SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- At first glance verses 1-20 might look like they're about cleanliness. I mean, shouldn't we all wash our hands before we eat? Who wants to spread bacteria, right? Well, the meaning is actually a lot deeper than that. The religious leaders of Jesus' day had very strict traditions that they expected people to follow; a rule book, so to speak. However, these "rules" were not based on what the Bible had to say, but instead concerned themselves with the outward appearance of doing good. Jesus pushes their buttons and confronts them about this problem. He even quotes the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, calling them hypocrites because they cared so much about how they looked on the outside, but didn't care that their hearts on the inside were full of evil.
- In the second story a Greek woman approaches Jesus and asks him for help. Her daughter is ill and demon-possessed. Jesus tells her, tongue in cheek, that "tradition" would consider it inappropriate for a non-Jewish woman to ask for help from a Jew. After all, the Jews nick-named the Greeks "dogs." However, she responds in a humble way that leads Jesus to grant her what she asked for.
- Once again, we see Jesus healing a deaf and mute man. This time, Jesus heals him by spitting. It's interesting to note that Jesus healed people in all kinds of ways, perhaps so people wouldn't focus on the method of healing but instead on the one who had the power to heal.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- We need to be concerned with the inside of us, the heart of who we are -- our character, our relationship with God, our thoughts, and not the outward appearance we give others.
- Just like the Greek woman and the deaf man, we can come before God with humility and faith that he has the power to answer our prayers.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- If you've been more concerned with how others see you than who you really are, confess that to God. Ask him to help you to be the same on the outside and inside, and to help you move toward a pure inside.
- Just like the desperate Greek woman, if there's something you prayed about, but gave up because you feel God's not answering you, keep talking to God about it. He doesn't always do things according to our preferences, but he does work things out so we can grow closer to him.