Getting the Best of Jesus

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.  — Mt. 15:21-28

Recently, I was working in a church kitchen with some folks who knew of my writing when someone asked me what I’m working on these days. I replied that I’m writing an essay on the Canaanite woman who pleads for healing from Jesus for her suffering daughter. “Isn’t that the woman who got the best of Jesus?” one lady asked. Continue Reading →

The Pearl

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.— Matthew 13: 45-46

In this one-line parable from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus equates the “Kingdom of Heaven,” with an all-out search for what is most valuable in life. But Jesus used the word ‘kingdom’ quite differently from the way we use the term today. The biblical Greek for ‘kingdom,’ βασιλέα, and the Aramaic word  behind it, malkut, refer not to a place Continue Reading →

The God Who Seems to Be

God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you." So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you." Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, "Father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." He said, "The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together.
When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place "The LORD will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” — Genesis 22:1-14

This text haunts me. It both draws me in and strongly repulses me.  Just what kind of a God is this, I ask, who commands his faithful servant to carry out such an unthinkable act? What sort of God tests a man’s obedience by asking him to murder his beloved son?  I read this account and want to cry to Continue Reading →