Bible Book: Matthew / Matteus
Chapter: 15
Verse: 21
Verse (to): 28

Matthew 15:21-28

Sometimes we need to read the gospel of Matthew as if we were looking at a painting of one of the great masters. It is good to pay attention to the detail of each stroke of the brush, but if you really want to see the wonderful picture, you have to stand back to get a better view of the whole. I think we need this principle to better understand the story of the meeting between the Canaanite woman and Jesus.

Matthew introduces Chapter 15 by relating the confrontation of Jesus by the Pharisees and scribes: How can He allow his disciples to eat without washing their hands (verses 1 & 2)? They blame Jesus that He and his disciples are not making a distinction between clean and unclean and, in doing so, are defiling themselves through eating with unclean hands.
Matthew concludes this Chapter by telling how a multitude of people from the districts of Tyre and Sidon (verse 21) and the region of the Sea of Galilee (verse 29) feast in the desert (verse 33) on the bread Jesus provides (verse 36). From the mindset of the Pharisees and the scribes this is unthinkable: Canaanites and other Gentiles and Jews eating together – probably without even washing their hands! For Matthew this is a sign of the Kingdom that Jesus is bringing into this world.
What happens between these two opposites of the beginning and end of Chapter 15? In verses 10-20 Jesus explains to his disciples that uncleanness is not a matter of rituals but of the heart. Through his conversation with the Canaanite woman (verses 24-28) He teaches them that non-Jews are not unclean people.
The disciples are spectators of the encounter between Jesus and this Canaanite woman. After their initial protest about her presence and outcries (verse 23) they become silent. However, they overhear Jesus’ conversation. It is almost as if Jesus were saying to her everything they would have used as objections against Him helping her. And then their eyes are opened to see her faith. “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted” (verse 28 NLT).
To think about (or discuss): How can our ideas of “clean” and “unclean” prevent us from sharing God’s Kingdom with people living with HIV?
Author: N du Toit (Ds)
Language: English