Matthew 15:29-39 A Gentile Mission.

Matthew 15:29-39 A Gentile Mission.

Going up a mountain and sitting could certainly be symbolical of Jesus future reign at the right hand of the Father. “Mark indicates that these events took place in the Decapolis (7:31), a predominantly Gentile area. It follows the story of the Canaanite woman” (NGSB 1531). Decapolis means ‘ten cities’. In the bible mountains often refer to kingdoms and power. From his vantage point he most likely could see all around for some distance, perhaps even the ten cities. Was this his way of inviting the crowds to come? In any case they did come and laid the sick at his feet, and he healed them (vv. 29-30 Cf. 11:5; Mk. 7:25, 31-37; Lk. 7:38; 8:41; 10:39; Is. 35:5-6). The people marveled and glorified God (v. 31 Cf. Lk. 5:25-26; 19:37-38). Jesus compassion for the people, who had been with him for three days, also extended to their most basic need for food, as they would faint without food as they returned to their homes (v. 32 Cf. Mk. 8:1-10).

He called his disciples to him for their help in feeding some four thousand men, plus women and children (v. 38). Once again they asked where they might find enough bread in what was a wilderness (v. 33). It hearkens back to the exodus of course, but also to the ministry of Elisha (II Kgs. 4:42ff.), so there was precedence for those familiar with the word, but for the disciples it should have also hearkened back to the previous feeding of five thousand plus (14:13ff). As he had previously multiplied five loaves and two fish, this time he did so with seven loaves and a few little fish (v. 34). As then, so now, upon giving thanks and distributing through his disciples, the bread and fish did not run out. In fact, more was left afterwards than they had at the beginning (vv. 35-37). Sending the multitude away, now full, he journeyed with his disciples to Magdala, or Dalmanutha, on the other side of the Sea of Galilee (Mk. 8:10).

Matthew 15:21-28 Lost And Found.

Matthew 15:21-28 Lost And Found.

A woman of Canaan, who came from the region of Tyre and Sidon, sought out the Lord for her demon possessed daughter. Anyone familiar with the history of Israel and Canaan would not miss the significance of this encounter, and the woman’s faith being exercised here (vv. 21-22 Cf. Mk. 7:24-30). Her cry was for mercy, and she specifically addressed Jesus as ‘Son of David’. At first Jesus appears to ignore her, and his disciples want him to send her away (v. 23). They know what she represented. Years of war were waged against the Canaanites. Furthermore, his primary focus, at least at this point in his ministry, was to go “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v. 24). However, she not only acknowledged him as the Son of David, but also as God, for Matthew recorded that she worshipped him. She wanted him to show her and her daughter mercy, and to help her, because she saw him as the incarnate One (v. 25).

What might appear as  being a cruel response, as we have it at verse 26, was but a statement of the reality that this woman was not a member of the covenant community, and the bond of that relationship demanded a priority be given to the children in the covenant. Those outside the covenant were indeed regarded as outcasts, dogs as such, and she was a little one at that. Jesus was testing her as to whether she understood her real and deepest need that we all have, that we are all wretches in need of mercy. Deliverance from Satanic bondage was second to their bondage of sin. To show the Canaanite woman and her daughter mercy, was to show mercy to an arch enemy. However, Jesus showed that the real enemy was the devil who held her daughter in bondage. Her response showed that she rightly believed that there was always hope for those outside the covenant community – and thus Jesus focuses on her faith (vv. 27-28).

Matthew 15:1-20 The Heart Of The Matter.

Matthew 15:1-20 The Heart Of The Matter.

Tradition must take a back seat to God’s commands. The Religious leadership in Jerusalem, of the scribes and Pharisees, objected to Jesus’ disciples not keeping the tradition of washing one’s hands before eating (vv. 1-2). Probably not surprising given that they were mostly working men. There was however a bigger question and concern here, why these men used their tradition to obviate the requirements of God’s commands (v. 3). We must not miss the fact that Jesus quotes both the fifth commandment and the case law respecting the honouring of one’s parents (v. 4; Ex. 20:12; 21:17; Dt. 6:16). There is a reason why this was a capital offence where the maximum penalty allowed was indeed death. To fail to support ones parents meant their death sentence. There were no pension plans or government assistance etc. Children were to provide for the sustenance of their parents, even as their parents had done for them. To fail to do so was equivalent to outright murder. Note well! Jesus criticized a tradition which obviated not only the command of the decalogue, but of the case law as well.

The case law in this case, addressed a specific example of the application of the fifth commandment. This is why the case laws are so crucial, and according to Jesus are still in force. The case laws seek to address the application and interpretation of the decalogue. In this case, it was a capital offence to argue that it was ok to let one’s parents starve to death if the resources one had were declared to be given directly to God. It is the worst kind of religion, which makes religious offerings a scapegoat from the obligation to support one’s family. Even though capital punishment was the maximum penalty in this case, this could obviously be commuted to financial compensation, as the only crime one could not commute capital punishment was first degree murder (Nu. 35:31). The apostate religious leadership obviated the force of the fifth commandment through elevating their tradition above the case law application of this commandment. This has been the case throughout history to the present, where individuals and the church are obviating the case laws through a tradition that teaches that they no longer have any force (vv. 5-6).

This tradition was pure hypocrisy, for they taught that it was ok to break the commandment if it was cloaked in the religious garb of serving God instead, when to serve the LORD in this case would be to keep the case law with the commandment. This was outward religious activity, of fine sounding words of supposed devotion, from those whose hearts were far from God’s. In so doing they were fulfilling the words of Isaiah, “teaching as doctrine the commandments of men” (vv. 7-9; Is. 29:13), to which Paul concurred (Cf. Col. 2:20-22). There is also an important principle laid down here by Jesus, that it is “not what goes into the mouth (that) defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (vv. 10-11). The apostate religious leadership were offended because their religiosity consisted in outward presentation without contrary inward substance. In fact, their outward words and acts were a cover up for the evil in their hearts. These are those not planted by the Father. To be truly in the family one must be planted, as one cannot plant themselves by their own efforts (vv. 12-13).

Apostate religious leaders and institutions are nothing more than blind leaders of the blind, and “both will fall into a ditch” (v. 14). Peter asked for this parable of one eating food to be explained, and it would not be the last time when the distinction of what is eaten would need to be explained to him (Cf. Acts 10:9ff.). Clearly what one eats is processed and the waste is eliminated. But what comes from the heart in actions and words speaks to the core of who a person really is. Words and deeds done are but the expression of the desires in a person’s heart – “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man’ (15-20). Note well, the heart in the bible refers to the core of who a person is, and in most cases to the core of one’s thoughts. It is not the modern understanding which equates the heart strictly with emotions. There is nothing sentimental about the importance of one’s inner thinking given expression through words and deeds.

Matthew 14:34-36 The Hem Of His Garment.

Matthew 14:34-36 The Hem Of His Garment.

It would be easy to pass over these verses if one did not take into account the context. Jesus had been healing the sick, casting out demons, and preaching the good news of the kingdom that had come. People marveled that the sick were healed, and many came to Jesus for this reason. They also marveled when demons were cast out, and the apostate religious leadership tried to argue that Jesus was able to cast out demons by the power of Satan. Jesus then made clear that if the source of his power was the Devil, then the Devil would be destroying his own kingdom. Rather, Jesus casting out demons was a clear sign that the kingdom of heaven was at hand.

However, something else happened when Jesus demonstrated his power over creation, when he saved Peter from drowning in the sea, “and when they got into the boat, the wind ceased” (v. 31). From ancient times it was understood that only the Creator could say, “This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!” (Job 38:11) The disciples knew then that Jesus was no ordinary man. “Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God’” (v. 33). So when they crossed over the sea to the land of Geneseret, and the people recognized him as the one who was able to heal the sick, they brought all who were sick to him (vv. 34-35).

However, now those who were with him, his disciples, knew him truly as the Son of God. It only made sense that he who made all things, and governs all things, can restore all things to make things whole. Jesus the Christ makes people whole. The people understood that if they could but touch the hem of his garment they could be healed and made whole. “And as many as touched it were made perfectly well” (v. 36). The woman who suffered from a hemorrhage for some twelve years understood this (9:20ff.). It would be easy to pass over the mention of his garment, but it is not insignificant that we read that they touched the fringe or hem of his cloak.

As the Anointed One his cloak carried great significance, especially its colour. As the Prophet, High Priest, and King, the hem of his garment symbolized his threefold office as the anointed Mediator of the covenant – blue that symbolized the word, red or scarlet the blood, and purple for royalty (Cf. Ex. 28:33). Jesus was the reality that the Aaronic order could only point to (Cf. Ex. 39:1ff.).* To touch the hem of his garment was a confession of him as the anointed one indeed. It was the tassels of blue in particular that gave prominence to the word, such that the sons of the covenant were also to wear, to remind them to keep the LORD’s commandments (Nu. 15:37).


Matthew 14:22-33 From Doubt To Worship And Confession.

Matthew 14:22-33 From Doubt To Worship And Confession.

Again Jesus wanted to be alone, so the disciples were urged to depart in the boat, and the crowd, having been satisfied, were also sent away (v. 22). This gave Jesus the opportunity to finally be alone, and to pray (v. 23). There is a lesson here for all who would follow after Jesus, that there are times when we are needed by others, but it is also necessary for us to take time to be alone, and to pray. In the bible mountains are symbolic, representing power and dominion. From a mountain top one can get a view of all that is below, at least what is within one’s own purview. We also need this perspective at times, places where we can get a view of everything in our own purviews, and from that vantage point to pray, for there is more power in prayer than all the kingdoms of the world combined. We pray that his kingdom would come, and that his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:10).

“But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary” (v. 24). We all often find ourselves in a boat in the middle of a sea, with winds that are contrary. Life is like that all too often. Our place is much like that of the disciples. We also are urged to head out into the world, while Jesus is physically at another place, but still praying for his own, as he no doubt did then, “since He always lives to make intercession” (Heb. 7:25b). The fourth watch of the night was between 3 and 6 am, and anyone who has worked through these hours knows that they are indeed the most trying. Jesus comes to us to help us with grace, exactly when we need it the most (Heb. 4:16). Often it is at the point of our greatest need that we are tempted to imagine the worst, when what we thought were ghosts give way to Jesus presence and help, and fear gives way to cheer (vv. 26-27).

What is often remembered about this occasion is the words and actions of Peter, who does indeed represent many of us. When we hear the word of God, we take great courage believing we can overcome our circumstances with his help. All we need is his command to come (vv. 28-29). However, like Peter, most of us also can’t take our attention away from what we fear, and our circumstances then have greater weight than the word of our Lord. It is then that we stop advancing forward in his cause, and all we have left is the salvation of our own souls (v. 30). It is sad that the church so often cannot get beyond a cry for the Saviour, but has so little faith to gain the world for her Lord. We, like the disciples in that boat, need to fall down and worship the King of kings and Lord of lords, end our individual and collective doubt, and venture forward in faith to fulfill the Great Commission given to us (vv. 31-33 Cf. Mt. 28:18-20).

Matthew 14:13-21 From Solitude To Greater Than Five Thousand.

Matthew 14:13-21 From Solitude To Greater Than Five Thousand.

Upon hearing of John’s death Jesus “departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself” (v. 13a). Jesus wanted some time to be alone, as would anyone upon hearing the news about his friend John, but it didn’t last long. The people were desperate for help,  so even though Jesus had departed from there by boat, “they followed Him on foot from the cities. And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick” (vv. 13b-14). Jesus could be ‘moved’ as anyone can be moved, whether by the gruesome death of a friend, or by the physical distresses of a great throng of people. Perhaps this being moved goes deeper when one knows that they have the means to make things better, which Jesus did.

When evening came in this deserted place, the disciples were concerned about the people not having food to eat, but it was that they might journey back to the cities or villages from which they came, because in their minds there was nothing that they had to offer them, with barely enough provisions for themselves (v. 15). However, Jesus knew that they could provide for all the people, because he had that power, and he was with them (vv. 16-18). By taking the five loaves of bread and two fish in his hands, and seeking the blessing of the Father, Jesus was able to give everyone present what they needed to be ‘full’, “and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained” (vv. 19-20). With women and children, the number was greater than five thousand (v. 21).

Matthew 14:1-12 John, Herod, And Herodias.

Matthew 14:1-12 John, Herod, And Herodias.

Of course, John being a biblical prophet, was a Presbyterian, but he was known for his emphasis on the message of repentance and baptism associated with this message. Matthew introduces John because Herod the tetrarch thought that Jesus was really John who was coming back to haunt him for murdering and beheading him. Evidently he did believe in resurrection (vv. 1-2 Cf. Mk. 6:14-29; Lk. 9:7-9). John called him to repentance for taking his brother Philip’s wife, which was not lawful (vv. 3-4 Cf. Mt. 4:12; Mk. 6:17; Lk. 3:19-20). John preached the law as a necessary prerequisite for his message of repentance, which was itself necessary for the salvation to come, and it was specific, being taken from the case laws and preached to a pagan ruler (Cf. Lev. 18:16; 20:21). It was only due to the fear of the crowd, that he did not execute him immediately (v. 5).

Herodias was “a daughter by an earlier marriage to Herod Philip. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the daughter’s name was Salome and she later married another son of Herod the Great, Philip the tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitus (Luke 3:1)” (NGSB 1529). Herod was ruled by pleasure, and not by the law of God, therefore he committed himself to a self-destructive course (vv. 6-7), and Herodias cared more about the wishes of her mother than the fear of God (v. 8). Being sorry means nothing when an oath has been taken (v. 9), and commands follow oaths, and the soldiers also put the authority of another, namely Herod, above the fear of God (vv. 10-11). Then out of respect for John, his disciples took John’s “body and buried it, and went and told Jesus” (v. 12). When people reject God’s law they become slaves to their own lusts, and they submit to godless authorities.

Matthew 13:53-58 A Prophet Rejected Through Unbelief.

Matthew 13:53-58 A Prophet Rejected Through Unbelief.

After finishing his discourse on the parables, Jesus departed for his own country, and as was his custom he entered the synagogue to teach (vv. 53-54a Cf. Ps. 22:22; 2:23; Mk. 6:1; Lk. 4:16). The people knew him as a one who was born and raised by a carpenter, the son of Mary, with brothers and sisters whom they all knew as their neighbours (vv. 55-56a Cf. Mk. 6:3-4; Lk. 3:23). Therefore they were astonished at his wisdom and the “mighty works” they saw him perform (v. 54b). However, because they regarded him as a common person, they were also offended, envy and jealousy going hand in hand with their unbelief (vv. 57-58 Cf. Is. 49:7; Mk. 6:5-6; Lk. 4:24; Jn. 4:44; 5:44-47; 7:15). They were offended that he was regarded as so high and mighty (Cf. Jn. 6:42), but all are blessed who are not offended (11:6). “Jesus’ refusal to do many miracles in Nazareth was not because He needed the faith of people to empower Him, but because miracles are of little value to those without faith” (NGSB 1529).

Matthew 13:51-52 Old And New.

Matthew 13:51-52 Old And New.

It is one thing to read or hear the parables, but it is quite another thing to understand their meaning. Some will hear but not understand, or see but not perceive (vv. 14-17; 34-35). Jesus, the Lord, is the great teacher (v. 51), and as such he is the householder who brought and brings out treasures new and old (v. 52 Cf. Heb. 3:6). That which is found in the older testament scriptures is combined with the new covenant canonical witness, to give the full light of the revelation of the mystery of the gospel of the kingdom

Matthew 13:47-50 A Dragnet And Judgment.

Matthew 13:47-50 A Dragnet And Judgment.

Just as harvesting a field involved gathering grain with weeds (vv. 37-43), even so the judgment to come will be like casting a net to gather all kinds of fish, which when gathered will have the bad separated from the good (vv. 47-50). The bad are the wicked, sons of the devil, and the good are the just, those justified by the Messiah. Good and bad, sheep and goats will be found in every nation (22:9-10; 25:32). This will all take place at the end of the age of the messianic reign and kingdom.