Let It Be Done

At that time:
Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee,
went up on the mountain, and sat down there.
Great crowds came to him,
having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute,
and many others.
They placed them at his feet, and he cured them.
The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking,
the deformed made whole,
the lame walking,
and the blind able to see,
and they glorified the God of Israel.

Jesus summoned his disciples and said,
“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
for they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat.
I do not want to send them away hungry,
for fear they may collapse on the way.”
The disciples said to him,
“Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place
to satisfy such a crowd?”
Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.”
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish,
gave thanks, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied.
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.
(Matthew 15:29-37)

Scripture Study

15:29–31 These verses constitute a summary report of Jesus’ activities, similar to those given in 4:23–25; 8:16–17; 9:35; and 14:34–36. Unique to this report is the reaction of those who witnessed his healing power—they glorified the God of Israel—a phrase that suggests many of these people were Gentiles.

15:32–38 The feeding of the four thousand is nearly identical to the feeding of the five thousand in 14:13–21. The circumstances are the same, the actions of Jesus are the same, and the nature of the miracle is the same. One is also invited to interpret the event along the same lines. On the surface, it appears that only the numbers involved are different: here we have seven loaves instead of five, a crowd of four thousand men instead of five thousand, and seven baskets of surplus bread are gathered up instead of twelve.

But there is probably a more important difference between the two miracles. Several scholars suggest that here we have a crowd made up of Gentiles rather than Jews.7 First, this is suggested by the setting, which appears to be the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. Much of this area falls in the region of the Decapolis, a federation of ten Hellenistic cities of predominately Gentile population.

Second, the episode appears to illustrate the principle enunciated in the preceding account, where the Canaanite woman declared that “even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters” (15:27). The point was that even the Gentiles are granted a share of the bread that God is giving to the children of Israel. If the first multiplication miracle was a feeding of Israel, then it makes sense to see the second bread miracle as the crumbs taken up by the Gentiles.

Third, the number seven may be supportive of this interpretation. If the twelve baskets in 14:20 point to the twelve tribes of Israel, then perhaps the seven baskets in this account point to the classic Deuteronomic notion that Canaan was originally the land of “seven nations” (Deut 7:1). Perhaps Matthew even intended us to see this link when he described the Gentile woman of the preceding scene as a “Canaanite” (15:22). If so, we have yet another indication in Matthew that the messianic blessings intended for Israel are destined to reach the Gentiles as well (see also 4:15–16; 24:14; 28:19).

Scripture Reflection

Much can be learned by reflecting on the words and actions of the Canaanite woman. Among other things, she is a model for effective prayer. First, notice that she comes to the Savior with faith. She never questions whether Jesus is able to deliver her daughter from the demon. She simply trusts in the divine authority of Jesus, three times calling him “Lord.”

Second, she shows perseverance in asking for Jesus’ help. Neither his initial silence nor his attempt to decline the request lessened her tenacity in pursuing his assistance. She persisted until she attained what she sought. Third, the woman displays admirable humility. One might expect her to take offense at the comparison between non-Jews and house pets.

But the reaction of the woman gives no indication that her pride has suffered any injury. Instead of being put off by the comment, she accepts that she has no claim on the God of Israel or his Messiah. The episode thus presents us with dispositions essential to petitionary prayer. If we approach the Lord Jesus as the Canaanite woman did, we too can hope for his favorable response: “Let it be done for you as you wish.”

– Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.