Today’s Reading: Matthew 15:1-39, 16:1-4; Mark 7:1-37, 8:1-13
One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.” – Matthew 12:38
The Pharisees demanded miraculous signs from Jesus. There was a popular expectation in Jewish tradition that the Messiah would perform spectacular miracles on demand when he arrived. So to test whether or not Jesus was the Messiah, the Jewish leaders demanded that he perform for them.
But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights…” – Matthew 12:39-40
Here Jesus was revealing to him THE most incredible thing that would happen in all of history and they missed it. The people of Ninevah had repented when they heard Jonah’s message but the Jewish leaders refused to repent when they heard the gospel message straight from the Son of Man’s lips. The queen of Sheba had traveled a great distance to hear words of wisdom from Solomon and she was not disappointed at what she found, yet the Pharisees refused to listen to the words of wisdom spoken by someone SO much greater than Solomon (12:41-42).
Jesus told the religious leaders that he would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth or the grave, and it was as if they never heard him. Instead of listening closely and finding the miracle Jesus was revealing, the Pharisees demanded an explanation from Jesus.
“Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.” – Matthew 15:2
Jesus answered their demanding question with a demanding question of his own: “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’…” (Matthew 15:3-4a).
Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”
Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”
Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”
Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.”
“Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart –that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” – Matthew 15:10-20
Then Matthew gives us a direct contrast between what is in the heart of the Jewish leaders and what is in the heart of one Gentile woman. Her daughter was possessed by a demon who was tormenting the daughter severely. With the intense love of a mother whose daughter is suffering, this woman continued to beg Jesus to heal her daughter – even to the point that the disciples begged him to make her go away.
The Jewish people, including the disciples, did not want to share Jesus with the Gentiles, whom they considered below them. Jesus, knowing their hearts, had this conversation for their benefit:
Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep – the people of Israel.”
But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”
Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”
She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their master’s table.”
“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed. – Matthew 15:24-28
While the Jewish leaders were demanding miraculous signs and explanations (Matthew 16:1-4), this humble Gentile woman was simply worshiping Jesus and begging for a miracle. She received what she wanted because she came to Jesus with words that revealed her heart – a heart of faith.
This woman was not the only Gentile to display a heart of faith. Many brought their lame, blind, crippled, mute and sick to Jesus to be healed. They were amazed when Jesus healed them. Word spread fast among the people of how wonderful Jesus was. For three days they stayed near Jesus in anticipation of what he was about to do. Jesus had compassion and fed 4000 men, along with the women and children, with only seven loaves and a few small fish. They displayed a heart of faith and experienced the miracle of satisfaction.
So where do I sit on this continuum between those who try to serve a “Jesus on demand” and those whose life reveals a heart of faith? Do I ever demand a miracle from God or demand an explanation for something He has allowed in my life?
Lord, give us a heart of faith as evidenced by the life we live and the words we speak. As we worship you, may you be pleased with the heart of our worship. We thank you for giving your life on a cross for our salvation. We worship you today with hearts wide open so that you can reveal in us anything that needs changed and transplant your own desires into us. We love you! Amen.