Gentiles, the Final Frontier – Matthew 15:21-39

This picture is more likely Paul in Athens than Jesus in Tyre and Sidon, but you get the idea…

  • V21 – After He just zinged them with the news that all food is kosher, He drops another one on them and heads to a Gentile area.
  • V22 – This Gentile lady addresses Jesus as the Messiah in a very Jewish way (Son of David).  This area would’ve heard about Jesus even though they weren’t Jews because people from these towns had been making the long trek down to see Him since the start of His ministry.  (Luke 6:17)
  • V23-24 – This is weird.  He specifically went to a Gentile city, why would He ignore this Gentile woman?

◊ V23 – If someone is persistently asking for help and God doesn’t seem to be doing anything for them, do I ask God to make them go away or do I plead their case before Him in prayer?

  • V25 – Talk about persistence!  (See Confidence and Persistence: How to Nag Jesus Until He Caves)
  • V26 – Here’s a note from my ESV – “Jews frequently insulted Gentiles by calling them dogs, which in ancient Palestine were wild, homeless scavengers.  But the form Jesus uses here (Gk. kynarion, “little dog”) suggests a more affectionate term for domestic pets.  Jesus is not insulting the woman but testing her faith.”
  • V26-27 – This lady is so quick with her reply, I like to think that maybe she loved riddles and Jesus knew that, which would make His statement not rude and insensitive, but loving, showing that He intimately knew her.  Maybe this whole interaction was more for the sake of the disciples.  He’s slowly preparing them to minister to Gentiles and her quick wit provides a memorable, logical explanation of why they should.  After all, the disciples are still people – they’re Jews that have likely grown up with a bigoted view of Gentiles and they’re probably struggling with the fact that Jesus is in their town in the first place.  Even after Jesus returns to Heaven, leaving them with the command to go share the Good News with all people, they don’t really start leaving Jerusalem and spreading out to Gentile areas until they’re forced to because of persecution.  (Acts 8:1)  God had to give Peter a vivid dream to convince him to go to the Gentiles.  (Acts 10:9-16)

◊ It takes time to change wrong deep-set convictions and/or wounds.  Am I patient with others who are trying to grasp the concept of the Gospel?  Am I thankful for the small steps of growth and healing God has made in my own life?

  • V28 – Here is another example of someone being healed because of someone else’s faith that Jesus could and would heal them.  (8:13, 9:2)

◊ Who can I bring faithfully before Jesus (persistently, confidently) to ask that He would heal them spiritually and physically?

  • V29 – I’m assuming Matthew left out a lot of details about that trip (John 21:25) because the trip up to Tyre and Sidon looked like a long walk, so chances are, He didn’t just go up there, do one thing, and turn around and come back down.
  • V29 – All my study Bibles seem to agree that He went to the Decapolis which was a Gentile area on the SE coast of the Sea of Galilee.  The text doesn’t say that specifically, but John 6:1 says he went away “to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.”  The biggest suggestion to me that this is a continuation of His ministry to the Gentiles is coming up in verse 31.  People from the Decapolis would be familiar with Jesus because they also had been following Him since the beginning of His ministry.  (4:25)
  • V29-30 – He sets himself up in a spot where there’s room for lots of people and makes Himself comfy for a long day of taking care of people.  On the other hand, the side of a mountain in the middle of the wilderness (v33)  isn’t exactly an accessible spot for lame, crippled, blind, etc.  These people would have to have someone bring them to Him.

◊ Am I willing to go out of my way and put thought and sweat into helping someone be made whole by Jesus?

  • V31 – This is what makes me think these people are mostly Gentiles.  It says “they glorified the God of Israel.”  Since they’re Gentiles, this is perhaps the first time they’re praising the God of their Jewish neighbors.  Earlier, when Jesus was in Jewish territory, Matthew said “they glorified God” (8:8) but this time he clarifies that it’s the God of the Jews that they’re glorifying.  At any rate, everyone’s praising God!  We are all created to bring God glory; even Jesus directs their praise to His Father.

◊ Do I direct people’s praise to God or am I more likely to be a “glory hog”?

  • V32-38 – Gee, this sounds familiar… only this time it’s with Gentiles instead of Jews.
  • V32 – They brought food with them but didn’t leave when they ran out of food.  Apparently, these people had more faith in Jesus’ ability to provide than His own disciples did (v33).  They were seeking first His kingdom and, just as promised, their needs were met.

◊ Do I continue to seek God’s kingdom and follow Him even beyond my comfort zone or when it seems like the logistics of provision just can’t possibly work out?

  • V32 – Jesus didn’t just go ahead and feed everyone himself when He noticed that they were hungry.  He presented the problem to His disciples and let them be a part of the miracle (v36).

◊ Do I give the person (people) I’m discipling a chance to “get their hands dirty” and serve alongside of me, or do I just do what needs to be done myself because it would be easier and I would probably do it better anyway?

  • V33 – Let me just say it for Him – “O you of little faith!”

◊ Do I have a hard time trusting that Jesus will provide even though He’s proven Himself over and over?

  • V36-37 – The ESV says “Seven is usually symbolic of perfection or completion; here the number may symbolize the fullness of God’s provision to all peoples, now including Gentiles.”

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?

About knockinguntilitopens

I am a Christ follower, a wife, a mom, and a creator. I like to share my stuff.
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