In entering Sidon, Jesus and his associates passed over a bridge, the first one many of them had ever seen. As they walked over this bridge, Jesus, among other things, said: “This world is only a bridge; you may pass over it, but you should not think to build a dwelling place upon it.”
As the twenty-four began their labors in Sidon, Jesus went to stay in a home just north of the city, the house of Justa and her mother, Bernice. Jesus taught the twenty-four each morning at the home of Justa, and they went abroad in Sidon to teach and preach during the afternoons and evenings.
The apostles and the evangelists were greatly cheered by the manner in which the gentiles of Sidon received their message; during their short sojourn many were added to the kingdom. This period of about six weeks in Phoenicia was a very fruitful time in the work of winning souls, but the later Jewish writers of the Gospels were wont lightly to pass over the record of this warm reception of Jesus’ teachings by these gentiles at this very time when such a large number of his own people were in hostile array against him.
In many ways these gentile believers appreciated Jesus’ teachings more fully than the Jews. Many of these Greek-speaking Syrophoenicians came to know not only that Jesus was like God but also that God was like Jesus. These so-called heathen achieved a good understanding of the Master’s teachings about the uniformity of the laws of this world and the entire universe. They grasped the teaching that God is no respecter of persons, races, or nations; that there is no favoritism with the Universal Father; that the universe is wholly and ever law-abiding and unfailingly dependable. These gentiles were not afraid of Jesus; they dared to accept his message. All down through the ages men have not been unable to comprehend Jesus; they have been afraid to.
Jesus made it clear to the twenty-four that he had not fled from Galilee because he lacked courage to confront his enemies. They comprehended that he was not yet ready for an open clash with established religion, and that he did not seek to become a martyr. It was during one of these conferences at the home of Justa that the Master first told his disciples that “even though heaven and earth shall pass away, my words of truth shall not.”
The theme of Jesus’ instructions during the sojourn at Sidon was spiritual progression. He told them they could not stand still; they must go forward in righteousness or retrogress into evil and sin. He admonished them to “forget those things which are in the past while you push forward to embrace the greater realities of the kingdom.” He besought them not to be content with their childhood in the gospel but to strive for the attainment of the full stature of divine sonship in the communion of the spirit and in the fellowship of believers.
Said Jesus: “My disciples must not only cease to do evil but learn to do well; you must not only be cleansed from all conscious sin, but you must refuse to harbor even the feelings of guilt. If you confess your sins, they are forgiven; therefore must you maintain a conscience void of offense.”
Jesus greatly enjoyed the keen sense of humor which these gentiles exhibited. It was the sense of humor displayed by Norana, the Syrian woman, as well as her great and persistent faith, that so touched the Master’s heart and appealed to his mercy. Jesus greatly regretted that his people—the Jews—were so lacking in humor. He once said to Thomas: “My people take themselves too seriously; they are just about devoid of an appreciation of humor. The burdensome religion of the Pharisees could never have had origin among a people with a sense of humor. They also lack consistency; they strain at gnats and swallow camels.”