This weekend, I had an unusual discovery while my pastor was preaching. I heard something I hadn’t before.
Have you ever noticed how many times the disciples try to send away the very people Jesus is ministering to?
It happens in Matthew 15:21-28 with the Gentile woman, all three tellings of the feeding of the 5000 (Matt. 14, Mark 6, Luke 9), and the two tellings of Jesus blessing the children (Mark 10, Luke 18). These future saints are supposed to be helping Jesus accomplish his mission on earth. What’s up with these guys?
Let’s look at the situations.
Jesus has left Galilee and traveled to Tyre and Sidon – Gentile country. While ministering there, a woman comes to him, screaming and begging Jesus to drive a demon from her daughter. The disciples can’t handle the annoyance. They “urge” Jesus to send her away. Jesus continues his encounter with her. Her faith intrigues him so much that he grants her request. All the disciples can see are the strikes against her: she is a woman, she is a Gentile, and she is a pest. Jesus looked at the heart of this woman and saw in her the hero that the disciples missed.
At the feeding of the 5000, the disciples tell Jesus, as if he didn’t know, that it’s getting late. He had been healing the sick all day in a remote place. Maybe they thought he’d lost track of time. Jesus had better send the crowd away to get food. After all, let’s be practical. How can they find food way out here? Jesus tells them, “You feed them.” The lesson for the disciples that day was Jesus is the only resource needed. And they saw the abundance and were amazed.
When Jesus is approached by parents bringing their children for a blessing, the disciples step in again. They actually scold the parents. By this time, the disciples believed they were the keepers of the mission objectives. If there was to be an overthrow of the Romans, it would not be accomplished with children. They only saw their strategy. Jesus turns their understanding upsidedown by revealing that the Kingdom of Heaven is made for the ones who can become like them.
But before criticizing the disciples, let’s get real. I’m sure that I would react the same way in similar situations. The more profound truth is that I react that way more often than I want to admit. What is it about us disciples that makes us want to push away those who need God’s love the most?
Our nature is to look for the least annoying, most practical and ultimately strategic way to deal with people. But that’s often the complete opposite way that Jesus did it. If we are to be his followers, we must get in step with his ways.
Lord, when an opportunity to share your love is in front of me,
May I be less annoyed and more interested in seeing faith.
May I be less practical and more willing to let You provide the means.
May I be less strategic and more open to the way of the Kingdom.
The beautiful thing about Jesus is how he continued to pour his life into the rag-tag group of disciples. He didn’t give up on them. In fact, he handed the work over to them with the help of the Holy Spirit.
I’m taken back to John 13:34-35, to some of the last words Jesus said before he was betrayed.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this, all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”
How much more healing would come to the world if we, the Church, could get this right?
Let’s find out.