When no becomes yes ∙
A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is oppressed by a demon that torments her severely.” – Matthew 15:22
23 But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”
24 Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep – the people of Israel.”
25 But she came and bowed before him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”
26 Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”
27 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”
28 “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.
The Star Trek series began on NBC, and September 8, 1966. It ran for three seasons. It presented the voyages of the starship Enterprise on its five-year mission. Its purpose was “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Starfleet had a code of conduct, rules, and regulations. The Prime Directive was one of its most important ethical principles: noninterference with other cultures and civilizations. Starfleet personnel should refrain from interfering in societies’ natural, unassisted development, even if such interference was well-intentioned. The Prime Directive was viewed as so fundamental to Starfleet that officers swore to uphold it.
The Lord Jesus Christ had Prime Directive. He had a specific assignment and priority. The Father had made many promises in the Old Testament to the nation of Israel that one day their King would come and establish their Kingdom. The Father always keeps His promises. The Lord Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to the lost sheep of the house of Israel to offer the promised Kingdom of God and salvation. Ultimately as the Good Shepherd, he laid his life for them and the entire world.
Matthew 15:24 I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep – the people of Israel.
Jeremiah 50:6 My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray and turned them loose in the mountains. They have lost their way and can’t remember how to return to the sheepfold.
Why was the promise made to the house of Israel? Because they were His Chosen People and very special and dear to His heart.
Zechariah 2:8 He who touches you touches the apple of his eye.
But love and compassion find a way to override the Prime Directive.
Matthew 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
REFLECT & PRAY
Love and compassion override our personal “to-do lists.”
Father it is so easy for us to focus on our “to-do list” that we forget Yours. We conveniently forget Your Prime Directive and replace it with our own. Encourage me to fulfill Your Prime Directive. And yet increase my flexibility to joyfully lay aside my “to-do lists” to respond to Your direction for me at any particular moment. Encourage me to allow compassion and love to eclipse my personal agendas.
The prime directive was overridden by compassion. No becomes yes.
Matthew 15:22 A Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly oppressed.”
The Lord Jesus Christ stopped in His tracks. He heard the Canaanite woman’s words, but more importantly, He saw deeply into her heart. Her faith and earnestness moved him.
Matthew 15:28 “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.
It was a teachable moment, primarily for the aggravated, displeased, resentful disciples. Sometimes the needs and requests of others seem to be such a “bother.” But the Father continually brings them into our lives. Often, our first response is annoyance and frustration. We are “on task” and do not want to be interrupted. We must pray for wisdom and discernment to redirect our purpose to respond to His leading for the moment. We can always return to our other tasks and, most importantly, His Prime Directive for us.
Prejudice, resentment of others, and a sense of self-importance began in the Garden of Eden. The concept of race, as we understand it today, is a relatively new development in human history. The term race acquired its current definition from physical anthropology in the mid-19th century. Race is a social construct, an identity based on society’s rules based on physical (phenotypical) traits and appearance. The Scriptures recognize only one race: the human race.
The Canaanite woman, a Gentile, was well aware of the prejudice of the Jews against non-Jews. She was well acquainted with their slurs and denigrating insults and name-calling. But she ingeniously made use of their bigotry and intolerance. She made a very negative thing into a very positive thing. She cleverly transformed the ugliness of prejudice into the basis of her appeal.
“This woman’s desperate feeling of helplessness and her confidence in Jesus’ ability to meet her need are obvious in her posture and words. Matthew used the imperfect tense to describe her kneeling to make her action even more vivid. She did not just kneel, but she was kneeling. This was the attitude of a humble suppliant.”
“Jesus again clarified the difference between Jews and Gentiles for her benefit. Parents normally feed their children first. The dogs get whatever might remain. God, of course, was the Person providing the spiritual Bread of Life to His chosen people, and the dogs were the Gentiles, as the Jews regarded them popularly.”
“She did not challenge what Jesus had said but acquiesced to His truthfulness in saying it. Her words reveal great faith and spiritual wisdom. She did not ask for help because her case made her an exception or because she believed she had a right to Jesus’ help. She did not argue about God’s justice in seeking the Jews first. She simply threw herself on Jesus’ mercy without pleading any merit.”
“. . . she is confident that even if she is not entitled to sit down as a guest at the Messiah’s table, Gentile ‘dog’ that she is, yet at least she may be allowed to receive a crumb of the uncovenanted mercies of God.”
“She used the diminutive form of ‘dogs’ (Greek kynaria) [small, domesticated, household pets rather than the wild, homeless scavengers that roam the streets]. She also used the diminutive form of “crumbs” (position), expressing her unworthiness to receive an enormous blessing.
“The metaphor which Christ had used as a reason for rejecting her petition she turns into a reason for granting it.”
“She bowed to God’s will regarding Jewish priority, but she also believed that God would extend His grace to believing Gentiles (cf. Romans 9-11)” (Constable).
Isaiah 49:6 He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
The Canaanite woman was well aware of the ethnic slurs and contempt that the Jewish people had for her. To them, non-Jews were nothing but dogs.
Three roles are presented here: the needy supplicant, the prejudicial, “on task,” “not to be bothered” disciples, and the compassionate, good Shepherd. When we examine our hearts, we discover that we play out all three roles from time to time.
Reflect and consider: is His Prime Directive your Prime Directive for your life? Are you willing to choose to be flexible and respond to the need of the moment as He directs?
Perhaps right now, you are a bit perplexed concerning the Father’s promises to the nation of Israel and the apparent fact that Christ came to die for the sins of all people (John 3:16). And the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:16).
What happened? Again and again, the Lord Jesus Christ went to the nation of Israel and offered them the opportunity to believe in Him. But the nation of Israel rejected the Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah and King. And that changed everything.
The promised kingdom will still be realized as predicted. But since the King was rejected when He first came, the fulfillment will be in the future at His second coming. When He returns, the Jewish people accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their prophesied Messiah of Israel and rightful King. The promised kingdom of God on earth will begin.
Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of it!”
Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “it was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.”
11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.
12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.