Jesus Among the Gentiles
The Canaanite Woman (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30)
Jesus travels to the region of Tyre and Sidon in Phoenicia. This is the second time Jesus leaves the borders of Israel; the first being when he was taken to Egypt as a infant. It is the only time the Gospel accounts indicate that Jesus left Israel during his ministry. Mark tells us he went there to avoid being known, but it wasn’t possible. His reputation had spread too far by this time.
A Canaanite woman who lived in that region approached Jesus begging him to free her daughter from a demon. Mark’s account refers to her as a Greek, but this term was used loosely by the Jews to refer to any non-Israelite as a Greek. She refers to Jesus as the son of David, demonstrating her understanding that Jesus was the Messiah. Strangely, Jesus ignores her. His disciples, though come to him and ask him to send her away because her pleads were annoying them. The prejudice of the disciples is shown her because while they have been granted the authority to cast out demons, it doesn’t appear that they were interested in helping the woman.
Adding to the insult already given, Jesus eventually tells the woman that he was only sent to the lost in Israel. In other words, he is saying she is of the wrong nationality to receive aid from him. This did not deter the woman. She fell down and worship him, thus indicating her understanding that he was divine. He had acknowledged her presence so she pressed her plea.
Again Jesus appears to insult the woman. Instead of acknowledging her faith, he said the miracles he had the right to grant were for God’s children and not little dogs, thus insulting both her and her people. Dogs were not respectable animals in that society. Still she preserves in her plea, acknowledging that what Jesus said was true and responding that even dogs get crumbs from the master’s table.
At this point Jesus shows us that he was testing her faith (Lamentations 3:32). He praises her for her great faith and states that her daughter would be made well (Psalm 145:19). Though Jesus did not go to the daughter, it is noted that she was made well at that very hour. The woman’s faith was demonstrated again in that she left at Jesus’ word and when she arrived home she found her daughter well.
This event illustrates a reoccurring theme in the Bible. God wants His people to show persistence, even in the face of adversity. The story of Jacob wrestling with the angel is an early example of this (Genesis 32:24-30). Jesus will later tell the parable of the unjust judge to make the same point in Luke 18. The Canaanite woman’s persistent faith stands as a contrast to Peter’s weak faith when walking to Jesus on the water.
Healing of Man Deaf and with a Speech Impediment (Matthew 15:29-31; Mark 7:31-37)
Jesus returns to the area around the Sea of Galilee, stopping at the far side of the sea at Decapolis. He appears to be continuing to King Herod or at least the territory he rules. Decapolis is the area where Jesus had cast out the legion of demons from a man and was hence asked to leave.
He climbed a particular mountain, though we don’t know which one as it wasn’t named. Soon a great multitude came to him bringing their ill and injured. They marveled as they watched Jesus heal each of them and gave glory to God. His reception is drastically different from the last time he was in the area and is probably the result of the preaching in the area of the man who was once demon possessed (Mark 5:19-20; Luke 8:38-39).
Mark records one particular healing of a man who was deaf and an impediment to speaking. Since he appeared to have some limited ability to speak, it is assumed that he lost his hearing later in life. The method Jesus used is different than the other healings we have seen. He took the man apart from the crowd, put his fingers in his ears, spat and touched his tongue. The reason may be as simple as that since the man was unable to hear, Jesus demonstrated what he was doing by touching the parts of the man that were not working so that the man would understand. Looking up to heaven, Jesus said “Be opened.” As happened in all other miracles, the effect was immediate and complete.
Though Jesus healed many, he continue to insist that word of what he did not be spread. But the more he insisted, the more widely people told others. His desire to avoid publicity made him appear more marvelous in the people’s eye.
Feeding of Over 4,000 (Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-9)
Once again, Jesus felt compassion for the large crowd that had gathered in the remote area to see him. They had been with him three days and now had nothing to eat. He did not want to send them away hungry.
The circumstances are very similar to the feeding of over five thousand just outside of Bethsaida. It is a wonder that the disciples make similar protests about being unable to feed the crowd. Where before they feared they did not have the funds to buy enough to feed the crowd, here they protest that the area is so remote that there is nowhere to purchase the food in enough quantity.
Jesus asks how much food was available and the disciples come up with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. Jesus had every sit. He blessed the bread and the fish and divided it among his disciples. They in turn divided it among the people.
Everyone ate until they were full and when the scraps were gathered, they found they had seven baskets of food remaining after feeding over four thousand people.
Jesus then sent the people away and took a boat to Magdala in the region of Dulmanutha. What is interesting is that the people of Decapolis do not begin to chase Jesus in hopes of gaining additional free food.