Moved by faith and logic?
Jesus Christ did not mince any words during His earthly ministry regarding His focus: The Jews.
So focused was he that He practically ignored a woman that kept pleading for help.
"22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." 23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." 24 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." 25 The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. 26 He replied, "It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs." 27 "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table." 28 Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour."
~ Matthew 15:22-28
Jesus later solved her problem; but that’s besides my point. I’m more concerned with the fact that she practically had to beg and come up with a phenomenal line of logic before Jesus was moved to help her. Apparently, Jesus was moved, not by her need, but by her faith, and her logic. Well, I thought so for a while until I noticed that, contrary to the prodding of His disciples that He send the woman away, Jesus let her hang around. He seemed to be waiting for her to give Him a valid reason to violate the primary focus of His first advent. That is, He was touched by her need, and wanted to help; but, He needed a way to do that without contradicting the principle of the mandate of His first advent, "sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."
Moved by material gifts?
In another case, that of the Centurion below, Jesus Christ was faced with a similar dilemma: To help a non-Jew. Notice in the story how the Jews pleaded earnestly with Jesus, telling Him that "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." This suggests an initial reluctance on the part of Jesus Christ to respond to the Centurion’s plea. Consequently, the Jewish elders needed to provide some certification for the man. That seems to have worked.
1 When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." 6 So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it." 9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
~ Luke 7:1-10
In this story, it seems as though Jesus was moved more by the man’s contributions to the Jewish people, than by the fact of his servant’s need. I’m sure, however, that He wanted to help that man. Nevertheless, He sought and waited for a valid reason. In this case, the Jewish elders provided it. "This man deserves to have you do this," they said, "because he loves our nation and has built a synagogue for us."
Again, don’t miss the point here: The Centurion, somehow – like the Syro-Phoenician woman – had had to provide a valid qualification before he could move Jesus in his favour.
But, do you really need provide some validation for God to help you?
This incident with the Centurion, particularly, has provided ample fodder for religious enterprises through the years to exploit the gullible masses. "You need to build a physical temple," they imply, "in order to get the attention and favour of God." You just need to do something; make some sacrifices; whatever it is, financial gifts, and their likes.
Well, they are wrong; very wrong. You do not need to build a physical temple, or empty your bank account into any Church’s coffers, before God can bless you. Of course, there is nothing wrong with giving to God; but it must be voluntary out of love and gratitude to God, not to get His attention and favour.
Why didn’t the woman in the following story even need to ask to be healed? Yet Jesus, in spite of public opinion, healed her.
10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. 14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath." 15 The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?" 17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
~ Luke 13:10-17
Unlike the Syro-Phoenician, and the Centurion, she had no need to provide a line of logic, or a line of credit!
You are not an outcast
Back then, the Jewish elders may have needed to present the synagogue the Centurion built as collateral for Jesus’ attention; and maybe the Syro-Phoenician lady needed to argue like a lawyer. And, maybe I understand that. I can understand that Jesus was focused on the mandate of His first advent, and had only 3 years to finish it. In addition, the Centurion and Syro-Phoenician were Gentiles, a situation St. Paul likened to being outcasts – excluded, as he puts it, from the commonwealth of Israel.
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ."
~ Ephesians 2:11-13
So, back then, whereas the Gentiles needed some sort of valid logic to get Jesus to act on their behalf, the Jews didn’t.
That was then, before the Cross. This is now; and you and I are no longer outcasts from the commonwealth of Israel. We are now bonafide members of God’s household. In fact, so much more than the Jews were back in the day. Therefore, you no longer need to provide any external sacrifices and reasons to attract God’s attention and favour. Jesus Christ has already qualified you by giving His life on your behalf.
As a matter of fact, Jesus Christ Himself has become your qualification!
"3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. "
~ Ephesians 6:3-6
Three things to note in the verse above:
- You are already blessed! God has already blessed you in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. You already have it all. As I say in church before every offering session, never give to be blessed; give, rather because you are blessed.
- You are already accepted! In the King James version, that last verse – 6 – reads thus:
"To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved." So, unlike the Centurion, and the Syro-Phoenician lady, you no longer need to provide any further logic for divine acceptance and blessings. You are already blessed; and you are already accepted in the beloved.
- You are already qualified!
"Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light."
~ Colosians 1:12
I’d like you to know that you are now in an absolutely different situation from the people that had to plead for God’s blessings – I actually don’t think they even needed to do so; they simply lacked the knowledge of God and His ways. Be that as it may, you do not need to do anything extra today to receive God’s attention and favour.
The fact is, you already have it all; what more do you seek? He lives in you. Is there anything greater than this? What kind of attention could ever surpass the fact that you’ve become God’s residence?
The authority is now yours
Before I leave you today, let me point out a very inspiring statement from the Centurion:
8 The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it."
~ Matthew 8:8,9
As a trained and sophisticated Roman soldier, the Centurion understood the mystery of absolute authority. He applied that insight to the position of Jesus Christ and knew that it was within His rights to do anything He wanted at any time. The Centurion understood that Jesus Christ was not bound by any human laws; He was God Himself and could intervene in any life at any time without needing to answer to anyone. Furthermore, He knew that all forces, elemental and celestial, would always bow to the authority of Jesus Christ.
That’s more insight than most religious folks possess today!
The most interesting thing however, that I want to leave with you today, is that the authority to which the Centurion referred to – Jesus’ absolute authority over elemental and celestial powers – has been given to you.
"19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you."
~ Luke 10:19
Think about it: You are supremely qualified for God’s attention, without any recourse to any extra validation from human logic, or sacrifices. God Himself has become your qualification. You are already blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. You are accepted in the beloved. And to cap it all, Jesus Christ has given you His absolute authority to rule over elemental and celestial forces.
With all this, what’s the point in remaining a slave and victim to religious enterprises and charlatans?