I almost went to bed without posting this. It usually takes me mulling over a passage all day before the light breaks through and I get an "Ah-ha" moment of clarity and excitement that makes sharing it possible.
Tonight the ah-ha hit while I was tucking my youngest in bed.
The three sections of Luke's narrative on Christ's birth that always catch me are:
- Mary's reaction to the shepherds: She treasured and pondered the message they brought about her son.
- Simeon's prophecy about Jesus to Mary: He would pierce her soul and be opposed and expose people's thoughts and hearts.
- Simeon's prayer and praise before prophesying to Mary:
Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.- Luke 2:29-32
The third is what I want to dwell on tonight. It's the "light for revelation to the Gentiles" part.
In the Bible, Gentiles refers to all non-Jews. According to a Jew, if you weren't a Jew you were a Gentile. Basically if you were a Jew, Gentiles were all those other people out there.
As I've been thinking about this verse today and why it catches me I found myself arguing with myself. I do that. I think it's healthy actually. I found myself saying, "Self, as soon as you hear the word Gentile, a lot of context and history come up in your mind. Its sort of like thinking you remember that time when you were four and smudged ice cream on your nose and said a prayer in Dairy Queen, but you're not sure if you really remember it or if you have some memory created by all the times you've been told the story of when you smudged your nose with ice cream and said a prayer in Dairy Queen. You don't really know what it means to feel like a Gentile, but you know what preachers have told you it means and it makes you glad Jesus came to be a light to them, because you are one. But what would it feel like if you were there. Then. And you were called a Gentile and seen as the "other people" because you weren't born a Jew?"
That little argument with myself stuck with me all day. And then tonight it hit me: The woman Jesus called a dog knew what it felt like!!
Jesus called a woman a dog?! You might be scandalized by that but try to not impose current vulgar thoughts and crudeness on the man who knelt protectively beside a woman freshly pulled out of sex with a man who wasn't her husband and thrown to the ground as bait for a trap set for Jesus by the religious Jewish leaders of his day. (See John 8:1-11) When reading the account below, don't get stuck on Jesus' comparison of the woman to a dog... he wasn't being crude or rude. He was drawing a picture with his words to describe an ultimate truth about who he is and why he came, giving the woman an opportunity to respond to this truth in faith. Let's just read:
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.- Matthew 15:21-28
In fact, the light of Christ shines so bright, it blazes forward into time from his birth on to reveal the truth of God and life to me and the Canaanite woman who met Jesus as an adult. And it was dimly seen with eyes of faith by the woman from Jericho who looked at the people of Israel and saw a glimmer of the truth about God as revealed in his people long before Jesus came.
Christ came through the people of Israel. It is the way God chose to reveal himself. He came to save them and multitudes of other people from every tribe, tongue and nation. He is the bread of life, whether you get a crumb, or a whole slice you get life unending! And he is the light of the world, whether you saw a glimpse of him before he came in the flesh or after he died and rose from the dead you'll be exposed and aware of the truth of who he is and what life is all about!
Christ came through Israel, and he comes through all who believe- to be a light to the other people!
Oh Lord! Let the light of Christ shine through me, that others who don't know him might believe in him too and be glad!
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!- Psalm 67