentile region that was near the Sea of Galilee. This was the same area where he had healed the man possessed by the legion of demons (see #238 - August 26). The man had told everyone in the region what Jesus had done for him. So, when Jesus and his disciples arrived, a huge crowd showed up. They brought everyone with illnesses and injuries to Jesus, and he healed them all. This went on for several days. The people were amazed by Jesus’ power, and they gave glory to God! After a while, Jesus said to his disciples, “I am concerned for these people. They have been with us for three days, and their food has run out. If I send them home, they might collapse on the way.” The disciples either did not remember what Jesus had done on the Jewish side of the lake when he had fed more than 5,000 people (see #241 - August 29), or they didn’t think he would perform such a great miracle for the Gentiles. So, they challenged him, “Lord, we are in a remote place. There is no way we can get enough food.” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied after checking around, “and a few small fish.” Jesus told the crowd to sit on the ground. Then he took the loaves and the fish and gave thanks. He broke them into pieces and gave them to the disciples. They distributed the food to the people just as they had done on the other side of the lake. Once again everyone ate until they were satisfied. When they had finished, the disciples picked up seven baskets of broken pieces that were left over. That day, Jesus and his disciples fed 4,000 Gentile men plus their wives and children.
The disciples wanted Jesus to send the distraught, Gentile mother away. Later they were not interested in helping the hungry Gentile multitude. But Jesus always responded to people’s needs based on their faith, regardless of their backgrounds. Are you able to minister to people without your pride or your prejudices getting in the way?