Thursday 19 September 2013

Matthew 15:21-39 - Faith and food

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In Matthew 15:21-39 there are two events, the healing of a Canaanite woman's daughter and another case of feeding thousands on a few loaves and fish.

Jesus knew that he was sent to the lost sheep of Israel. He knew for sure that the church he was creating would eventually go to the very ends of the Earth, that was the Father's strategic objective. But he also knew that the tactics to be used were that he would start a fire in Israel that would set alight the entire globe after he had returned to the Father.

He seems unsympathetic, ignoring the woman's cries for help. But he is never unsympathetic, perhaps it's better to see him here as very focussed. But her insistence and boldness cause him to give her the thing she was asking for. Her daughter is healed.

As you read this passage ask yourself some of the following questions.

  1. If Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of Israel, why does he even go to non-Jewish towns like Tyre and Sidon?
  2. The woman is familiar with Jewish ideas. She knows that Jesus is the son of David. She calls him "Lord".
  3. Although he didn't answer her at first, neither did he send her away. The disciples advised him to do so. Why didn't he?
  4. When he finally spoke to her he gave her an opening, an opportunity. He asked her a question, a clear chance for her to continue the conversation. We talk to Jesus quite a bit, we call it prayer. And we expect him to answer. But how often do we listen to his questions and answer them?
  5. What would the disciples have learned from the conversation and the healing that resulted? What can we learn?
  6. Who is he leading you to reach?
The rest of today's passage is similar to the previous feeding of a large crowd. These might be two reports of the same event, collected here by Matthew. Or there may have been similar events and both are recorded here. Or perhaps this is something that happened several times, or even often, and only two occasions were written down. (See also Matthew 16:9-10.)

But these speculations are not important. The fact is, Jesus provides us with nourishment in our places of need. The fact is he cares about our everyday requirements. Can you relate this to your own life situations and experiences? When has he fed and nourished you during a time of lack? Does he feed us spiritually as well as just physically? Which of the two is most necessary, most fundamental? If food prevents physical weakness, starvation and death, what does spiritual food prevent?

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