By Phares Gilchrist
I like to go to estate sales. Over the years I have seen a pattern — valuables in the living room, casual but nice in the kitchens, dining rooms, and family rooms, Christmas stuff in one room, office supplies in another, tools and gardening in the garage. Often in the garage there will be a long table in the middle just for junk. At one particular sale, I was leaving empty handed through the garage, where I passed this table. I looked, stopped, looked closer, and sure ‘nuff there was a dirty Flow Blue plate among all the hardware. I pulled it out, and it was $1! It had a very fine line through it, but I didn’t care. Redeem it I did. I brought it home, washed it, and put it in my china cupboard in a place of honor next to my grandmothers’ china.
Redemption. This is what Christ did with you and me. He plucked us from our dirty scenarios, washed us, and gave us a place of honor, seated with Him at a banquet table. It is the story told over and over in Scripture — all the ugliness exposed and the beauty all the more contrasted.
We saw this over the four weeks we looked at Ruth and Naomi and again on a recent Sunday when looking at the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7. What was uncomfortable for those watching in the crowd was a teachable moment Jesus used so frequently and deftly. It was high drama, and she was up to the task. She showed her wit and wisdom, and Jesus wanted the drama to be evident to everyone. He played the role of accuser, acting like He was the conscience of the crowd. He let the full weight of her class and ethnicity juxtaposed to their hypocrisy have its full effect. She was fearless of both her detractors and her own people, who would judge her for trusting in Christ. When all had been said and both sides fully represented, Christ did what God always does. He redeemed the situation. He let her willingness to throw herself completely on His mercy, publicly and with high stakes, to speak volumes. She was rewarded, and her daughter was healed. Interesting, how often it is women in whom He chooses to illuminate life lessons.
Is this some game God plays where if we figure out the right thing to say at the right time and decode all the rules we will win? With Satan, yes, it most certainly is. Cunning is all he’s got. He can manipulate our natures to do great wickedness. He must play us against one another, stoking the fires of resentment and bitterness to the point we have no perspective and can only see our own corrupt view of God and man. Big trash heaps form with barely recognizable images thrown into the pile.
Jesus brought us a sword to cut through this smoke and mirrors. It’s living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, and joint and marrow and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
That’s what He did with the Syrophoenician woman and the woman at the well, and the woman who was bleeding, and every Martha and every Mary. Jesus, women, redemption. He saw them in their redemptive state. He allowed the dirtiness of their circumstances to expose the dirtiness of the culture’s hypocrisy. Redemption cleans things up. It has a civilising effect. It transforms what was ugly and gives it authentic beauty. It’s more effective, more powerful than mere social revolution. One is eternal, the other generational.
If you are tempted to think your life has a meager quality to it that is not valued in the great scheme of things, think again. That is a cunning accusation. Jesus looks at you and sees someone to love. He takes joy in plucking us out of the heap, giving us a spa day, and seating us at His table.