Cover photo creds: Wallpaper Safari
Author: Cameron Fry
Bready or Not: A SOAP Bible Study on Matthew 15:21-28
Note: A more detailed analysis of this passage will be included in the Juby Journey book I’m working on. For now, I’m converting preliminary thoughts into the SOAP Bible study below to archive insight and encourage the saints in the short term.
As one dealing with grief, who went through the ringer last year while Juby was alive, I can’t help but resonate with this passage. Like the protagonist, Lys and I can relate to an afflicted daughter and the desperation for her deliverance. Granted, Juby was not demon-possessed but stricken with chronic lung disease. Still, as we cried out for Jesus, hopefully not to the chagrin of others, we discovered a posture far greater than a spiritual bookmark but of a daily exercise with reproducible influence.
Accordingly, without further ado, I’d like to unpack the remarkable faith of the Syrophoenician woman and how her hope can be a blueprint for those seeking restoration.
Scripture: Matthew 15:21-28
“And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.’ But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she is crying out 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.’ And he answered, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread 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, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.“
1. Before we can dive into the dialogue, we must first assess the setting. While time and place may seem arbitrary, in this case, they carry notable purpose. With the end in sight, Jesus withdrew with the disciples outside Jewish territory to prepare them for the Cross to come. His days numbered, Jesus realized some final exposures and tune-ups were necessary to groom them for life in ministry without His physical presence. As such, the fact He retreated to the hostile confines of Tyre and Sidon should not be perceived as random as Jesus desired to foreshadow the Gospel going out to all peoples. How amazing it is to know Jesus, even in His last days, never stopped breaking down barriers through radical love.
2. Fast-forward to the woman’s cameo, it’s interesting to note what she requests right out of the gate. Instead of healing or intervention, she addresses Jesus as ‘Son of David’ and calls for mercy, instantly acknowledging the Master’s identity, authority, and sovereignty in one swoop (v. 22). While intellectual origins are unknown, somehow, someway, she understood who Jesus was much to the surprise of the cohort. Per the importance of this sequence, we’ll break this down as we go.
3. I also find Jesus’ response to be somewhat peculiar: “But he did not answer her a word” (v. 23). This, to me, is a critical point to examine and requires us to broaden out to consider the context. Again, this will be explored in the points below.
4. Starting with the woman’s location and situation, we find her labeled as an unclean outsider despite her Canaanite designation and erroneously judged for her non-Israelite daughter’s condition. In terms of geography and timeline, we aren’t informed of any prior wonders performed in Tyre and Sidon prior to this passage. This adds a curious wrinkle to the story as one must wonder how a woman of this stature and status could recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
5. Going back to Jesus’ response, we find multiple motives. For the disciples citing the woman as a distraction, Jesus addresses their bias prior to answering her cry (v. 24):
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
The reason behind this is at least twofold: On one hand, Jesus wanted to remind the disciples who He was in light of what He came to do as clearly, a portion of the twelve were still pigeon-holing His kingship. On the other hand, Jesus’ intended His initial silence to be an opportunity for the woman to show patience…and resilience. From ‘have mercy’ to ‘help me’ in consecutive pleas (v. 25), the woman wasn’t just conveying poetic symmetry but reiterating Jesus’ mission. Already she had correctly identified Jesus as the Son of God (a full two chapters prior to Peter’s declaration in 16:16); now, she was begging Jesus to be consistent to her…
…what you do to Israel, please, Lord, do to me and my household as well.
6. In addition to the woman’s opening inquiry, I’m captivated by her posture. Even if she just said, ‘Son of David, please help me. My daughter is possessed’, Jesus would have recognized the woman’s understanding of His lordship through her positioning. While the woman’s kneel wasn’t evident during her first appeal, the fact Jesus gave the woman more time, in part, to let her go deeper in referencing Him was not part of instinctual circumstance. Rather, it was an intentional maneuver for her to anchor her surrender and confirm her awareness in front of a freshly humbled core of disciples.
7. The exchange between Jesus and the woman immediately following is arguably one of the most profound moments during His ministry. Up to this point, Jesus hasn’t said a word. Now ready, we again see the silence’s effect per His decision to test the depth and sincerity of her invitation. With the woman’s hopelessness on a timer, He uses the woman’s location and sense of identity as a means to assess her heart:
“It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (v. 26)
Here, Jesus elects to use ‘dog’ knowing the term was derogatory as a Gentile reference. To be a dog in Israel was to be regarded as a dirty, street scavenger; however, Jesus doesn’t associate the term to her poverty as much as her perceived sense of spiritual destitution. At the time, the rift between Jew and Gentile (between ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’) was still strong but, in a preview, we find a woman authenticating her hope while also foreshadowing the expiration of Gentile believers’ spiritual homelessness.
In the woman’s reply, “Yes, Lord; but even the pet dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their [young] masters’ table” (v. 27), we not only find confidence beyond imminent healing but in the salvation of her people. While the woman’s yieldedness was key as a demonstration of submission, Jesus knew this wasn’t simply a self-centered strategy to obtain instant results.
8. Finally, per the prior point, the significance of ‘crumb’ cannot be understated. For a “lost sheep of Israel” (v. 24) to be so hungry for Jesus that even a mere morsel would do tells us the woman saw her situation as secondary to the power and presence of God. In essence, she accepts the status of a family’s dog knowing just a crumb of Jesus would be powerful enough to defeat the demon oppressing her daughter. No question, the woman had her priorities and perspectives set straight, almost as if she had anticipated the moment in advance.
Despite its short duration, the passage carries immense application and universal relatability potential. Regardless of our situations, we can all identify and empathize with the Syrophoenician woman if not at least through her adamant clinging to hope in a bleak situation. Even when we’re struggling with our identity, a love deficit, and/or challenges outside our control, even when we feel stuck in dark place, we can approach God in humility with thanksgiving acknowledging who He is and what He can do.
For some of you, you may have a loved one, a son or daughter, burdened by a disease or satanic assignment. You may feel the target on your back and paralyzed to shake it off. If this is you, don’t work to faith and prayer; start with faith and prayer. To the Lord of grace, ask for mercy and request His appointed portion of providence. If you’re lost, don’t deny the position but receive yourself as one worth saving. Like the woman, you may be deeply conscious of the misery of the soul, but this doesn’t disqualify you from bread of life crumbs.
For others, you may not have a grim circumstance on the board, but you may be thirsty to anticipate the proximity and power of God. While we don’t know exactly how the woman learned of Jesus before His arrival, we know she put herself in position to receive of Him following His arrival. Like her, you don’t have to limit your bended knee to the moment. Rather you can extend it as a general posture wherever you go. Ask yourself, ‘Do I want more of Jesus? Do I want a fresh touch of Him today?’ If the answer is ‘yes’, know whatever He decides to give is more than enough even if what He offers is partly an invitation to go deeper.
Either way, dare to believe good things will happen when you seek Jesus and ask of God according to His will.
Heavenly Father, we come before you today as we are. Heavy laden with our fears, anxieties, and insecurities, we lay them down in anticipation of what you’re going to do. We may feel “dogged” by life, by consequences of past decisions, by unforeseen trials and happenstances. But like Mary, we choose you ahead of any other commitment and priority in our life right now. We thank you for going before us but recognize your faithfulness before us now. For those who are hungry for you, we ask you provide something afresh to they may taste and see a new facet of your goodness. For those who don’t realize they’re hungry, guide and position them to discover the bread of life you carry. Stir in all of us an awakened passion to the wonder of you and help us to see even what we can’t control as opportunities for sharpening, pruning, and maturing. Whether or not we’re personally afflicted, we pray you prepare our hearts for inevitable testings to come and remember those who are going through tragedy, who are journeying through grief. Tend their hearts and make us sensitive to our part in nourishing them just as you are intentional in nourishing us. Whatever piece you intend to give, we receive it with praise on our lips and gratitude in our hearts. In Jesus’ precious and holy name…
Graphic creds: EnduringWord; Mr. Muncle
Fragile Rock: The Denial & Restoration of Peter
Inspired by Matthew 26:31-35, Matthew 26:69-75; Luke 22:31-34...
Imagine being Peter.
The most on-the-sleeve, off-the-cuff disciple. Ahead of his time, ahead of the curve.
You’ve perceived your Master with truth from the Father. Flesh hasn’t revealed it as you have concealed it.
Yet, as you sense His final approach, old habits kick in, you sink past reproach. You want to believe but can’t receive. You want to take part but can’t depart…this idea of loss. How can you take heart?
Though loyal to faults, you are rash in your state. A love for God’s Son meets enemy’s bait.
- So you ‘buse your devotion pledging death prematurely.
- You say you won’t stumble though records say contrary.
- And abuse the blade though you once heard so clearly…I’ve not come to bring peace but a sword.
Stubborn as always, you’re one step behind now, a faith not yet ripe but not far from fruit. Your prayers lack direction though brim with affection. You want to be ready but still lack the steady. Whatever, you’re still holding on.
Imagine being Peter.
Called out by Jesus after vowing your allegiance. Exposed as a shape-shifter, weak as wheat, a coward. You think you are tested but the real test awaits.
While there’s no way to scale the weight of the moment, that bittersweet sting still rings in your ear.
For before He said, ‘Peter, the rooster will crow...’ (v. 34), He said, ‘But I’ve prayed for your faith to still grow‘ (v. 32). And not fail in turn amidst the great smothers. In time you will turn and strengthen your brothers.
And so you proceed to keep tracking and cracking. Heck, you tread water, but still much is lacking. Always bold, always proud, with cling lost in the shroud. Again, that is you, who you will be and then some. After all, who could fathom the darkness to come?
Whatever, you got this. no innocence to preserve. You’ll keep following the Master to whom you still serve. Your forward march, a prophecy unfolding in face, one woman, two men confirming disgrace.
You hear the crow and now you know. Jesus was right; there’s no need to fight.
And so, you’re still holding on.
Imagine being Peter.
Even before the Cross, Jesus was bearing your shame. Why else would He preview your restoration pre-sin? Your call to help others with grief still within?
I tell you why: ‘Cause He knows and He gets you! Your passion’s now fearless, a part of what’s new. Not to mention a prompt to process ahead and heal in front of the others in stead.
Or perhaps I should say it this way: Days from now, when most are still down, you’ll be on the rise with Him, back in stride with Him. From whom are still scattered with tears still bitter, your calling is now, your emotions are fitter. Once slow to conceive it, now quick to receive it. Your chance to eat crow, to make fishers soon after, will sharpen the sheep you tend well thereafter.
Fallen down once, your faith has not failed. ‘Tis why Jesus took it with hands and feet nailed.
The Grief Gap: Why Coping is Not a Solo Exercise
It’s another stormy Fryday night as I type this in the middle of a chase.
Nothing like getting ahead of a whirlwind in the middle of nowhere amidst an historical event. Not a bad way to spend a night…at least to this guy.
Yet, I’m not here to document pending tales of roadside bravery. Conversely, I’m here to share about an observation, one that’s come to greater light since Lys and I started group grief counseling at Vanderbilt earlier this month.
The short and skinnies are simple:
- For those who grief, it’s hard to know how. For those around grief, it’s hard to know what.
- To understand your grief, you must not only face it but embrace it. Only then can you make the transition into biblical mourning.
Of course, there are many challenges to this, most notably the mock premium of individualization our culture has placed on processing. Give yourself a few minutes to research the matter and you’ll find many resources with premises centered on coping by way of escape/retreat, calibrating perspective by a reverse orientation to still minds and ‘happy thoughts’.
Granted, there’s a time and place for those pursuits. I’m not here to bash a particular tool of the trade or what has worked for some in moderation. I’m just saying we, as people who deep down want to be unified and understood, need to wake up and recognize the ministry of availability within our communities and not be afraid to be relational even when we can’t relate.
For Lys and I, as we’ve said before, we appreciate the support we received when Juby was alive. Words can only go so far in capturing our gratitude. But during the last quarter and half, we’ve noticed a concerning trend, a punch to the gut if you will, and that is we’ve hardly been encouraged and tended since Juby passed away.
Why is that? Why is it so hard for people to send a simple text or have the courage to ask how you’re doing, how you’re feeling? Why do some people ask but only want a few sentences, in turn, exposing the cap to their care? Why do people assume hearts aren’t broken if the brokeness isn’t tangibly evident? Is there some sort of valve that shuts off at a certain point? Do people just assume it’s easier for grievers to journey through loss after a loved one has died as opposed to their final days?
While I have bias to what the answers should be, my mind struggles to access the surface translation. At work, at Vanderbilt…there is life and in some cases, in abundance. But at church, where the body is supposed to be the body? Let’s just say confusion abounds and I’m just about over it. It’s been several years since Lys and I experienced a church home in an environment where the amount of life exceeded its transverse. We miss those days when deficits weren’t distractions, when you could approach a sanctuary and look forward to being inside it without the proximity of people who have written you off or have deemed you not worth the conversation.
And hear me, this is not a call out to every church. I know there are safe places out there where people truly love one another and make their compassion/kindness known. Such a dichotomy is a desired reality I hope to encounter at some point. For now, while my expectations in fellow believers acting like Jesus to us may be too high, I can say this as a broad statement across the board: Whether in or outside leadership, you cannot assign parameters to someone else’s grief. You can’t tell them to level or mask up, to just be okay already, to do what you need to get better as soon as possible. If that’s the message you’re conveying, intentionally or not, you are giving the enemy a footstool and sowing destructive seeds, even if the only consequence is withdrawal and separation noticed by a select few. Sure, we may have some days our emotions are a bit more on the sleeve. Guess what? There’s no agenda there. Sometimes, it’s just hard to swallow the tears. Heck, even worship lyrics can be triggers to heaviness.
Whatever the case, I’m sure there are bodies of believers out there who know how to let people grieve, who know how to simply ‘be there’ when times are tough, and aren’t afraid of making the effort. But from what I’m seeing? When it comes to soul tending and post-traumatic nourishment, the healing pathway is more a function of individual walk sprinkled with isolated interactions that may or may not lift spirits in the moment. If the church can promote the afflicted to take confidence steps on their roads to recovery and restoration, watch out. There will be so much new glory to be discovered and testimonies to be shared!
As for closing thoughts, I apologize to those I’ve inadvertently forsaken during their grief battles. I know it’s easy to be narrow-minded, single-focused, to reserve encouragement to those we’re comfortable with. I know I’ve missed my share of opportunities so I don’t want to sound like a victim in all this. Preaching to the choir, I just want us to wake up, to not be afraid to be uncomfortable. If it helps, just ask us, ‘Good day or bad day?’ I promise you, it’s so much better than a cold shoulder, a blind assumption, or any other fruitless maneuver that shuts God out of the operation.
We can do this. I’m not giving up hope.
Photo creds: Healthday
Job Security: A SOAP Study on Job 23
Since August 2021 (I.e. Juby’s birth month), reading the Bible has been, eh, rather hit and miss.
Take 550 days and probably 500 of them, I could have gone deeper but didn’t on account of feeling too stunned, silent or somewhat afraid of the idea God may not be near when I want Him to be.
Granted, this is a loaded sentiment and not the reason I’m writing this though the choice of intimacy is a category worth unpacking later on. For now, I want to take a SOAP Bible study approach to Job 23 where we find a defeated yet inquisitive protagonist doing what all of us should do when we’re going through hell or hard times in general…talking to/wrestling with God!
Reading this passage afresh and anew, I love how Job pairs his rawness with pure vulnerability. Starting in v. 2, Job calls his shot as a bitter vent only to disclose its motivation in the following lines:
“Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat!” (v. 3)
“I would know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me.” (v. 5)
But then in v. 8, we see the insecurity, all too relatable but perfectly justifiable: “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him.”
Per my hesitation to press into divine, I find this transparency encouraging as in banner-like fashion, Job captures an all too familiar fear…
What if everything I’ve thought of you, hoped you would be isn’t there in times I need you the most? You are God! So by default, your nature cannot be conditional. You are unchanging (v. 13). You are just! So by virtue, you will cover me, help me…do something…right? Right !?!
Fast-forward down to v. 15-16 and we see another facet of Job’s skepticism:
“Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me.”
So clearly, Job isn’t just scared of the prospect of God’s abandonment but God Himself! To me, this gives insight not only to the weight of Job’s despair but also to how Satan might sow seeds of distrust within the weary heart. I can only imagine Job’s inner voice desperately fighting off the daggers: I mean…He’s God. He can choose to do whatever He wants including not being true to me. I’ve been loyal but He’s not obligated to reciprocate.
See the danger here in how we can make God out to be a liar when we’re overwhelmed and bombarded? Or even worse, to make Him into a relative, subjective orphan-generating God whose love actually has a reach?
Oh, that we all may find that inner Job in us who though weak, walks in the meek…and is not so easily discouraged by the absence of goodness in the moment but stays hungry through healthy inquisition…
You are all I have, Lord God…so I will cling to my all. True, I may groan and shudder…but I will do those things in Your direction knowing at the very least, the present void is no match for a sovereign God trying me so I will come out as gold (v. 13).Tweet
Feel what you may, labor are you will…He will complete what He has appointed for you as many such things are in His mind.
And that is a bottom line for tonight, my friends: Be free to be still but don’t be silent in your darkness. Who knows? God may actually give you words so that you can argue with Him! All for the grand purpose of drawing near to His heart and knowing without a shadow of a doubt, everything will be okay.
And we get there…some way, somehow…together.
Cover photo creds: TheNIVBible