Process Requires Persistence
Persistence - Grit - Process in relationship with God requires persistence
This section builds to and then from the moment that we are going to talk though next week:
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Answers are easy, but when Jesus looked at his disciples and in turn as He looks at us, HE is not looking for the right answer, He is looking for our real answer. Who is Jesus to you? When that is clear. When that is developed. When that is engaged in. Lifechange is there. Not in just knowing the right answers. Right answers being said do not guarantee change. I want to start off with some dialogue today by asking a question. How do you respond to a spoiled child?
How do you personally respond to a spoiled child?
They will grow out of it
I can’t deal with you
Pleading with them to stop
How do you respond to a spoiled child?
Now I want us to wrestle with a paradox that is probably in us all to some degree. It would be “ok” with me if I could get things or achieve things with little to no effort. Come on. Don’t we all have that desire? Isn’t it easy to idealize that?
If I could be smart without having to study
If I could be rich without working
If I could have the finest things without having to save or wait
If I could have the deepest relationships without having work through conflict
If I could have a position of leadership without having to pay my dues
If I could have influence without having to earn respect
I feel those “ifs.” Aren’t they in us, at least a little. We will in this moment call this “spoiled.” Now, how do we deal with this second perspective? People that have gotten things or achieved things without effort are negatively affected. Getting or achieving without effort, without cost, without skin in the game. Getting without trying or working can have an effect. Maybe it’s:
Lack of patience….
We will in this moment call it “spoiled.” Being spoiled can have a negative effect. Maybe these are assumptions that are wrong, but maybe, I would like it if you were spoiled a little, and yet I see the negative effects of people being spoiled.
How do you work through this paradox:
I would like it if life spoiled me a little vs. being spoiled has negative effects
Last week we looked at the feeding of the 5,000 and the feeding of the 4,000. It led us in a conversation about how faith and relationship with Jesus is process. The Pharisees and the Sadducees had a perspective that if Jesus would just do one more sign, miracle, wonder, then they would take His Messiahship into consideration. Relationship with the Messiah, with the Savior, how we perceive Him, how we relate to Him, how we see our need for Him, is all process. Now this week we see another step in our walk towards the question. “Who do you say that I am?” That step is that process requires persistence. So one more question before we look at Biblical text:
What do people “get” by being a Christian?
I hope you are feeling this. Spoiled is a thing, it has consequences, it has cost, it has long lasting impact. I can feel it in me, that I wouldn’t mind being spoiled a little... Maybe a lot. So, what do people get by being a Christians? Is it all about being spoiled by God? When you are asked:
Is my answer:
The one who gives me what I want
Makes like so easy
Prevents me from struggling
Again, Matthew is walking us to a point of answering that question. Today we see Jesus employ something that is so hard for me to culturally wrap my head around. In Matthew 15:1-28 Jesus uses a process of communication called challenge/riposte. It is a a back and forth a verbal sparring, an expected part of relationship in Jesus’ culture. Jesus employes a hostile challenge/riposte with the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law. Then in our story today we will see Jesus uses a non-hostile challenge/riposte with a Canaanite women. Lets dig into this.
A hostile challenge-riposte is about the moving of honor or respect from the challenger to the challenged. When a person is verbally attacked, to defame their character, the riposte is the turning of that attack back on them, until one is proven superior or right.
15 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” 3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 8 “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’” 10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” 12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” 13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
The Pharisees and the Teachers of the law came to take away the respect of the people from Jesus. Your disciples don’t “wash” correctly. Jesus comes back with a riposte:
Your focus on the letter of the law has made you do awful things
You know that the law says that you are to honor your father and mother
This means that you are to take care of them when they are in need
You have said that all of your things are devoted to God, so they can’t be given to your family, they are God’s
You are so focused on what goes in and not what comes out
It is not what you eat or take in that makes you unclean
It is what comes out that makes you unclean
The Teachers attacked Jesus, and He employed a hostile challenge/riposte. What was a moment intended to take from Jesus, He turned to taking from the Pharisees. Then Jesus employes a non-hostile challenge/riposte in Matthew 15:21-28. The goal of a non-hostile challenge/riposte is to gain favor, respect and relationship between the challenger to the challenged. Keep that in mind here. A challenge/riposte was only used in peer to peer interaction.
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” 23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” 25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
Jesus engages in non-hostile Challenge-riposte with this non-jewish woman. They spar back and forth. The cultural expectation would have been no interaction at all. Which is how Jesus starts the interaction. In this dialogue, that is hard for me to swallow as a westerner, Jesus engages her in the cultural debate. Jesus spars with her around the cultural expectations. Then in non-hostile form, Jesus allows he to have the last word. She asks for help and Jesus responds with silence. She is persistent and Jesus dismisses her. She continues to be persistent, and Jesus shares what would have been culturally normal. Yet she stays persistent, and Jesus gives in by recognizing her great faith.
It’s easy for me to hear Jesus being condescending or mean to this women in the way that He responds. I feel that way because of my own modern and western understanding of the words that Jesus uses. This is a great moment to practice how we should be reading the bible. We need to always do our best to try and understand what Jesus is communicating to the people He is talking to. The way He responds to the women would have been the cultural norm of the time. No one would be offended or confused by the way He initially responded. In fact, they would have been much more offended at how He engaged her with a riposte. This type of interaction would have been reserved for peers, never someone of a different culture or status in society. So another question to keep us moving in this process.
Why do you think God doesn’t grant every request?
Jesus shared a parable with his disciples:
1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
As we move towards being able to not just give the right answer, but answering Jesus when He asks, “Who do you say I am?” It is important that we bring persistence to our relationship with Him. That we become gritty. It is so easy to fall into the trap of:
I’m not worthy
I’m an outsider
I’m too much of a failure
He doesn’t care
I’m not good enough
I’m not important enough
I have not done enough
I have done too much
Feel the persistence of the parable. Feel the persistence of the canaanite woman. We need this persistence as part of relationship with Jesus. He isn’t going to spoil us into being brats.
How has persistence or the lack or persistence played into your relationship with God?
What do you need to be more persistent about in your relationship with Jesus?
Take It Deeper Questions
Read Luke 18:1-8
What did you and your siblings do in order to get what you wanted from your parents? Sulk, cry, bribe, persist, forces, wit. What worked best?
Did you employ different tactics than your siblings?
What method did this woman use as she approached the judge?
How is God like and unlike the judge?
When it comes to prayer, are you more likely to give up or hang tough? Why?
What do you need to be persistent in praying for?
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