Do you catch yourself being hard-hearted or unkind toward those with a chronic illness or disabling injury? In our busyness, it’s easy to be unkind and even shun people who might take too much of our time or attention. In Mark 7 and Luke 13, Jesus extended kindness to two women who were being shunned by those who should have shown concern for them. The women had invaded their space and interrupted their well-ordered day. We all want to get away from such interruptions by needy people at times. Our responses may be governed by our time schedule, our biases, and even hard hearts. Honestly, we cannot meet every need. But we know the one who can meet the spiritual needs of every person. Jesus can. In this post, we will look at how we can show kindness to anyone Jesus puts in our path because He has already shown that kindness to us. This is post #6 in our New Testament Women series.
Listen to this post as a similar podcast from our Bible Study of New Testament women: Live Out His Love.
In Mark 7 and Luke 13, Jesus extended kindness to two women who were being shunned by those who should have shown concern for them. The disciples and the synagogue ruler were less interested in responding to the needs of the women with kindness than they were in sending them away. Let’s see what happened.
Mark 7: The Shunned Outsider
The region of Tyre
During His third year of ministry, Jesus headed about 50 miles northwest of Capernaum with His disciples to the region of Tyre on the Mediterranean coast. Tyre was an ancient seaport city of the Phoenicians consisting of a rocky coastal city and an island city. The Phoenicians were known for their trade and commerce and their skill as a seafaring people. Like the rest of that region of the world, Tyre had been conquered by the Greeks before the Romans. So its culture was mainly Greek.
Throughout history, friendly relations existed between the Hebrews and Tyrians. In fact, Jewish communities were scattered throughout the region. The home where Jesus stayed was probably Jewish. In the New Testament period, a Christian community flourished at Tyre so that Paul even stayed with the believers there at the end of his third missionary journey (Acts 21:1-7).
While in the region of Tyre, Jesus was approached by a non-Jewish woman from that vicinity. We don’t know her name. But I like to call her ‘Ginny’ to make her seem more like a real person, not just words on a page. One day, I’ll meet her in heaven and find out her real name. So when you read ‘Ginny’ in this post, I am talking about the Gentile woman from Tyre.
‘Ginny’s’ story is recorded in both Matthew and Mark. Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience, so he identified the woman as a Canaanite. The Canaanites were the original people living in the land when Israel conquered it. Mark wrote for a Greco-Roman audience, so he described her as being of Greek culture born in Syrian Phoenicia (the north part of Phoenicia near Syria). To anyone who was Jewish, she was a Gentile—an outsider.
Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. (Mark 7:24-30)
‘Ginny’ sought Jesus as she soon as she “heard about him.” She brought her need to Jesus in the presence of His disciples and those living in that house. The text in Matthew 15 said that she “cried out” to get Jesus’ attention. She came into the house and fell at Jesus’ feet. Can you imagine her heart distress that put herself in such a vulnerable position?
‘Ginny’ interceded for her daughter. To intercede means to speak with someone in authority on behalf of someone else. We do this when we pray to Jesus on behalf of others. This woman came to Jesus, an authority in her mind, and interceded for her daughter who was unable to come to Jesus on her own. That was intentional and demonstrated faith in Jesus.
Jesus’ answer to her in Mark 7:27 can be puzzling unless you understand the context. He had already taught people from Tyre and Sidon before in His ministry (Luke 7:17) and healed a Gentile’s loved ones (Luke 7:1-10). In this case, Jesus was getting away with His “children” (the disciples) for them to “eat” (He would teach them), not to focus on this largely Gentile community. The Jews commonly called the Gentiles “dogs.” Unlike today, dogs were not held in high esteem. Jesus tested her faith by suggesting she would have to wait. She responded with willingness for anything He would give to her. Jesus honored that faith, as recorded in Matthew 15.
Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matthew 15:28)
Our God always honors faith, even small faith the size of a mustard seed. You don’t have to have perfect theology for Him to recognize faith. In fact, her humility crying out to Jesus and bowing at His feet is what He desires from all of us. Jesus understands moms and our love for our children. He healed the girl out of love for her and for the mom who came to Him in humility.
Choosing to be unkind
The really sad thing about this incident is that the disciples didn’t care about ‘Ginny’s’ need. Why not? Well, she was an unclean Gentile woman, and they were on that trip to be alone with Jesus. The disciples knew Jesus could heal ‘Ginny’s’ daughter. But she was a distraction to their “real purpose” for the trip. So ‘Ginny’ was shunned for two reasons: prejudice and not wanting the interruption.
Put yourself in the disciples’ shoes, what should they have done for that woman instead of trying to send her away? They could have shown compassion and asked Jesus to take care of her need. But they didn’t do that. They chose to be unkind and send her away instead.
Luke 13: The Shunned Insider
Another woman in the gospels was also shunned, not as an outsider, though. She was a faithful Jewish woman who was disabled. We find her story in Luke 13 where Jesus met her in a synagogue.
The Jewish synagogue
Synagogues were places of worship and education. Here the young were trained in Jewish life and language. Worshipers gathered on the Sabbath to pray and read the Scriptures. The most important piece of furniture was the shrine that held the Torah (first five books of the Bible) and other scrolls on which Old Testament Scriptures were written. The bema, made of stone or wood, was an elevated platform next to the Torah shrine. Lessons and benedictions were given from this platform. Rows of stone benches surrounded the walls and provided seating for the people. The elders and rulers sat in an isolated section. Services included prescribed readings, prayer, and a sermon. Respected teachers who were visiting for the Sabbath were usually invited to speak.
Jesus was invited to teach one Sabbath in a synagogue where a disabled woman worshiped God. We don’t know this woman’s name either. But I like to call her ‘Barb’ to make her seem more like a real person, not just words on a page. Like ‘Ginny,’ I’ll meet ‘Barb’ in heaven one day and find out her real name. So when you read ‘Barb’ in this post, I am talking about the hurting woman Jesus met in the synagogue.
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing. (Luke 13:10-17)
We don’t know whether ‘Barb’ was bent forward or to one side. Either way, she was severely limited in what she could do. Consider what kind of life this woman had led for 18 years. Put yourself in her shoes. How could this ailment possibly have affected her life?
Her condition was no surprise to her fellow synagogue attendees. They had seen it for 18 years. Unlike ‘Ginny,’ ‘Barb’ didn’t call out to Him or ask to be healed. When Jesus “saw her,” He did something to heal her. He specifically said that she was “set free” from her infirmity as He put His hands on her and healed her. She was able to stand upright again.
I like what I read in this commentary:
It was Jesus’ mission among the people of the nation to loosen them from crippling influences and bring them to uprightness. Here was a graphic example of Jesus’ touch, bringing the woman to a position of uprightness. (Walvoord and Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, p. 240)
Choosing to be unkind
Did everyone clap and praise God with her? No! ‘Barb’ was criticized because she dared to get healed on the Sabbath. The synagogue ruler knew Jesus could heal ‘Barb’s’ back. The sad thing is that Barb had been in his congregation for 18 years, and he didn’t care enough to bring her to Jesus himself—on any day of the week!
As the famous Greek scholar of the 20th century wrote in his commentary:
No one had spoken to him, but he felt his importance as the ruler of the synagogue and was indignant. His words have a ludicrous sound as if all the people had to do to get their crooked backs straightened out was to come around to his synagogue during the week. (A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures of the New Testament, note on Luke 13:14)
Asynagogue ruler was a layman whose responsibilities were administrative and included such things as looking after the building (maintenance, repairs, and cleaning) as well as supervising the worship (conducting services, selecting participants and maintaining order). Though there were exceptions, most synagogues had only one ruler. He was considered an elder in the Jewish community so he sat in the reserved seats.
Jesus called the synagogue ruler a hypocrite. A hypocrite is an actor, someone playing a part. He was supposed to be an elder who knew the Law and honored God. Yet, he was more concerned with his interpretation of what could be done on the Sabbath than whether one of his own congregation could be healed. The tendency of human beings is to put rules over relationships or rules over the needs of people (like the synagogue ruler did). Jesus showed the value of people over misguided rules, traditions and practices. God was still being worshipped, even more so because of the miracle, and the people were still enjoying a day of rest from their usual employment.
Do you catch yourself being hard-hearted or unkind toward those with a chronic illness or disabling injury? Maybe you aren’t hard-hearted, but you easily forget about them since their needs aren’t short-term. In our busyness, it’s easy to be unkind and even shun people who might take too much of our time or attention. I know that I am guilty of that.
Both the disciples and the religious leader showed a lack of kindness because someone invaded their space and interrupted their well-ordered day. We all want to get away from such interruptions by needy people at times. Our responses may be governed by our time schedule, our biases, and even hard hearts. Honestly, we cannot meet every need. But we know the one who can meet the spiritual needs of every person. Jesus can. And we can show kindness to anyone Jesus puts in our path because He has already shown that kindness to us.
Kindness is love’s touch
Kindness is one aspect of love. It is love’s touch. And it reflects God’s love for us. God’s kind of love is based on the deliberate choice of the one who loves rather than the worthiness of the one who receives love.
God’s kind of love is self-sacrificing and committed. It is unnatural. In fact, it wars against our selfish natures, doesn’t it? But our God doesn’t ask us to do anything that He doesn’t provide the resources for us to do. The love of Christ in us gives us a new ability we never really had before Him. It’s His love in us.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4, we read that love is kind. Interestingly, the root word translated “kind” there means to be gracious and useful. A good working definition is this:
Kindness = “to keep on doing whatever is appropriate or suitable to meet someone’s need … and do no harm.”
Kindness is an action, not a feeling. It is a gift that benefits the one who receives it. A person who is kind is helpful, friendly, generous, and warmhearted. All Christians are to do this.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)
Jesus showed us how to be kind to others. Jesus was kind to ‘Ginny,’ the Canaanite woman when he affirmed her faith and healed her daughter. He didn’t have to do it. He chose to do it. Jesus was kind to ‘Barb’ in the synagogue. He knew it would create a not-so-good response from the hard-hearted religious leaders watching. But He chose to be kind to the woman and heal her anyway. Jesus modeled for the disciples and the religious leaders how to be kind to someone regardless of the person’s status in society.
- Kindness says, “I am on your side. I care about you.”
- Kindness says, “You are worth something.”
- Kindness says, “God is kind and compassionate.”
- And Kindness says, “I notice you” to those who are feeling alone.
Kindness notices those who are feeling alone
For several years, I was active in women’s ministry at my church. When I attended an event, I knew just about every woman there. I usually had responsibilities at the event and hung out with my friends. So I didn’t really notice the newcomers very much. I assumed they would jump into the mix and connect on their own. But then, I became the newcomer! It was a vastly different and eye-opening experience.
As I walked into our new church building on Sunday mornings that first year, all I saw was a sea of faces. I knew none of them! It was a lonely and isolating feeling because they seemed to know each other. When we were visiting various small groups to consider joining one, I was the outsider walking into a room of women who knew each other well but who were all strangers to me. On one occasion, the other women greeted me but then gathered in their own group to catch up on each other’s lives. Only one woman sat at the table and talked with me, letting me know that she cared I was there. My heart was so appreciative of her. We had lunch together several times. That felt so good to know someone who was kind to me and wanted to know me.
The first summer Bible study I attended at our new church, I showed up early to help women find their name tags—so I could put a name to a face, too. When I sat at a table, I wrote in my study guide the names of the other women at my table and jotted down whatever they said about themselves. I hoped I would see them again before my memory forgot what they looked like. Every week, I sat at a different table to meet new women. I desperately wanted to know who some of those faces were that I saw on Sunday mornings!
Praise God that during that same summer study, a few women showed kindness to me by intentionally engaging me. They noticed me and remembered my name. That made me feel wanted and included. That was showing God’s kindness.
This was a hard but needed lesson for me. Now, I have a greater appreciation for how the newcomer feels at a women’s event. She comes because she desperately wants to make friends. She wants to know and be known. She may be new to the area, new to the church, looking for a church, or just seeking something spiritual but not sure what. She longs for the kindness that notices she is feeling alone. Kindness is love’s touch. And touching is personal.
Kindness is the fruit of dependent living.
Showing God’s kindness is the fruit of living dependently on Christ. Kindness is Jesus Christ in you living His life through you. Kindness is part of His character. The Spirit produces this same kindness in you as you choose to be dependent on Jesus to do so. It is available to you 24/7.
But you can’t do this through your own efforts. No human can be continually kind through self-effort. We get easily distracted by our own interests and business. You can ask the Lord Jesus to be kind to others through you. Then, watch what He does!
Our God created us with a spiritual thirst for a relationship with Him. Another human cannot satisfy that thirst. Only God can satisfy the thirsty heart. Jesus Christ satisfies our thirst for receiving His kindness and learning how to show kindness. As the Bible promises,
He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
A satisfied heart recognizes God’s kindness and extends kindness to others, even those who may not deserve it.
You can learn about how Jesus satisfies your heart with kindness through our study of New Testament women: Live Out His Love (11 lessons).
- Live Out His Love Bible Study on Amazon
- The God-Dependent Woman Bible study of 2 Corinthians on Amazon
- New Testament Women: Trust Jesus to satisfy your heart needs
- John 4: Samaritan Woman-Jesus satisfies your heart with TRUTH
- Luke 7: Immoral Woman-Jesus satisfies your heart with FORGIVENESS
- John 8: Adulterous Woman-Jesus satisfies your heart with VICTORY
- Mark 5: Desperate Woman-Jesus satisfies your heart with HOPE
- John 11-12: Mary and Martha-Jesus satisfies your heart with LOVE
- Luke 8: Mary Magdalene-Jesus satisfies your heart with FREEDOM
- Luke 1-2: Mary-Jesus satisfies your heart with GRACE
- Acts 9 & 16: Tabitha and Lydia-Jesus satisfies your heart with COMMUNITY
- Acts 18: Priscilla-Jesus satisfies your heart with PURPOSE
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