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 - A Walk on the Water), Jesus and his discåiples left Israel and travelled north into Gentile territory. Jesus wanted to be alone with his disciples. But 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 daughter. “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 looking for, and she put her faith in him. At first, Jesus ignored the distraught woman. But she kept begging until his disciples said, “Lord, send her away. Her crying is starting to annoy us!” Finally, he looked at her 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 down to them.” 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 didn’t want to accept for themselves. Jesus said, “Woman, your faith is great! You can go home now; the demon has left your daughter.” When she got home, her daughter was lying quietly on her bed—and 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 a man possessed by the legion of demons (see #238 - Demons on the Other Side of the Sea). 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 people with all kinds of illnesses and injuries to Jesus. They laid them at his feet, and he healed them all. They were amazed at Jesus’ power and praised 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 didn’t remember what Jesus had done on the Jewish side of the lake when he had fed more than 5,000 people (see #241 - Feeding a Lot More Than Five Thousand), 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 before. Once again everyone ate until they were satisfied. When they were 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 based on their faith regardless of their background. Are you able to minister to people without your pride or your prejudices getting in the way?