Every Muslim has been taught this verse.
I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. Matthew 15:24
Was Jesus saying that He DID NOT come for the Gentiles? And that He will have nothing to do with Gentiles?
Let’s take a closer look.
You probably know that Jesus was speaking to a Canaanite (Gentile) woman when He made this statement.
If you read the Bible, you will notice that Jesus had NUMEROUS encounters with many other Gentiles as well! Most Muslims are unaware of this. Why?
A Roman centurion, who was not only a Gentile but a hated foreign power, asked Jesus for healing for his servant.
Did Jesus say: “Sorry, I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”?
No. Jesus offered to immediately to heal the servant. Jesus even PRAISED the faith of the Gentile centurion!
“Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” Matthew 8:10
Why was Jesus praising a Gentile’s faith if He only came for the Jew’s faith and not for Gentiles also!? This means that the Gentile’s faith is valuable in His sight too. And in fact, this Gentile’s faith was even greater than the Jew’s!
Another time, in John 4, we see that Jesus purposely went out of His to way to talk to a Samaritan woman.
Did Jesus tell her: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”?
No. He spoke kindly to the woman. In the end, the entire Samaritan village came to hear Him and begged Him to stay with them.
“So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” John 4:40-42
Why did Jesus stay with them? They were not Jews. He stayed with them and preached and taught them and they became believers in Him! Why would He bother with them if He only came for the lost sheep of Israel?
Whenever you see this phrase, “..and Jesus crossed to the OTHER side…” that is often an indication that Jesus was going to the Gentiles. (e.g. Matt 8:28, Mark 5:1)
In the Gentile region of Gerasenes, we read of Jesus’ encounter with a crazy lunatic demon-possessed man who charges at Him screaming. (Mark 5)
They came to the OTHER SIDE of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. (Mark 5:1)
Did Jesus scream back at the demon-possessed Gentile: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel!”
No. Jesus healed the man and drove out his demons. With his sanity restored, the man asked to follow Jesus.
And Jesus instructs him: “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Mark 5;19
Why did Jesus bother with this Gentile if He had nothing to do with gentiles? The man went and spread the message Christ gave him throughout the Gentile area known as Decapolis or TEN GENTILE cities!
Decapolis was pagan Greek Gentile region. Pigs were considered sacred there.
(Remember the incident when Jesus cast out the demons and they went into the pigs and 2000 pigs rushed down a steep bank and drowned? The people there were upset and offended. “And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.” Mark 5:17
The question is why was Jesus there in the first place? In a pagan unclean Gentile place? He was there to heal and teach.)
What message did this Gentile man preach in these cities? The Bible records for us that he went and told everyone what Jesus had done for him!
Was his message effective? Yes.
Some time later, when Jesus came back to this region, a huge multitude turned up to hear him! No doubt some of them were amazed at the testimony of the man who used to be demon-possessed but now completely healed!
In fact, the feeding of the 4000 took place in the same Gentile region!
Many of the Gentile inhabitants of this “unclean place” followed Him for 3 days listening to His teachings and having Him heal their sick. Did Jesus say to them: “Go away! I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”?
No. When they were hungry, Jesus fed the entire multitude. More than 4000 gentiles. He did the very same miracle for the Gentiles that he did for the Jews went He fed the 5000 Jews some time earlier!
Jesus was not impartial.
So why then did Jesus say: I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel to that particular Canaanite woman, when he never ever said it to any other of the thousands of Gentiles that He preached to and taught and healed?
If you read Matthew 15 carefully, I think there is a clue for us.
This Gentile woman came to Jesus crying, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
“Son of David” is a Jewish title for Messiah. It isn’t a title that Gentiles would have used.
Is this indicating that she was pretending to be a Jew hoping to trick Jesus into healing her daughter?
Perhaps that is why Jesus’ immediate reaction was not to answer her because He saw through her!
Not a single time has Jesus refused someone who asked Him for healing. You can read it for yourselves. Not once.
Even when His disciples begged Him to send her away, He did not. He was so compassionate for her that He was giving her the opportunity to be honest and truthful.
And so Jesus tests her faith by saying to her: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” indicating perhaps that He knew she was pretending to be a sheep of Israel.
Of course Jesus was speaking the truth. He was sent to the lost sheep of Israel, meaning He came as a Jewish Messiah among Jews to turn them back to God.
He was not sent as a Roman to the Romans or as an Egyptian to the the Egyptians. He did not come as a Chinese to the Chinese or as an Indian to the Indians.
He was sent as a Jew to the Jews! He was sent to “the sheep of Israel,” He is simply connecting His presence with God’s purpose in Old Testament history.
That is what He was telling her. But this does not man that he did not come for Gentiles as well. He came for the whole world. (John 3;16)
How will the woman respond to the test? Will she persist in faith or will she give up and turn away?
Not only did she pass the test, she passed it with flying colors!
Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, GREAT IS YOUR FAITH! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Matt 15:28
Jesus praised her for her great faith!
What faith? Why was Jesus praising a Gentile’s faith if He only came for the Jew’s faith and not for Gentiles also!? This means that the Gentile’s faith is also valuable in His eyes.
Muslims know Matthew 15:24 but not many Muslims know John 10:16
“And I have OTHER sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
Who are these OTHER sheep? During His limited 3 years of ministry, His priority was the Jews but this does not mean that He didn’t come for the Gentiles as well.
The mission to reach the Gentiles was entrusted to His apostles as one of His final commandments to them. He had trained them among the Jews. Now they were ready for a greater mission.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19
“…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Did the apostles carry out His instructions.?
In Acts 8, we see that Philip begins preaching about Jesus in Samaria. (Jesus had already begun the work in John 4. Remember the Samaritan woman and how many in her village became believers? The apostle was merely carrying on the work of Jesus.)
Later on, Philip leads a Gentile Ethiopian official to faith in Jesus.
In Acts 10, we learn that Peter himself goes to the house of a Gentile Roman centurion named Cornelius. and his whole family is converted and baptized as followers of Jesus Christ!
In Acts 11, we see the disciples begin preaching to Greeks as well.
So are Gentiles part of God’s kingdom? Yes. God is God of the whole world, both Jews and Gentiles.
“It (the message Jesus’ salvation) is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Romans 1:16
Revelation 5:9 tells us:
“For you (Jesus) were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from EVERY tribe and language and people and nation”
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