At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion
in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family
were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and
prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in
the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who
came to him and said, “Cornelius!”- Acts 10:1-3
At a recent Christian conference, I met a missionary, who has been working with the refugees from the conflict areas of the Middle-East. He shared accounts of many refugees from other faiths, approaching him with accounts of visions and dreams of Jesus Christ and asking him to tell them more about Jesus. One day, such a young man approached him and asked about Jesus and the shaken missionary shared the Gospel with him. The next day, the young man brought 25 other young men to him and they all heard the gospel again and they asked him to pray for them. This is not an isolated incident. Hundreds are getting baptized there daily. The light of God is almost always most visible to those who are suffering in abject darkness.
Cornelius prayed. From the biblical account we
know that He and his family were devout and God fearing. Yet he hadn’t heard
about Christ. An angel visited him not to convert him but to direct him to
“The angel answered, “…Now send men to Joppa to bring
back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He
is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”- Acts 10:6
God gave Cornelius a supernatural encounter but
gave the assignment of sharing the gospel to Apostle Peter. One man’s encounter
lead to the transformation of all Gentiles. The bible tells us that Cornelius was
expecting Peter and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter went inside Cornelius’s home, he found a large gathering
Not only was Cornelius a man of prayer, but his family also
sought God with him. When Cornelius received a response from God, he didn’t
hesitate. He stepped out and obeyed. Even before becoming a Christian he became
a missionary by gathering his folks at his home to hear from Apostle Peter.
For the gentiles, the receiving of the gospel began with one
man seeking and praying with his family for God. It began with one man willing
to open his heart, his family and his home to be blessed by the Gospel of
Christ and then readily share that blessing with his friends and relatives.
This very event is going on right now in the Middle East. If it can happen in a
war zone, it can happen anywhere. Even in your own city.
This blog is just a reminder to us that God hasn’t changed.
He is still reaching out to the lost sheep. He is very busy connecting sheep to
shepherds. People are searching for God amidst the shattered remains of their
abusive homes, broken economies, unravelling social morality and war torn
nations. Are the shepherds ready? Are you ready to live lives
worthy of the calling that Peter received one afternoon at the tanner’s house?
It’s not about us anymore it’s about millions of
people whose cries and petitions are before the Lord. Let us send our prayers
before God, share in His burden for the people, answer when He calls and not
allow convenience to prevent obedience.
An unnamed woman gets introduced in the gospel of Mathew 15 and again in Mark 7. St. Mathew calls her a Canaanite woman and St. Mark attributes her as a Syrophenician Greek. Jesus compares her to a dog.
“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.”- Mathew 15:22,23
I feel almost embarrassed to see how Jesus behaves with this woman who is clearly suffering. He says He has been sent only for the lost sheep of Israel. His demeanor shows He isn’t available for or interested in helping her. His response to her request was first silence and then an excuse. Neither of which inspires confidence, much less worship.
And yet this is her response.
“Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” –Mathew 15:25
Jesus was getting closer to his betrayal, suffering, and death on the cross. In a little while, He was about to die for this very woman and the rest of the world. His sacrifice was about to rip away the veil that separated God and man. So why did he treat her so poorly?
“It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
This interaction would mostly leave me with an impression of an unfair God. In her place, my response would have probably been to raise accusations against the indifferent God of the Jews.
But then 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.
I can’t tell exactly why Jesus behaved this way. But the account leaves me with a sense of marvel at the concept of faith according to Jesus as expressed here.
What was her faith? When Jesus confronted her with her inadequacy in receiving anything from Him, she did not respond with blame or disappointment with God. She did not grumble as Israel did in the wilderness. She did not walk away. She held on to one thing- the goodness of God.
Her response acknowledged that she was not worthy of help. She didn’t have the right to receive. She accepted that the salvation came for the chosen people, God’s elect, the seed of Abraham but she held on to the overflow of grace that the Jews received and she staked her claim to partake of it.
All salvation is salvation through God’s covenant with Abraham. It traces back to Genesis when God makes a covenant with Abraham saying “And in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12.3)
Her argument here is simply one of humility, perseverance, and truth. Yes, I am an unworthy foreigner. But Your grace abounds toward Israel and through Your promise of salvation for them, I receive salvation by faith. She didn’t question his goodness and his grace but instead, she depended on it.
A test of faith often brings us to our knees admitting our lack of credentials but also gives us an opportunity to express our steady confidence in the promise God has extended to us. When I look at this incident, I see God working in her to establish a new shadow for all the believers that come after her. I am able to see not an unfair God but a God working to reveal His heart to us through faith and actions of people like this gentile woman, encouraging us to trust in Him, to be humble before Him and to believe in His goodness especially when our faith is tested.