|INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDIES|
LESSON FOR JANUARY 15, 1995
KEY VERSE: “Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” —Matthew 15:28
SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Matthew 15:21-31
GOD WAS FAITHFUL to Israel in conferring exclusive favor upon that nation as he had promised. Daniel’s prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27) told of favor to continue for seventy weeks, or 490 years—using ‘a day for a year’ as explained in Ezekiel 4:6. Within that period of favor was included the coming of Messiah, as fulfilled by Jesus’ ministry. However, the wonderful healing miracles of Jesus were, with only a few exceptions, limited only to Israelites, although there were Gentiles who heard of Jesus’ power and desired to be blessed as well.
A woman of Canaan approached Jesus during his travels through the coastal areas of Tyre and Sidon. She pleaded with him for mercy on behalf of her daughter who was tormented by a demon. “He answered her not a word.” But this woman was not to be denied!
His disciples besought Jesus, saying, “Send her away; for she crieth after us.” Although Jesus replied, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” we must note that he later spoke the words of our Key Verse, after explaining to her that “it was not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”—vs. 26, New Revised Standard Version
She accepted his comment, saying “Yes Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” (vs. 27, NRSV) Observing her great faith demonstrated by these words, Jesus could no longer deny her request. He said, “Great is thy faith,” and her daughter was healed in that very hour! This was an exception Jesus made in granting a blessing to a non-Jew during this closing period of Israel’s exclusive favor with God.
Another exception was made to the centurion’s servant. The accounts are recorded in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10. Here again, great and persistent faith was demonstrated, indicative of the fact that when the Lord would extend his favor to the Gentiles that many would respond.
Israel’s exclusive favor ended in 36 A.D. as foretold, when the first Gentile converts—Cornelius, his family and friends—accepted the invitation of the Lord to follow Jesus. They were brought into the body of Christ, and received the Holy Spirit. “You [Israel] only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2), was no longer in effect.
As Jesus continued to carry on his ministry throughout Israel, there were many who were drawn to him and to his message. After Jesus left Tyre and Sidon, he went up into the mountains, where great crowds came to hear him. Again Jesus healed any who were brought to him, and who displayed their ‘persistent faith’ in him. When the crowds saw these wonderful works, they “glorified the God of Israel”!—Matt. 15:31
Not only were the wondrous works of Jesus a sample of the great blessings which would be available to all in the kingdom for which he taught us to pray (Matt. 6:9-13), but they were also a way to seek out those of great faith who would be called to run for the prize of the High Calling.
On the Day of Pentecost it is possible that some of the beneficiaries of the marvelous works of Jesus, or members of their families, may well have been among the 3,000 who were immersed.—Acts 2:37-43
Certainly faith also played a most important part in the healing work carried on after Pentecost by the disciples and apostles of Jesus. For instance, Peter and John healed a man lame from birth. He lay outside the gate to the Temple asking for alms. As the apostles passed by, Peter fastened his eyes upon him and said: “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”—Acts 3:1-16