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Friday, March 18, 2016

God’s Love Is Unconditional

In review of Matthew 15:28 it says, "'Dear woman,' Jesus said to her, 'your faith is great. Your request is granted.' And her daughter was instantly healed."

Bottom Line:

His love is unconditional

Today's passage comes from the middle of Matthew Chapter 15. In this passage we learn about the faith of a gentile woman. As Jesus was going from North from Galilee to the areas of Tyre and Sidon, A gentile woman who lived there came pleading to Him.

From what I understand at the time of this story, anyone who was not a descendent from Israel was considered a gentile. Israel had been God's original people that he was raising to be his example. Thus there became a distrust between the two people groups, with people from Israel, thinking themselves higher/more privileged and others being less. For the most part the Jewish people didn't even talk to those who were gentiles.

This gentile woman recognizing him as the Lord, asked Jesus to have mercy on her daughter who was possessed by a demon who had been tormenting her severely.

At first, Jesus gave no reply. His disciples urged him to send her away, she is bothering us with all her begging.

Jesus told her that he was sent only to help God's lost sheep (people of Israel.) However still she came forward and worshiped him, pleading again, "Lord, help me!". Jesus responded with, "It isn't right to take food from children to fee the dogs". The woman replied, "true, but even dogs are allowed to eat scraps that fall from the table."

Jesus then said, dear woman, "your faith is great. Your request is granted" and her daughter was instantly healed.

In this passage, it's interesting to see that at first Jesus gave no reply to the woman's request. This seems harsh at first, however I've been reminded lately that one of Jesus main objectives here on earth was to train disciples who would make disciples.  I'm thinking that he was waiting to see what his disciples would do with this. Up to this point, Jesus had been very compassionate with people and had healed all that came to him. I think he wanted to see how his disciples would respond. We eventually see the disciples response, "send her away, she is bothering us with all her begging."

This response pretty much hits home with me. I can easily be irritated and want the irritation to go away.  However what I’m learning is that the irritation is often a need or a lesson being presented to me. Just yesterday I was listening to an old recording from the late 1970's where Rick Warren (before he started his Saddleback church), was speaking to a group of students on how to a one-on-one time with someone you are discipling.  The core of the message related to responding to situations, problems or irritants around us.  Rick mentioned that often God will put these things into our lives to see how we'll respond and where our heart is on the matter. God's goal is to make us more and more like Jesus. For example one way to teach us how to love isn't to bring around people that are easy to love, but rather bring around ones that are difficult. We often just need to recognize this and then praise God for bringing this into our lives. In praise we can learn to deal with and overcome our problems.

In getting back to this passage, after the disciples tell Jesus to send her away, Jesus responds to her with some statements about giving good stuff meant for a chosen people to those who were thought of as less. The woman responded with a statement of faith from her heart. She knew in this culture and at this time, her heritage made her appear as less, however, she had faith that even the leftovers or scraps would be sufficient for her.  

The woman responded with what was in her heart, which was true faith. Jesus responded this proclamation of faith with his affirmation that "her faith was great and that her request would be granted.

I'm certain that Jesus knew all along where this woman's heart was. He used this situation as a way to teach his disciples an example of what true faith is. It was also a foreshadow of the future where the good news will be for all and not just Israel. This passage not only gave the disciples a real life example of what faith is (from the heart), it provides one for me as well.

I’m also reminded that God knows my heart. He sees through my exact circumstances, past my money and status in the world, right into my core. That’s where He meets me! He loves me all the way through my situation.

Surely the woman in this story had heard great and wonderful things about the power of Jesus. She may have heard reports that all who came to Him were healed and that He had the authority to cast out demons, if she believed.

So, this woman heard. She acted. She received. She was healed immediately. Jesus didn’t ask her for her progress report first. He didn’t even ask her about her past sins or if she had unforgiveness in her heart. No, she just believed, so she received. His love is unconditional; He gives it freely.

One other question to ask myself this morning is, what have I heard about that I need to act on? Is something holding me back from doing so? Am I trying to get my act together before Him on it? What I need to keep in mind is that His love is unconditional! Like the woman, I can believe and reach out to Him.

Father, this morning I thank You!  As I sit at Your feet with my weary head in Your lap, Your love rushes over me and lulls me to sleep. Your unconditional, unquestioning, never-exhausted love brings security and peace to my soul. In Jesus’ name.