JULY 21, 2020
Scripture: Matthew 15
Author: Jeremy Witt
Have you ever been in a room or at an event and the tension was so thick that you could feel it? Imagine this as you begin reading chapter 15. The religious leaders of the country have come into the room. They come in and ask a question that puts your spiritual hero into a difficult spot. Then the hero answers and essentially does the “body slam from the top of the corner buckle.” This is the scenario Jesus does to the Pharisees. He did not just slam them, but Jesus takes them and draws the entire crowd into a standing ovation, jaws dropped, “I can’t believe that just happened” moment.
The disciples even ask Jesus in verse 12, “do you realize that you just offended the Pharisees?” But this was so much more than offended. Jesus made them look like a fool. They came asking about a man-made rule or tradition, and Jesus used the Law given by God to Moses to condemn their tradition. Jesus replies in verse 13 by quoting Isaiah 60:21 and 61:3.
Peter then asks in verse 15 for Jesus to explain again. This is a foreshadowing of something critical that will come later in Peter’s dream in Acts 10:9-29. This is an example of how the disciples remembered what Jesus had taught before the Resurrection and then understood after the Resurrection of what He meant.
Ironically enough, Matthew places this story of a Gentile mother begging Jesus to heal her daughter of a demon in verses 21-28. We see Jesus not respond to her at first which led the disciples to tell Jesus to send her away because she was bothering them. Why was Jesus silent? I think it was to see how the disciples would respond. Granted, Jesus is the Son of God and all-knowing, but even in knowing how they would respond, their response led to a teaching moment.
In this passage, there is a racial issue. There is a gender issue. There is the cultural Jewish view of Gentiles, and it appears for a moment that Jesus is responding to those issues until we get to verse 25. This mother is persistent. This mother is seeking help. She is begging or we might call her humbled. She will not take, “No” for an answer. When Jesus spoke these phrases to her, He was responding as the Jews did. Remember that Jesus knew her heart and knew her faith, so He brought it out in front of His disciples to show them her faith. Jesus healed a Gentile woman’s daughter. He went against the Jewish norm and used their own words ("Dog" was used to refer to a Gentile by the Jews) to teach the disciples a lesson that would lead to Gentiles being included in the Church.
We come to the lesser-known feeding of the 4000 men found in verses 32-39. This is also told in Mark 8:1-10. As I read this, I am shocked that the disciples almost responded exactly the same as in the 5000 feeding. You would think that they would have learned, right! For those of you who have read devotions, I have written known what is coming. We do the same thing! We have seen God move, heard God speak, learned of ways that God has healed, and yet we doubt or do not believe. How are we any different? Will we ever learn? I truly hope that I learn, but sometimes I wonder.