15:21-28 The Canaanite Woman
Here Matthew uses a striking contrast to the “chosen” rabbinical Jews who are supposed to know the Lord and recognize Him. A pagan Canaanite woman sees Jesus clearly as the Son of David (a Messianic title), her faith prevails even though Jesus was trying to keep to His assignment of “to the Jews first. (Mark 7)” Gentiles will no longer be separated from Israel (Acts 10:15, 28; 11:9-18). Jesus ministered to other Gentiles (Mark 7:24-30 this woman; John 4:46-53, woman at the well; Matthew 8:28-40, centurion)
Jesus is staying on His assignment, but joking with a Gentile believer. His missiological strategy is to reach the Jewish people first. (Mark 5:19; John 12:20-22; Matthew 10:5) A straight-forward Middle Eastern-style joke, not an insult: This is a direct reference to Ezekiel 34:12, 16, 23-24. “If, as you say, I am the Son of David, the shepherd who was King of Israel, I was sent to find my lost sheep and am not sent to you. So I’m surprised that you recognize me.” See also a reference to Elijah (1 Kings 7:7ff). Elijah is fed first, then the widow, coming second, gains a miraculous supply of food.
Son of David: The woman hails him as Son of David, in a direct reference to His heritage, His person as the Messiah, and His claim on the throne of a nation which defeated her ancestors (Joshua 12:7-24; 2 Samuel 8:1-15). The epithet Son of David also calls on His power over the supernatural, referring to David’s sending away the evil spirit by playing his harp.
Calling her a dog? Jesus seems to play at humor with the woman, playing as a corrupt judge who will not hear her case. Dogs were hated in Jewish culture as disease-carrying mongrels, similarly to the way we view buzzards. The Greek-influenced pagans saw dogs more like us, as pets. Jesus uses the word for “lap puppies, kunarion lit. little dog, not the scavenging dog kuon.” The woman uses the word for mongrels. The sarcasm, eye movement, tone, and laughter are non-translatable.
Matthew uses her faith as an outsider similarly to the centurion’s (8:10). Matthew mentions “Tyre and Sidon,” the home of Jezebel. Another obvious allusion is to the widow who supported Elijah in this area (1 Kings 17:8-24; Luke 4:26) says, “Yes, God’s compassion extends to all Gentiles” in a foreshadowing of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). This is another invitation to Gentile mission.
Notice also this reference to bread. Jesus is still giving out bread. This spiritual bread is for Israel, but there is enough left over even for the nations, a possible interpretation of the leftovers at the feeding of the 5000 and 4000.
This story reinforces the reliability of Scripture. Even a skeptic would have to agree that Jesus, in his apparent rejection of the pagan, is not what we would expect from a Gospel writer. This stuff is not fabricated. Christians did not write hero stories. They wrote facts.
No natural birth into a chosen nation can provide what can only come through the supernatural rebirth of faith (see Galatians).
15:29-39 – Feeding of the 4000
After having His disciples away for training and rest, Jesus returns to the Galilee. He focuses on meeting people’s needs. It is biblical to meet people’s physical needs. It is not liberal (Isaiah 1:10-17; 58:3-9; Jeremiah 22:16).
His disciples somehow are blind (like the Pharisees) to spiritual reality. They don’t get it even though a pagan Canaanite does as well as the multitudes. Some teach that God only works in response to faith. Here Jesus works in advance of faith to teach us to trust Him.
Seven basketfuls: Jesus led his men to be good stewards and not waste. Seven the number of the loaves and the number of completion. There is complete leftovers of children’s bread for the Gentiles.
The Boat (v. 39): The one they left after the night on the water. They pick up where they left off.