Thursday, March 15, 2012

Presuppositions: Our Lens through which we See the World

If you wear a red-tinted lens, the world will appear red. If your lens is faith-in-Christ and in His Word, then, when confronted with an apparent contradiction, you are convinced that there is a resolution, and you seek it out. If your lens is atheism, then this apparent contradiction becomes your confirmation that the Bible is conflicted and not divine. This is called a “confirmation bias.”

One pastor and Oxford professor of New Testament preached that Jesus was only a man. His proof merely consisted in the Biblical “evidence” that Jesus had been mistaken and had changed His mind. The Prof cited the account of a Gentile woman who had asked Jesus to free her demon-possessed daughter. At first, Jesus seemingly refused but then changed His mind after He perceived the woman’s uncanny wisdom.

However, I approach the text with a different lens – one which perhaps elucidates what might have been made blurred to the Prof. After the woman had initially made her request, Jesus remained silent for while, giving His status-conscious disciples an opportunity to verbally hang themselves. Finally they did:

·        Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." (Matthew 15:23)

How callous! Even if they thought her beneath them, they could have, at least, asked Jesus to grant her request so that they could move on to other things. However, in their minds, she wasn’t worthy of anything from Jesus, while they certainly were!

Jesus, fully understanding his class-conscious disciples, acted out their presuppositions to show them how they would play out – if this presupposition represented wisdom or not:

·        He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." (Matthew 15:24-26)

His disciples regarded the Gentiles as dogs and refused to even eat with them. I can hear His disciples cheering, “Yes!” These words represented the Jewish understanding of the day, not Jesus’ understanding. He had reminded the Jewish leadership at Nazareth that the God of Israel had often been particularly gracious to Gentiles:
·        I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed--only Naaman the Syrian." (Luke 4:25-27)

There was nothing prohibiting Jesus from doing likewise, apart from Jewish censure. Interestingly, Jesus’ seeming denial of the woman’s request elicited a revelation of her surpassing wisdom and humility:

·        "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." (Matthew 15:27)

Jesus received the response that He knew He would get – a response that would contradict the class-ism of His arrogant disciples.

·        Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (Matthew 15:28)

Jesus used this as an object lesson to teach His disciples that their faith, wisdom, and humility couldn’t match that of this lowly Gentile woman. Jesus hadn’t at all changed His mind. Instead, this account serves as a revelation of Jesus’ profound wisdom, according to my lens.

Additionally, this interpretation accords with the rest of the Gospels’ portraits of Jesus and not with a confused Jesus who was struggling, like we do, to learn some of God’s lessons.

Our lens is everything. It constitutes such a coercive force that we are unable to merely lay it aside. In most cases, we are even unaware of its presence. No wonder Jesus taught His disciples one step at a time! And no wonder we must be born again with a new lens.

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