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LESSON X
HOPE FOR HEALING
February 7, 2010

DEVOTIONAL READING : Isaiah 42:1-9
BACKGROUND SCRIPTURE: Matthew 15:21-18
PRINT PASSAGE: Matthew 15:21-18

KEY VERSE -
Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish. Matthew 15:28

OBJECTIVES -
Upon completion of the study of this lesson, the student should know that:
1. Jesus’ main mission was not one of physical healing...
2. One person’s faith can cause good things to happen for another person...
3. Persistent prayer pays off...

SESSION OVERVIEW -
Read the first verses of Matthew 15. There you will see that Jesus had made some powerful enemies with His teachings. His disciples sat down to eat without “washing” their hands. The Pharisees thought that was a spiritual travesty. This despite the fact that the washing ritual they had in mind had nothing to do with good hygiene; it was rather a religious ritual created by religious teachers. It was what they called a “tradition of the elders” (Matthew 15:2), and it was expected that all Jews would observe it. By the time Jesus finished correcting that error the church leaders, who had travelled all the way from Jerusalem to Capernaum , were extremely upset. And when Jesus followed that with a tongue-lashing on the subject of defilement (Matthew 15:10-14), the Pharisees were doubtless prepared to do Jesus physical harm...

It is in this setting that Jesus went to “the coasts of Tyre and Sidon ” to get away from that confrontation. It is there that Jesus left nonbelief behind, and encountered one of great faith...

INTRODUCTION -
To the Jews, there were only two races in the world: Jews and Gentiles. It was simple: anyone who was not a full-blooded Jew was a Gentile. Even the Jews of Samaria who returned to the area following the capture of the Northern Kingdom by Assyria were no exception. They had intermarried with “Gentile” nations, and were despised by their Jewish brethren...

By the same token, God was supposed to be their God, and the benefits thereby were to come to the Jewish nation. It is in this setting that Jesus encountered a woman who was clearly not a Jew, but was in need of help. Her problems were real, and she was persistent. The question was just how best to handle the situation...

COMMENTARY ON THE TEXT -

I. A Cry For Help
(Matthew 15:21, 22)

Jesus would not get the “break” He was probably seeking. Upon arrival at the edge of Tyre and Sidon , a woman approaches Jesus with an earnest plea for help. It was a woman of Canaan . The fact that Mark calls her a Syro-phenician woman (Mark 7:26), poses no problem, as Phoenicians were descendants of the Canaanites. But therein lay the problem: she was a descendant of Canaan . And it was Canaan whom God cursed (Genesis 9:25-27)...

On the other hand, the woman showed exceptional qualities. First, she was actually coming to Jesus on behalf of her daughter, but she said to Jesus, “Have mercy on me.” She was suffering for her daughter. Jesus must have recognized this as something He would soon do for all mankind. Second, so great was her faith in Jesus that she didn’t bring her daughter with her...

It is also here evident that Jesus’ reputation had reached this unnamed woman (cf. Mark 3:8), for she had travelled out of her own country to meet Him. Also, the fact that she assigned her daughter’s illness to “a devil” indicated that she had become acquainted with Jewish religious thinking...

II. A Puzzling Response
(Matthew 15:23-27)

This woman’s earnest plea was met by Jesus with silence. Many have sought to explain the silence, but there is wide disagreement among authorities. This writer holds to the theory that Jesus was at that point testing her faith. There was also the consideration that Jesus didn’t want to send the message that His major purpose on earth was to perform physical healings. It was, in fact, the smaller portion of His ministry...

The disciples, meanwhile, wanted Jesus to send her away. It is not clear whether they were at the same time appealing for her to be healed: what is clear is that the disciples had selfish motives. They wanted the woman sent away because she was disturbing them. This is not the first time the disciples sought to solve a problem by sending it away. Not many days earlier when faced with the prospect of feeding five thousand men plus women and children, these same disciples made the same suggestion to Jesus (Matthew 14:15)...

Jesus responded by reminding His disciples of His mission: He was sent to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel ”. That would appear to leave this Canaanite woman out. But these discouraging words didn’t deter this woman. She approached Jesus again, begging for help. Jesus responded with what appears to be a harsh, almost cruel, reply. It implied that granting this woman’s request would be like casting “the children’s bread” to dogs. Was Jesus calling the woman a dog? Scholars cringe at the thought, but find little explanation other than that the term “dog” was a mutual appellation between Jew and Gentile, and because of frequent use of the term, it didn’t sound as harsh to them as it does in today’s society...

The woman’s response appears to bear this out, as she showed no negative reaction. She in fact agreed with Jesus, and continued her plea by asking not for bread, but for crumbs that fall from the master’s table. So great was her faith that she believed a crumb from Jesus would solve her problem. This brings to mind another woman recorded by Matthew (9:20, 21) who was content to merely touch the hem of Jesus’ garment to be made whole...

III. Healing Words
(Matthew 15:28)

Jesus appears here to be amazed at this woman’s faith. It is ironic that He had recently left His home town and His own people, and found so little faith that He was amazed. Now, He is confronted by one that is an “outsider” in many ways, and he finds such great faith that He is amazed...

Jesus granted the woman’s wish. He healed her daughter, without seeing the child. Whatever was wrong, Jesus merely told the woman to go home, for all would be well. Matthew ends the story by noting that the daughter was made whole “from that very hour”...

APPLICATION OF THE SCRIPTURE -
Prayer that is not sincere is a waste of a person’s time. When Jesus was in His home town of Nazareth , there were crowds, but little faith. Here in today’s lesson, there were precious few, but great faith. Let us not be deceived by crowds, singing and praising. If this is insincere, God will count it as nothing more than noise, and close His ears (cf. Amos 5:23)...

It is good advice for us to pray sincerely, and pray without ceasing. Sometimes God will test our faith. Will we give up if the first or second prayer doesn’t work? And if we DO give up, where will we go next? The Canaanite woman should teach us a lesson: we would be blessed by having God’s “crumbs”. Why? Because crumbs from Him are much greater in value than all the world’s riches...

REFLECTIONS ON THE LESSON -
1. How many people can you think of that in many ways you can feel their pain?
2. Name some of the places you have first sought help in time of trouble.
3. Discuss what you believe about a person being possessed by a devil...

ASSIGNMENT, PROJECT, OR ACTIVITY -
1. Discuss why Jesus initially seemed so harsh and offensive to the woman.
2. Discuss the great faith of the Gentile woman....

A
 
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