Click below to download the Cornerstone Connections leader’s guide and student lesson. This week’s resources also include two lesson plans and a discussion starter video which offer different ways of looking at the topic. Each lesson plan includes opening activities, scripture passages, discussion questions, and real-life applications.
Humble Hero (Desire of Ages)
Chapter 43 - Christ Breaks Down Racial Barriers
Is it possible for someone who doesn’t believe in God to have faith? The Phoenician woman is a perfect example of faith against all odds.
God’s love is for everyone, and God is always eager to hear our prayers.
An old expression says, “I would move mountains for you.” Of course, it is adapted from Jesus’ words, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).
Ask your students to name something or someone they would do just about anything to help. The answer might be a younger sibling, a grandparent, or a friend they’ve come to count on. Then ask:
Ask your students for examples of people they know or stories they’ve heard about someone who went to incredible lengths to help someone they love.
This week’s story is a confusing one—because Jesus uses “reverse psychology.” Yet the Canaanite woman was not put off by Jesus’ seeming indifference. She argues with Jesus until she wins.
This week’s story is, on the surface, a very confusing Bible story.
We’re used to the Jesus who always followed His own principle “Let your yes be yes and your no be no” (Matt. 5:37)—deep, but still straight-forward. In other words, say what you mean and mean what you say—but in this story, He does something quite different. He does it because He has to break through an incredible wall of prejudice that even His disciples took for granted.
In this story, Jesus seems to act one way toward someone seeking His help, only to blow up every prejudice and preconception His disciples had toward people who weren’t of the same religion, ethnicity, or social class as them.
If you’ve ever seen people argue politics or religion on the internet, you’ve probably noticed—people don’t change their minds easily! People hear what they want to hear and, to an incredible extent, only see what they want—or expect—to see.
Jesus was working from an advantage here with His disciples because they already looked up to Him as a teacher. But Jesus didn’t want them to just nod and have a superficial, surface-level understanding of God’s love for the entire world—He wanted them to truly get it.
BIBLE STUDY GUIDE
Jesus’ words in this story can be shocking to us as modern readers, but to His disciples when He spoke them, they seemed perfectly normal—even expected.
Read Matthew 15:21-25.
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 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.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
We often talk about the food laws in the Law of Moses, detailing which animals are considered “clean” to eat, and which are not. We don’t as often talk about how the Law of Moses declared that the poor and stranger had a right to eat. Leviticus 23:22 commanded, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you.”
We see this law of generosity and responsibility for others’ needs in the story of Ruth, one of the ancestors of Jesus. Though Ruth was a foreigner, an alien, in Israel because she was a Moabite, she was able to glean grain from the field of Boaz. In the next verses, Jesus directly contradicts what the Bible says on this matter, in an incredibly harsh way—all so the disciples can understand that God’s love and grace is for absolutely everyone.
Read Matthew 15:26-28.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
NEVERTHELESS, SHE PERSISTED
The Canaanite woman in this week’s story is an example of incredible faith and love. She has the lowest opinion of her worth, yet she is unbending. As Ellen White wrote, “She begs for the crumbs that fall from the Master's table. If she may have the privilege of a dog, she is willing to be regarded as a dog” (Desire of Ages, page 401). Seeing her faith, Jesus praises and exalts her.
Read Luke 18:1-8. This week’s story may remind you of a story Jesus told.
1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’ ”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
People today are still divided by countless factors: Religion. Region. Wealth. Nationality. All of them declare, “Don’t worry about the ‘others.’ You’ve got enough problems of your own. They’re not like us, so they’d never understand or appreciate your help anyway. Besides, that’s what they get for being [not us].”
Jesus insists that we see everyone as a child of God. Jesus died for everyone, and His love isn’t limited to any group, class, or background.
For a Relational Bible Study (RBS) you’ll want to get into the Scripture passage and encourage the youth to imagine participating in the story while it’s happening. Then you will be able to better apply it to your own situation today.
You will need to ask God for the Holy Spirit to be present as your small group discusses the questions (no more than 3-6 people in a group is recommended). Start with the opening question. It is a personal question and the answer is unique for each individual. There is no right answer and nobody is an expert here, so don’t be surprised when you hear different responses. You are depending on the Holy Spirit to be present and to speak through your group. Say what God prompts you to say, and listen to what others share.
Take turns reading the chapter out loud. Follow that with giving the students some time to individually mark their responses to the questions (a PDF version of the handout is available as a download). This gives each person a starting point for responding when you start to share as a group. Next, begin the discussion by asking the students to share what they marked and why on each question as you work your way through. Feel free to take more time on some questions than others as discussion warrants.
Encourage each person in the group to apply what is discussed to their personal lives and to share with the group what they believe God wants them to do. Then ask them to pray that God will help each of them to follow through in doing so. Remind them to expect that God will show them ways to live out the message of this passage in the coming week, and that they are free to ask others in the group to help hold them accountable.
Be sure everyone takes time for personal applications before you end your Sabbath School time together.
This lesson reveals the ugly element of prejudice and illustrates the classic “us” vs. “them” mentality and lifestyle that comes with just about any kind of prejudice. It might have more application to the youth in your Youth Sabbath School than they might be comfortable with.
This short story makes a lot of people uncomfortable. We might be okay having our own prejudices, but Jesus can’t have any like we do!
Christ’s record actually shows that He frequently got into uncomfortable situations because He didn’t have the same prejudices as others. Even within the Jewish group, Jesus associated with all subgroups, which others criticized. The religious leaders criticized Him for eating with sinners (Mark 2:16). Healing on Sabbath raised consternation and negative reactions (Mark 3:4-6). Jesus cleansed the demoniac from the Gerasenes, a section of the Sea of Galilee where Gentiles lived (Mark 5:1-20), and where Jesus returned after our story in Mark 7:24-30.
Jesus had previously spent time with Gentiles. He interacted with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and stayed with the people in the Samaritan town of Sychar for two days. Jesus also healed a Roman centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13). Jesus reached out to the outcasts within the Jewish culture, and also to Gentiles who were in the Jewish area and beyond.
Earlier in Mark 7, religious leaders from Jerusalem, more than 75 miles from where Jesus was ministering, arrived and criticized Him for eating food without going through their purification rituals. In that setting Jesus countered, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions” (Mark 7:8 NLT).
He explained to His disciples, “Nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them, for it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body” (Mark 7:18-19 NLT). Jesus spelled it out further, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23 NLT).
The next verse begins our short story for this week. Ask yourself about the prejudice Jesus had for Gentiles at this point. Remember that most people are unaware of their own prejudices, even though they seem obvious in their words and actions, especially to people who are outside their group.
And that’s when Jesus went the 35 miles or so from where He was in Galilee to the Gentile city of Tyre—a place where Gentiles lived, but also a number of Jews since it was relatively close—a full day’s walk of maybe 12 hours. These people had heard of Jesus, but probably never expected Him to show up in their “Gentile” city. Yet there He was!
What would happen? As was often the case with Jesus, everyone was in for a surprise!
This Is Uncomfortable
What situations make you uncomfortable? In what ways do you sometimes make someone else uncomfortable?
Read Mark 7:24-30.
24 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. 25 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. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
27 “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.”
28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
1. Why did Jesus leave Galilee and go to the pagan city of Tyre?
2. Why did news of Christ’s arrival in Tyre spread so fast?
3. Why did the pagan woman ask Jesus to free her child from the demon?
4. Why did Jesus respond so harshly to the woman (vs. 27)?
5. Why did Jesus heal the demon-possessed girl?
6. The Bible doesn’t say, but what might have happened after vs. 30?
7. Consider potential prejudice based on: Race, religion, gender, school, socio-economic status, generations/age, gangs, political affiliation, athletic ability, grades, families.
Prejudice makes people uncomfortable—unless you surround yourself with people who share the same prejudice. And then the prejudice becomes normal, admirable, righteous, and maybe even important enough to fight for!
When someone says, “I’m not prejudiced toward _______ (insert some group of people),” there’s probably a good chance that person is, but remains oblivious to it. Each of us should educate ourselves to our own possible prejudices, even though we may not think we have them. There are plenty of podcasts, books, videos, and other experiences that can take us outside of our preconceived ideas and comfort zones and help broaden our horizons.
Do you tend to figure Jesus sees things the same way you do? Or do you let Jesus take your thoughts and prejudices and transform them to be more like Christ’s perspective? That’s an example of a miracle!
The disciples must have fallen right into Christ’s putdown on the woman from Tyre. Dogs in the culture served as scavengers, so calling her a dog really put her in her place! Good one, Jesus!
But then He commended her and healed her daughter based solely on the mother’s begging. What?! Why was Jesus helping a Gentile?
The answer has to do with the reason Jesus helps anyone (and everyone). And followers of Jesus will do the same thing.
Here are a few application ideas for you to move from Sabbath School into action this coming week and beyond. Feel free to adapt this as the Holy Spirit moves you, but, by all means, apply this Scripture study to your life in the coming week and month.
Prejudice gets challenged when you get to know someone rather than boxing them into a category with a label.
Spend some time this week . . .
It might not be wise for you to do this by yourself. But remember that the larger the number of people in “your group,” the more you will push your prejudice rather than be open to seeing it. The challenge will be to honestly ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” in this situation, and base it on the examples you have seen in the Gospels.
Then discuss how you, as a follower of Jesus, will relate to “THE WORLD” in its different meanings.
Teach Me How to Pray
By Kymone Hinds
It seems like such a simple request. It was a request made by the disciples to Jesus one day. They saw Him praying and were so impressed and impacted by His prayer that they wanted to learn to pray like Him.
Prayer can be one of the easiest things to do and one of the most difficult things at the same time. It’s like talking to a friend - that’s easy. It’s talking to a friend you can’t see or hear audibly – that’s hard. Let’s be honest, you look weird talking to someone that is invisible.
Even though God is unseen it does not mean that He is not accessible. He can be reached. He is just a prayer away. This guide will help you to connect with Him deeper and get more out of your time in prayer.
Help eliminate hunger. Purchase ready to eat and easy to open food items and assemble them in resealable plastic bags. Donate to shelters or use for street ministry.
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Re-use plastic bags for a great cause. Save plastic bags and convert them into a sleeping mat for the homeless.
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Help small children learn at home. This easy sew bean bag craft can help children learn alphabets, numbers, or shapes.
Cost: Less than $5.00