Wednesday, March 26, 2014

...Like A Gentile Or Tax Collector (part 8)

So even though Jesus has agreed to meet the need, the centurion offers a bit of resistance.  Likewise, the Canaanite woman, though not receiving the desired response upon her initial request, puts up her own resistance, which is seen in the disciples’ report about her continuing to cry out after them.  In this instance, they ask Jesus to “send her away,” which is a bit evocative of the centurion’s statement about the way that he commands those under him to “go,” to “come,” or to “do this.”  Additionally, the centurion’s statement that he was not worthy to have Jesus come under his roof, and presumably not worthy to have Jesus do that which he is asking, falls in line with the Canaanite woman’s statement about dogs eating the crumbs that fall from the table.  Effectively, she too acknowledges that she was not worthy to have Jesus come under her roof or to do what she is requesting.

In the eighth chapter, it is the combined statement of the centurion that produces Jesus’ statement that He had not found such faith in Israel.  Similarly, in the fifteenth chapter, it is the woman’s statement that causes Jesus to exclaim upon her great faith.  To the centurion, Jesus makes reference to the great messianic banquet in which people from all nations will feast together.  It is possible that the Canaanite woman makes an oblique reference to that same messianic banquet, potentially doing so in her mention of the table from which crumbs will fall.  Jesus spoke to the centurion and said “just as you believed, it will be done for you.”  He spoke to the Canaanite woman and said “Let what you want be done for  you.”  The stories conclude with “the servant was healed at that hour” and “her daughter was healed from that hour.” 

It must be said that it is with his inclusion of such stories, together with his ingenious construction, that this Gospel’s author continues to present his audience with an understanding of the nature of that which is His primary concern, which is the kingdom of heaven and its dramatic and surprising introduction into the world through the person of Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah.  As part of that construction, the flow of the narrative, including the subject of this study, continually points towards Jesus’ parting words to His disciples. 

This trek through Matthew, spurred on by Jesus’ statement that concluded with “treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector,” now returns to Matthew’s eighteenth chapter.  By this point, owing to Matthew’s clear presentation of Jesus’ treatment of Gentiles and tax collectors, it can be rightly and comfortably concluded that treating an at-fault brother as a Gentile or a tax collector, if he refuses to listen to the correction of an individual, to a small gathering of brothers, or to the church, does not constitute a rejection of that brother.  Quite the contrary, in fact. 

If the example presented by Jesus is of any value to those that call themselves by His name, then there should be a re-doubling of efforts towards reconciliation and fellowship, as these are the people to whom Jesus is constantly addressing Himself.  The hand of fellowship and forgiveness should be extended indefinitely.  Yes, in this there is a potential risk of taking suffering, shame, loss, and humiliation upon oneself in an attempt to reconcile and restore a broken relationship, but in the end, is that not what the Creator God did for His people and His world through His Christ and the cross? 

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