"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy Ramadan, Syria, Matthew 15 -- Clean/Unclean Hearts; Woman of Great Faith

First things first: Happy Ramadan to all my sweet Muslim friends!  I hope you have a joyful month and that God blesses you by guiding you closer to Himself!

Secondly, I8 months ago right now, Andrew and I were on that loooooooong flight from Istanbul to Chicago after having not slept all night and leaving Damascus in the wee morning hours.  Some days it seems like our trip to Syria was only a dream! Did we really walk where Paul did? Did we really visit the ruins of a Crusader castle and see the shrine to John the Baptist in the Umayyad mosque? But then I look at all my pictures and see myself there and realize it did happen! Seems like a lifetime ago though. I miss it.

So yesterday I talked a bit about tradition and today I'll continue with what Jesus said about washing your hands before eating.  From Matthew 15,

 10Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen and understand. 11What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' "
 12Then the disciples came to him and asked, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?"
 13He replied, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."
 15Peter said, "Explain the parable to us."
 16"Are you still so dull?" Jesus asked them. 17"Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.' "

I think that's understandable enough.  What we say and do reveals the inner man or woman.  It reveals whether we have a pure heart or whether our hearts are vile. This is also a warning to make sure we don't have blind guides, huh? 

21Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession."
 23Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us."
 24He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."
 25The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said.
 26He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."
 27"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."
 28Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Amber and I recently talked a bit about this on her blog.  In my comment I discussed why Jesus called her a dog.  I'll just repost most of it here.

I remember reading about this in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. The author wondered if Jesus were also teaching his disciples at the same time. Notice they wanted to send her away. Yes, Jesus was ignoring her, but they likely were irritated with her

1. She wasn't Jewish
2. She was a woman
3. She was yelling

The author of JTMEE reminded me of how sometimes when our racism is pointed out...like thrown back into our faces and "said out loud" (like Jesus was speaking of her people as dogs) then it has more of a shock value. It's one thing to have buried racism - thinking that blacks aren't as great as whites or calling blacks "monkeys", but when it's said out loud BY A HOLY MAN it seems much more shocking to realize "wow, I think this way?" *blush, blush*

So I don't know if that is part of it or not, but that book was helpful to me in explaining this.

I like that she recognized Jesus as someone who could help her...and persisted with faith. What a lesson.

What's also interesting to me is that Jesus commended her for her great faith.  I read that only twice is it recorded that Jesus said this and both times he said it to non-Jewish people who recognized that he was able to heal as they requested. The other was a Roman centurion. This story shows me that Jesus' mercy extends to all people. He didn't stay only in Jewish towns, but traveled places where Gentiles would be and he graciously met their needs - physical and spiritual ones (such as the woman at the well.)

 29Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Jesus recognized these people needed to eat so, moved by his compassion, he again fed them miraculously by making a few fish and loaves of bread into a meal for more than four thousand.


Amber said...

I don't have anything to add to the 'dog' portion of the discussion, since we already had that! But, I was thinking, perhaps the 'great faith' was said to the two non-Jewish people, because they weren't Jewish? See, the Jewish people, by dint of having had a relationship with God in the first place, were in a better position to see and understand and accept Christ. However, Gentiles were starting out at a 'handicap', as it were. So for them to have such absolute faith that Christ could do what they asked, and that He would even consider it for them, who didn't belong to His 'people' took great faith.

p.s. despite it not making you 'unclean', you should still wash your hands before you eat. It's just hygenic is all... ;p

Wafa' said...

Thanks a lot for your beautiful wishes and inshAllah this Ramadan will be a great one for everyone.

And as usual waiting and reading your posts even if i don't have anything to say :)

Lat said...

Thank you for your wishes!May God reward you much,my dear friend! it's fun reading about your travels to Syria!! Wow! Is that some kind of 'pilgrimage'? :)

Very interesting bit about the dog.It did demonstrate faith...but if the woman's daughter was okay and not demon-possessed,would she have gone to Jesus for prayer and worship, for God's sake?

Susanne said...

Amber, that's a really good point you made about the 'great faith' statement for the Gentiles! Oh, and also about washing your hands before eating...yeah. :)

Susanne said...

Wafa', hope Ramadan is going better than expected for your family! Hugs!

Susanne said...

Lat, maybe this woman is an example of how God uses suffering to draw people to himself. As you pointed out, if the daughter hadn't been demon-possessed would her mom seek out Jesus? Likely not. Just as often when life is good, we tend to not mind God as much as when we are going through troubles. Good observation!

Nah, Syria wasn't really a pilgrimage...just a really wonderful trip to meet some friends! :-D

Thanks everyone for the comments!