Hanging with Jesus: Barriers

The moment Jesus came onto the scene and began teaching and performing miracles, the Pharisees, Chief Priests, and Scribes had Him on their radar. Yet, jealousy overcame them when they should have embraced Him and joined team-Jesus!

Yet it was those whom you would least expect that welcomed Him and received an invitation to draw near.

In Matthew 15, Jesus withdraws from Galilee to the region of Tyre and Sidon. This round-trip journey would take about a month to make. If Jesus wanted to make a statement regarding the religious leaders’ rejection, this would do it.

It’s here He is approached by a Canaanite woman. Now Matthew explicitly mentions she’s a Canaanite, which would earn an eye roll and evoke negative feelings from his Jewish audience.

The Canaanites and the Israelites had a long-standing history with each other.

Most notably, when King Ahab married Jezebel, a Canaanite, she instituted the worship of idols, primarily Baal, and had many of God’s prophets executed. Thus, idol worship is the act of displacing Yahweh as the one true God.

The Psalmist proclaimed, “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.” Psalm 16:5

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

It is only through Yahweh, the one true God, from which we receive every blessing and good thing.

Matthew’s point was to emphasize the dark history between her and the Jewish people. If there were a people who deserved to be rejected by God, it was the Canaanites and rightly so for their treatment of the Israelites!

And this explains the disciple’s response to her and provides an opportunity for Jesus to dismantle the historical and cultural barriers.

As this woman follows Jesus, she is shouting and crying, “Have mercy on my, O Lord, Son of David.” In a single statement, she expresses a greater level of faith than all the religious leaders in Israel.

Yet her constant shouting drives the disciples to their breaking point, and they beg Jesus to answer her and send her away. The disciples are not motivated with compassion but irritation. Her pain is interrupting their peace.

Jesus turns to the disciples and says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” His statement is meant to initiate a conversation that will begin removing a brick from the wall that divides.

She understood she had no right to ask God for anything. Merely calling out to Him was pure hypocrisy, so she pleaded for the mercy of God.

Jesus follows up that statement by saying, And he answered,”It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Wait…did Jesus call this Canaanite woman a dog? Yes and no.

It’s key to point out that this woman did not take offense to Jesus’ statement, so neither should we. She wasn’t offended or became defensive, nor organized a protest.

It was common at this time for Gentiles to care for dogs as a pet in their home. So she responds to Jesus, saying, Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

She got it! She recognized that there was enough room at the table for everyone to participate.

No matter who you are or what you have done, Jesus provides a seat at the table for you to come and be a part of His family.

  • Every day is full of God’s mercies.
  • Every sunrise gives a clean slate to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.
  • Every breath becomes a catalyst for change and transformation.

Here is the mandate for those of us already seated at the table.

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:13-15

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