Thursday, August 17, 2017

Matthew 15:21-28 Healing & Deliverance as Children's Bread

KEY TEXT: Matthew 15:24-28 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."  But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." And he answered, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."  She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire."  And her daughter was healed instantly.

KEY THOT: When the Canaanite (Gentile) woman came to Jesus to ask for healing for her demon-oppressed daughter, Jesus ignored her. When she persisted, he answered: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (v.24). Since the Canaanite woman is a non-Israelite, she was not in his ministry priority. But she didn't give up but came and knelt before him pleading, "Lord, help me." Then Jesus said something quite astounding: "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs" (v.26). Firstly, Jesus called Gentiles "dogs" (unclean animals). Secondly, he considered healing as belong to God's children, not unbelievers. Finally, he called healing and deliverance ministry the "children's bread"--something basic for survival. In other words, healing and deliverance is a basic need of God's children for their spiritual growth.

With regard to the first point, Jews treat Gentiles as "dogs"--religiously unclean. So, Gentiles are "unclean" because they are outside God's blood covenant under Moses. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. Up to that point in time, only the Jews were included in God's covenant and were clean. But people outside this covenant are unclean--like dogs.

Secondly, Jesus' ministry priority is for the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" because salvation was promised to the Jews first. They were offered membership in the Kingdom first. (It's like God's "soft launch" of the Kingdom but for priority customers only). It was based on the promise God made for Israel for the sake of their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So, Jesus came as Israel's Messiah and membership of the kingdom is first offered to the Israelites. It was only when the Jews finally rejected this offer of the kingdom that the Gentiles were roped in. In the parable of the banquet told by Jesus in Luke 14:12-24, Jesus explained how the first invitees's (Israel) rejection of the man's invitation to his banquet resulted in the invitation open to everyone else (Gentiles): "Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, 'Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame'" (Luke 14:21). So Jesus' ministry priority was for the Jews first. But when the Canaanite woman persisted, he responded to her faith and healed her daughter.

Finally, Jesus considers healing and deliverance as the "children's bread". Like bread, the ministry of healing and deliverance is not desserts like cakes and creams--it is basic to children's growth and development. Yet, we find this ministry often denied or ignored in many churches on theological ground. If healing and deliverance is a basic necessity for God's children, then it must be a priority ministry of the church. 

Many Christians are like Israel in the wilderness: they have crossed the Red Sea (baptism) but they have not crossed the Jordan River (to evict the illegal inhabitants on the Holy Land). And their spiritual life is going around in circles making no progress and in cycles of victory and defeat in the wilderness of Sinai, struggling to survive. But God's will is for Israel to cross the Jordan River, to be "more than conquerors through Him who loved us". We are to conquer the land by getting rid of the evil and illegal inhabitants squatting on holy ground. 

Healing and deliverance is like crossing the Jordan--it sets God's children free to possess the land. It's for all who have come out of Egypt (the world) through baptism, whose sins have been forgiven. In other words, for believers. But sadly, though forgiven of their past sins, many believers have yet to be delivered and healed from the effects of their past sins. Crossing the Red Sea (baptism) secures our forgiveness for our past sins. But crossing the Jordan (healing and deliverance ministry) begins the process of cleansing us from the unrighteous effects of those sins: "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). There are two parts to sanctification--forgiveness of sins and cleansing from "ALL unrighteousness."  And the second part often calls for healing and deliverance ministry. The word ministry apart from healing and deliverance often ends in frustration as the believer makes no spiritual progress despite their increasing bible  knowledge.

Healing and deliverance is the children's bread. Therefore it must be a priority ministry for God's children--if possible, soon after they come to faith in Christ.

Abba-Father, open our hearts to the fullness of Your Gospel, so that Your children may be set free not only from sin, but sin's effects. Amen.

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