Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 4 * BOOK 15
CHRIST’S EARTHLY MINISTRY
Let’s continue our study of Christ’s earthly ministry in Matthew Chapter 10. In the first four verses, The Lord has just called the twelve disciples:
“These twelve Jesus sent forth (remember this was at the beginning of His earthly ministry) and (underline the next word, because when Jesus commands, you can’t get it from any higher authority) commanded them, saying, `Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:'”
The Samaritans at this time were half-breed Jews. They had lost their pure character as Jews. And, consequently, were looked down upon and detested by the pure Jew. Later in His ministry Jesus will go to the city of Samaria. Philip will also go to Samaria in the Book of Acts, but for now Jesus is qualifying that they go not to a Gentile or Samaritan. Remember this is a commandment by Jesus:
“But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Many people will say, “I thought He came into the world to save sinners.” That’s what I’ve been trying to show you, that as He is in His earthly ministry, He will be dealing with the Jew only with very few exceptions. Why is He confining these instructions to the Jew? Because this is Covenant ground. And that included no one but the Jews. Remember, the Nation of Israel here is under the Law; the Temple and sacrifices are still going. Also remember Jesus is there to fulfill the promises and covenants made to the Nation of Israel (the Abrahamic Covenant was a promise of People, Land, Government and kings, but He would also have to be their Redeemer as well as King). All the way through the Old Testament we see the promise of a King and Kingdom, but also of a suffering Savior. The Jews of Jesus’ day wanted the King and the Kingdom, but didn’t want to deal with the sin problem, because that got too close to home. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”
Yes, the Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus did come to save all sinners, but remember, Paul teaches in the Age of Grace. Here, Jesus is still under the Covenant economy and that meant Jew only – that’s hard for people to swallow. Many people can see this just as I do. However, the majority think that as soon as you open the Book of Matthew you have Christianity. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is Covenant ground and you can’t take Covenant promises to a Gentile. Now let’s look at Matthew Chapter 15. I’m always reminded of someone I heard years ago while riding in my pickup. He was preaching on this text. I was totally shocked when he said, `You’ve got to remember that Jesus had just begun His earthly ministry. He was still bigoted, and as of yet He didn’t realize the real purpose of His coming.’ I thought, “How can you be so blind.” Jesus knew what He was doing. Far more than most theologians do today. Here in verse 21 we have almost the same situation:
“Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.” They were wicked cities on the Mediterranean Sea coast.
“And, behold, a woman of Canaan (a Gentile) came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, `Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.'”
“But he answered here not a word (what does that mean? He ignored her). And his disciples came and besought him, saying, `Send her away; for she crieth after us.'”
What were the disciples saying? “Lord get rid of her, because she’s a pest. We don’t want something like that tagging along after us.” Can’t you hear them? Evidently, she had been following them. Remember the disciples had been in Christ’s presence for sometime and they, too, understood that she was a Gentile, and that they could have nothing to do with her.
“But he (Christ) answered and said, `I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel:'”
Is that plain language? You can’t get it any plainer. Jesus himself said it. Why? Because of the covenants. There were no Gentiles in those covenants. It was Jew only. So the Gentile woman was presuming upon something that she had no right to presume. However, where she made her most costly mistake was when she addressed Him,“Thou Son of David.” Now that really qualified Who He was, and where she was coming from. But she had no business addressing Him “Son of David,” that’s a Jewish term, and she’s Gentile. Now verse 25. She doesn’t give up:
“Then came she and worshipped him, saying, `Lord, help me,'” Now she drops that Son of David acknowledgment and addresses Him as Lord. That brings her a little closer for sure.
“Bet he answered and said, `It is not meet (right) to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.'”
Who are the children? The Jews! Who are the dogs of Christ’s day? Gentiles. So put it in that light. Jesus in so many words said, “Now look, lady, its not right for me to take this which belongs to the Jew and give it to a Gentile. It just won’t work.” But this is a persistent lady who won’t give up. And I like her application here. Verse 27:
“And she said, `Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.'”
I used to have a little house dog that would sit right beside me when I ate, and I bet most of you do too. My wife could never quite condescend to that, but I would say, “Honey, it’s so Scriptural. Because way back in Jesus’ time the dog was there waiting for a crumb to fall. But the analogy was, how in the world can you take that which belongs to family of Israel and give it to a Gentile. It just wouldn’t work. Now verse 28:
“Then Jesus answered and said unto her, `O woman, (the word woman as it is used here, and also as Jesus addressed Mary as He hung on the Cross, was not a degrading term. Today, you wouldn’t call someone `woman’ if you respected her. But in the Greek it was a term of respect. So when Jesus was calling her `woman’ He was not putting her down, but rather respecting her person. So He says, woman), great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”
In contrast to the Jew, can you see that her faith was great? The Jew couldn’t condescend to acknowledging that this Nazarene was the Son of David. But this Canaanite woman did. Now I want to make a point. This is only one of two Gentiles that Jesus ministers to in His whole earthly ministry. This Canaanite woman, and a Roman centurion. Other than those two, there is no account that He had anything to do with Gentiles. To prove my point from Scripture, go to John Chapter 12, This was just before Christ’s Crucifixion. He’s come through the whole three years of earthly ministry trying to convince the Jew that He was The Christ, their Messiah, knowing full-well what Israel was going to do, and that He would suffer for the sins of the world. Christ knew that. Now in Chapter 12, the crowds are already gathering from all over the then known world for the Feast of Passover.
“And there were certain Greeks (Gentiles) among them that came up to worship at the feast:” I think Gentiles would mingle among this Jewish crowd to witness all that was going on among the worshiping Jews. Remember though, the Gentiles could not go into the Temple.
“The same (these Gentiles) came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, `Sir, we would see Jesus.'”
They had probably had heard of His miracles and all that He had done, and would like to see this man. Philip remembered only too well what had happened the times before when Gentiles wanted to see Jesus. He knew he couldn’t bring them to see Jesus, but on the other hand he didn’t really want to take the responsibility of refusing them, so he goes to Andrew. Now verse 22:
“Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.”
Now remember what they tell Jesus: “There are Gentiles who want to see you.” And now look at Jesus’ answer. It certainly wasn’t, “Take me to them,” or, “Have them come to me.” But instead, He explains why He could not deal with Gentiles during His earthly ministry. And here is the reason:
“And Jesus answered them, saying, `The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.” Which of course took place at His death, burial, and Resurrection.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, `Except a corn (kernel) of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.'” Most of us know that before a seed can germinate it has to be taken out of its container, and placed into the ground where it can receive moisture and sunlight. Then before that seed can sprout new life, what has to happened to it? It has to die. That seed, for all practical purposes, dies. Out of the death of that seed then comes new life, and like Jesus said, “…it bringeth forth much fruit.”
And the Apostle Paul uses that same analogy in Romans 6:5, “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:”We have to be buried with Christ or we can’t have new life. There has to be that experience of death. And this is what Jesus is explaining; that up until His death, burial and Resurrection, He could not be the true object of faith to a Gentile because He was on Covenant ground – and being on Covenant ground meant He could only deal with the Nation of Israel, the Jew only, with very few exceptions.
Even the Apostle Paul writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us this in the Book of Ephesians Chapter 2. This shocks people, but I like to teach to help people see what the Book really says and not what they think, or have been told, what it says. And you don’t need any theological degree to understand it. It is in plain English. And yet I wonder how many people even know that these verses are in their Bible. That is why I use verses like this to point out that Jesus didn’t deal with Gentiles. Paul is writing to Gentile believers under Grace rather the Law. Ephesus was a Gentile city of the Gentile Church, the Body of Christ.
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh (do you see that?), who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands,” Now to qualify that, who were the Circumcision? The Jews. What did they call Gentiles? Uncircumcised dogs, most of the time.
“That at that time (back when you were called uncircumcised dogs. Back when God was dealing with His Covenant people, the Jew, including Christ’s earthly ministry. Back before the Gospel of Grace that was given to me for you, what kind of hope did you have?) ye (Gentiles) were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise (do you see how plain this is?), having no hope, and without God in the world:
I didn’t write that. Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit did. And he said that you Gentiles were not in the Covenant promises. You were not Jews or citizens of the Nation of Israel. And so while God was dealing with Israel on the basis of the covenants (which would be from Genesis Chapter 12 all the way to Acts Chapter 9), where were Gentiles? Outside. And without hope. And that is why Jesus did not receive those we have looked at in this lesson. Remember, He had not yet died for the sins of the world, been buried, and rose from the dead. That’s the Gospel of Grace that was given only to the Apostle Paul for the Church Age. Jesus and the Twelve couldn’t preach that Gospel. Why? He hadn’t died yet. Plus, in the mind of God that was a secret that had been kept from the foundation of the world and then revealed only to the Apostle Paul.
In that same light, you all know the story of Jonah. God told Jonah, a good Law-abiding Jew, to go to the city of Nineveh, a Gentile city. Now Jonah was of the same mindset that Peter was in Acts Chapter 10 when the Lord told him to go to the home of Cornelius. Did Peter want to go to Cornelius’ house? No! Did Jonah want to go to Nineveh? No! Jonah even went so far as to go in the other direction, and you know the story of how he was cast overboard and swallowed by a whale. In type or in picture, what happened to Jonah when the great fish swallowed him? For all practical purposes Jonah died. How long was he in the belly of the fish? Three days and three nights. In fact, Jesus made that same allusion in Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly: so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” After three days and nights, the fish spit Jonah out upon dry land. And for all practical purposes brought him back to life. In type or picture, a resurrection.
After experiencing death, burial, and resurrection where can Jonah go? To the Gentiles. And that’s where he went. And what happened? Nineveh repented in sackcloths and ashes. But Jonah was not a fit servant until he had fulfilled the type.
And that was what Jesus was saying in John Chapter 12. He could not be the object of faith for the Gentiles until He had experienced His death, burial, and Resurrection. In Ephesians Chapter 2, look at verse 13. I wouldn’t want to leave you with verse 12, because that’s hopeless. But look at the next verse:
“But (I’ve told my class for many years that little three letter word is one of the most important words in Scripture. “But”) now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off (as Gentiles were then) are made nigh (to God, not by the Law or covenants, but by what?) by the blood of the Christ.” The finished work of the Cross.
I don’t know how to make it any plainer. That is why the Jew was under the Covenant promises and under Law. Through the Apostle Paul’s teachings, the Gentile is under Grace through the finished work of the Cross. Law and Grace cannot mix. The Gentiles could not have any part or opportunity in those Covenant promises. But the Jew now has the same opportunity as the Gentile under Grace. However, since the Jew has temporally been set aside (because of their unbelief as we see at the close of the Book of Acts), God then turns to the Gentiles in Grace. In past programs we have pointed out the difference between Law and Grace. In Grace, based upon Christ’s death, burial and Resurrection, God can now impart salvation to the whole human race. He doesn’t confine it to the Jew, and He doesn’t confine it to the Gentile. But it goes to All!