Did you know that Jesus began the mission to the Gentiles? He went into Gentile territory and delivered the super-demonized man with many demons among the tombs. We know the people were Gentiles because Jews do not eat pork. The man’s demonic bondage also pictures the Gentiles’ spiritual bondage existing without God’s revelation or covenant or gracious deliverances.
Next Jesus casts a demon out of the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter. The disciples try to send her away as a Gentile. But Jesus seeks to awaken their compassion and thinking by saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” and then responding to her, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But was he sent only to the Jews? And could he not spare a few crumbs for her? The disciples don’t get it yet. But this Gentile woman gets it and says, “All I need are the crumbs which fall to the dogs.” Jesus is preparing them for what comes next. (Mk. 7:24-30)
He returns to the Gentile region of the Decapolis where he had delivered the super-demonized man and huge crowds come for his healing and teaching. So responsive are they that Jesus says, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.” He then feeds four thousand Gentiles just like he fed the five thousand Jews before. When Mark quotes Jesus saying, “I have compassion on the crowd…,” I think he intends us to remember what he stated about the Jews, “He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mk. 8:2; 6:34)
Even if Mark did not intend this, clearly Jesus cared deeply for the Gentiles and began to gather them leading to the feeding of four thousand just as he had done for the Jews and the five thousand. Jesus began the mission to the Gentiles. All four gospels show this. John states it wonderfully, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also… So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (Jn. 10:16)
In three years, Jesus could only begin the mission to the Gentiles. He longed for the sheep outside Israel’s fold and began drawing them to himself. Inevitably, he called every one of us to “Go and make disci-ples of all nations.” This is his heart and his purpose. He will bring it to pass. In heaven will be people from “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”
In December, we unpacked Jesus’ staggering invitation to friendship. He invites us not to be his buddy, but to something far greater—to share in his counsels as High King, to share his heart and mind. “No long-er do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (Jn. 15:15) Making disciples of all peoples is our Lord’s unchangeable purpose and passion. How much do we enjoy this friendship and embrace his purpose? How much do we seek for lost sheep from other peoples? How about praying for lost sheep among the nations? Operation World’s “Prayer Resources” are great for this.