The concern of Jesus — part 6
40 blogs of Lent — day 18
Matthew links the two story of the Canaanite woman to the next part of Jesus’ Ministry simply. Mark adds extra details:
Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.Mark 7:31
I wonder what happened in Sidon? We are not told, other than it shows Jesus and the disciples went down the coast between Tyre and Sidon before crossing over to the Sea of Galilee. Today Sidon and Tyre are the third and fourth largest cities in Lebanon, after Beirut and Tripoli.
29 Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, 31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.Matthew 15:29–31 ESV UK
Very much business as usual for Jesus. Crowds come to hear Jesus and lots of people are healed. The difference is where Jesus is and where the crowds come from. The Decapolis were 10 cities which were in league with Rome. This was Gentile territory from halfway down the Sea of Galilee continuing east of the Jordan river. Matthew hints at it being in a Gentile territory by saying, “They glorified the God of Israel.” The God of Israel was not the God of this region.
Jesus has been here before, in the country of the Gadarenes, Gergesenes or Gerasenes, and healed a Demon possessed man, sending the demons into a herd of pigs which run into the lake. Mark again provides more details:
“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marvelled.Mark 5:19–20
When Jesus returns to the Decapolis there are thousands who have heard about Jesus healing the mad man and they come out to see him. There has bee a change in focus in Jesus’ ministry, he is now going to the Gentiles.
The reaction between these Gentiles and the Jewish leaders who knew the Old Testament scriptures could not be more marked. The Gentiles saw the miracles and glorified Israel’s God, the Jewish leaders said Jesus was in league with Satan (Matthew 12:24). Jesus miracles did not cause Jewish cities to repent (Matthew 11:20ff) yet these Gentiles believed in him. Jesus marvelled in the faith of a Gentile soldier and a Gentile mother yet was astounded at the lack of faith of those who called themselves God’s people.
It is almost a year since I have been inside a church building. The Covid-19 pandemic has had me isolating, apart from a couple of weeks in July and September, all the things I did regularly are stopped. This lent is a time to look back at the 12 months of in and out of various degrees of lock down and see what is important. The churches are still open and working as food banks, as vaccination centres and other things. The work of God has not stopped. Jesus is showing compassion on the lost through his people who are the real Church, not a building. Myself, I am diabetic, I am disabled, I should be self isolating. I have found doing nothing to be really difficult, but my job in a pandemic is two fold, to keep myself safe and not to endanger others. It is out of concern to others that I have done less than what is permitted. In staying within the rules you do not have to be rigid, Doing less than is allowable to help others is an option too. And yes, I get stir crazy from time to time.
Look at yourself, and your relationship with Jesus, does it cause you to want to obey rules like the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day or to Praise God, like these Gentiles? Is Jesus astounded by your rigidity or marvelling at your faith?