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CHRIST CRITICIZES THE PHARISEES
 

CHRIST CRITICIZES THE PHARISEES

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  • Jerome Bib. Comm. On vow.
  • “ Son of David” the distinctively Jewish designation for the Messiah.
  • Turner, pg.388
  • The variation in the numbers in the stories may suggest that the gospel writers may intend them to be understood symbolically.

CHRIST CRITICIZES THE PHARISEES CHRIST CRITICIZES THE PHARISEES Presentation Transcript

  • Christ Criticizes The Pharisees Matthew 15:1-20 Pieter Bruegel the Elder Parable of the Blind 1568
  • Jesus Criticizes the Pharisees
    • These Pharisees were a delegation “from Jerusalem” and the confrontation which is to follow was to be a foretaste of Jesus’ confrontation at Jerusalem, which would lead to his death.
    • The question about the disciples of Jesus was also an accusation of the master of the disciples, i.e. Jesus himself. Remember 12:2, But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath."
    • This is a technical phrase for oral interpretations of the Torah that had been passed down from generation to generation, later written down in the Mishnah. This was the heart of Pharisaism. They were deeply committed to practice the righteousness of the Torah as interpreted by the tradition of the elders, and the measure of righteousness was the measure of one’s conformity to the traditions of the elders.
    • In this instance they were not concerned about physical cleanliness but ritual purity; there was no OT law concerning the ceremonial washing of hands before ordinary meals. It seems they were requiring the ritual purity required of priests in connection to their temple duties (see next slide) be applied to the table conduct of the ordinary family at meals.
    • ESV Matthew 15:1 ¶ Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat." 3 He answered them, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' 5 But you say, 'If anyone tells his father or his mother, "What you would have gained from me is given to God," 6 he need not honor his father.' So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"
  • Jesus Criticizes the Pharisees
    • The issue of ritual purity or cleanliness has arisen on several occasions in Jesus’ ministry. Note the miracle stories in Matthew 8-9:
    • Jesus touched a leper
    • He was in contact with a “unclean “ Gentile.
    • Jesus visited Gentile territory with its herd of pigs and its “unclean” demons.
    • He was touched by woman with a menstrual disorder.
    • He touched a dead body.
    • He socialized with “tax collectors and sinners”.
    • As a healer, he was often with those who were ritually unclean because of their illnesses.
    • Later in this chapter Jesus ministers to a Canaanite woman and expels her daughter’s unclean spirit.
    • Jesus had a totally different take on what made one “unclean” before God, and this did not set well at all with the Pharisees who built their life around being pure or clean.
    • 2 "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat."
    • NAS Exodus 30:17 ¶ And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 18 "You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing; and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it. 19 "And Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it; 20 when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, that they may not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the LORD. 21 "So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they may not die; and it shall be a perpetual statute for them, for Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations."
    • NAS Mark 7:1 ¶ And the Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered together around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, 2 and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?"
    This rule of washing the hands before a meal had apparently become widely adopted by the Jewish people in general.
  • Traditions of the Elders As Recorded in the Mishnah
    • 1. The following are the points relating to meals, respecting which the schools of Shammai and of Hillel differ. Beth Shammai
    • hold that on festivals man must first say the blessing of the day and then [that] on the wine: whereas, Beth Hillel hold, he must [first] say the blessing on the wine and then that of the day. 2. Beth Shammai say, the hands must be washed first, and the goblet [for the blessing] be filled afterwards. But Beth Hillel say the goblet must be filled first, and then the hands be washed.
    • 3. Beth Shammai say, man is to put the napkin on which he wipes [his hands] on the table; whereas Beth Hillel say, he is to put it on the couch.
    • 4. Beth Shammai say, that after a meal, the room must be swept out first, and the hands be washed afterwards [for the grace]; whereas Beth Hillel say, the hands are to be washed first, and then the room is to be swept.
    • The Mishnah, Berachoth 8:1-4
    The Mishnah is a collection of the sayings or teachings of the sages from about 200 BC to 250 AD
  • Jesus Criticizes the Pharisees
    • Jesus answers their question with a question, which is also a very serious indictment. By trying to keep the traditions of the elders and in turn keep the Torah, they were actually breaking Torah in this instance.
    • The “you” is emphatic.
    • This is God’s standard of righteousness with regard to our parents. Note “God commanded” is not a reference to tradition. “Honor” means to look after and provide financial support, not just a reverential attitude.
    • In contrast to what God says, the Pharisees promoted a practice that violated the spirit and the letter of the 5 th commandment. In this practice if a person designated by formal vow his material wealth as a “gift” (Qorban) for the support of the temple, he was no longer obligated to use those resources in the support of his parents. The vow was generally irrevocable and under the vow the son still retained the use of the property himself. This practice permitted the son to vow to give to the Temple the resources by which he might support his parents. This gave him the use of the resources, but the vow forbade him to convert the property to profane uses.
    • 3 He answered them, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' 5 But you say, 'If anyone tells his father or his mother, "What you would have gained from me is given to God," 6 he need not honor his father.' So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God .
  • Jesus Criticizes the Pharisees
    • Jesus seals his case against the Pharisees by quoting from Isaiah 29:13. The real problem was that the Pharisees were “hypocrites”, not in the sense of a conscious attempt to deceive but rather as having a false perspective or sense of values which prevents them from seeing things as God sees them. By their attempt to be righteous regarding the Law, they actually nullify God’s law by substituting the commandments of men for the commandments of God. The result was an empty piety. Interpretation had nullified intent. Through attempts to interpret and apply the law of vows in the OT, all kinds of applications were developed. This is one of them, i.e. Qorban; the record of discussion can be found in the Mishnah, in the treatise called Nedarim, or “vows”.
    • ESV Matthew 15:7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" 10  ¶ And he called the people to him and said to them, "Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person."
    • Vv. 10-11 are described as a parable in vs. 15, “But Peter said to him, ‘Explain this parable to us’.” But the word for “parable” can be not only a story but also a proverb or some pithy saying.
    • One could, according to the OT, become defiled by the eating of certain foods:
    • Leviticus 17:14 ¶ For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off. 15 And every person who eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean. 16 But if he does not wash them or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity.“
    • In the parallel passage in Mark 7, Mark makes an editorial comment, “thus he declared all foods clean.” Here in Matthew Jesus seems to be setting aside the OT principle of externally contracted defilement. True defilement is not external and ritual, but internal and moral, as Jesus explains later (vv.13-20). Though Matthew does not carry over Mark’s editorial comment, Jesus’ statement regarding “what goes into the mouth” says essentially the same thing.
    • As in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus restates (or maybe we should say, “annuls”) the Law, which clearly enumerates the types of unclean food.
    • 10  ¶ And he called the people to him and said to them, "Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person."
  • Jesus Criticizes the Pharisees
    • The “saying” that offended the Pharisees is probably intended to be vs.11; no doubt they were not happy with being called “hypocrites” either, but vs. 11 is the only direct response to their original charge in vs.2.
    • The metaphor of God planting is found in Isaiah and often is used to refer to God’s establishment and care for his people (Is. 61:3; 60:21; 5:7). Uprooting is used to refer to judgment, so “leave them alone”. Vs. 13 recalls 13:29, suggesting they were tares and not wheat.
    • Worse, they are “blind guides”; they themselves do not understand what it means to be people of God nor do they understand God’s righteousness; their influence on other Jews will be lead them into the same ditch of distorted spiritual values. For this reason, Jesus draws the people away in vs. 10 telling them to “hear and understand”.
    • ESV Matthew 15 : 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" 13 He answered, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit." 15 But Peter said to him, "Explain the parable to us." 16 And he said, "Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone."
  • Vv. 3-9 Jesus directs his comments to the Pharisees; the crowd and the disciples are also present. Vv. 10-11 Jesus directs his comments to the crowd; the Pharisees and the disciples are also present. Vv.12-20 Jesus directs his comments to his disciples only; no one else present. Jesus speaking to three groups in Matthew 15:1-20 Discerning the Audience
    • The disciples may not be able to understand the “parable” because it is so completely contrary to their traditions and understanding of the Law. True purity and impurity is in the heart, not the body, and food eaten by unwashed hands does not determine either state. It is not a matter of what you eat but who you are and how you live. This biblical principle was further developed in the early church:
    • Romans 14:14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.
    • Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
    • 1 Corinthians 8:8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.
    • 15 But Peter said to him, "Explain the parable to us." 16 And he said, "Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone."
    • 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone."
    6 th 7 th 8th 9th Murder Adultery Sexual Immorality Theft False witness Slander Things which make us unclean (the list basically follows the Decalogue): Every evil act begins in the mind, “evil thoughts”
  • Christ and the Canaanite Woman Jean Germaine Drouais 1763-1788 Matthew 15:21-28
  • Christ and the Canaanite Woman
    • This will be the 3 rd occasion when Jesus has a direct encounter with a Gentile. Previously, there was the centurion (8:5-13) and two demon-possessed men in Decapolis (8:28-34). The focus in this story is more on the woman and her conversation with Jesus than on the of her daughter.
    • To the reader there is immediately a negative tone because Tyre and Sidon were two cities of the OT with an evil reputation, and then added to that the woman crying out to Jesus is a Canaanite, the epitome of evil and corruption in the OT.
    • It is remarkable that she addresses Jesus with messianic titles; she acknowledges Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and that he could heal her daughter. She was driven by her love for her child and her faith in Jesus’ ability to heal. No husband? If so, then a single parent? Then there was an increased probability of poverty and marginalized social status.
    • “ Send her away” or “Dismiss her” could also have the additional idea of complying with the woman’s request and thereby get rid of her that way. Jesus response (vs.24) makes better sense of the flow of the dialogue, if the disciples’ request has that meaning. In other words, Jesus is refusing to grant the request because he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. See 10:5-6.
    • ESV Matthew 15:21 ¶ And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon." 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us." 24 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." 26 And he answered, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 27 She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." 28 Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.
    • Matthew 10:5 ¶ These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, "Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
    • 24 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.“
    • 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me."
    • 26 And he answered, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.“
    • 27 She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."
    • Jesus applies to himself the same restriction as he instructed his disciples on the mission outreach. This, however, was not a rule without exception; see 8:5-13 and 8:28-34.
    • In vs.23 Jesus’ silence he was either turning her down or it could have been to draw out her faith.
    • The woman persists, but now kneeling.
    • Jesus’ rebuff in vs. 26 may in part be to test the woman’s grasp of what she is asking.
    • Though Jesus’ rebuff to her is in the indicative, in the context of the dialogue it functions as a question, a testing as to her faith, a statement reminding her of her position and inviting a response, a kind of debating ploy to draw out the depth and strength of her faith. And a response she did give.
    • See the symbolism of “children” = Israel; “little dogs”= Gentiles; “bread”= the blessings of God, especially the healing ministry of Jesus.
  • Christ and the Canaanite Woman
    • There is no way of getting around the harshness of Jesus’ response to the woman. First, he did not respond to her at all; in her second plea to Jesus with homage, she was given the response of being called a “dog”; in the Greek text the diminutive form is used, so could be “little dog” or “puppy”(as opposed to the wild scavengers that roamed in Palestine). The possibility of a house pet could be drawn from the reference to “master’s table”. But regardless, it is still a slur or term of derision when used by a Jew to a non-Jew. Some have tried to tone down the offensiveness by suggesting a supposed facial expression, humor, or maybe a twinkle in Jesus’ eye, but all we have is the written text, and it is offensive to our sensibilities. The statement stresses the biblical doctrine of Israel’s election from all the nations to be God’s special people. See John 4:22.
    • Insulted or not, she persists. She accepts the historical primacy of Israel in God’s dealings with humankind. But she argues with Jesus from her experience as a “dog”(a Gentile) expressing that even they are fed something.
    • 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon." 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us." 24 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." 26 And he answered, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 27 She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." 28 Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.
    • She turns a negative image (a dog was an unclean animal) into a positive supplication. She adapts Jesus’ imagery and extends it, requesting Jesus’ mercy as a dog might beg for table scraps (vs.27).
    • In the Greek grammar we can see a change at this point. Previously in vv. 23,24,26 we have Jesus’ three negative responses, “But he replied…”; in vs. 28 we have a different and climatic word, “then [at last] he replied…” which is a positive statement. Jesus sees her reply as a product of her faith.
    • The address of Jesus, “O woman…” indicates that Jesus is deeply moved by the woman’s faith. This (Greek) expression, which conveys exclamation, unusual emotion or other emphasis, occurs on 8 times in NT.
    • Contrast Jesus’ praise for her “great” faith with that of Peter in 14:31, “little faith”.
    • 26 And he answered, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 27 She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." 28 Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.
  • A Comparison: The Centurion and The Canaanite Woman
    • ESV Matthew 15:21 ¶ And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon." 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us." 24 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." 26 And he answered, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 27 She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table ." 28 Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.
    • ESV Matthew 8:5 ¶ When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6 "Lord , my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly." 7 And he said to him, "I will come and heal him." 8 But the centurion replied, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith . 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, " Go; let it be done for you as you have believed. " And the servant was healed at that very moment.
    Both of these stories foreshadow the time when the people of God will include Gentiles equally with Jews on the basis of their faith.
  • Sebastiano Ricci The Canaanite woman shows us that faith is determined perseverance, or bold determination. She had chutzpah , which was from a Hebrew word indicating tenacity or bold persistence. The Greek word used to translate the Hebrew word means “shamelessness”. Faith is sometimes like that; several times someone would approach Jesus for help with bold persistence and he would respond with “your faith has saved you.” The opposition only heighten her faith; she overcame the silence and the rebuff.
  • Jesus Continues to Heal Matthew 15:29-31
    • Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, 31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.
  • Six Summaries of Miracles in Matthew’s Gospel
    • Matthew 4:23 ¶ And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
    • Matthew 8:16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: "He took our illnesses and bore our diseases."
    • Matthew 9:35 ¶ And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
    • Matthew 14:13 ¶ Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
    • Matthew 14:34 ¶ And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick 36 and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
  • Jesus Continues to Heal Matthew 15:29-31
    • Where is “there”?
    • This would be a hillside along the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
    • This suggests an attitude of reverence as well as expectation.
    • Isaiah 35:5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
    • Isaiah 29:18 In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. 19 The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
    • Jesus is the channel through which these blessings come. It is the God of Israel that is at work in Jesus. Jesus continues his ministry of healing which serves to validate his proclamation that the kingdom of heaven has drawn near in him and that he is the messianic king. Note the resemblance of this passage to 11:5 in response to John the Baptist’s question.
    • Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, 31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.
  • Jesus Feeds the 4,000
    • ESV Matthew 15:32 ¶ Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way." 33 And the disciples said to him, "Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?" 34 And Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" They said, "Seven, and a few small fish." 35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.
  • A Comparison of the Two Feeding Miracles
    • Matthew 14:13 ¶ Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves." 16 But Jesus said, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." 17 They said to him, "We have only five loaves here and two fish." 18 And he said, "Bring them here to me." 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
    • Matthew 15:32 ¶ Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way." 33 And the disciples said to him, "Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?" 34 And Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" They said, "Seven, and a few small fish." 35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.
  • Jesus Feeds the 4,000
    • Both Mark and Matthew present this story as a second occasion when Jesus miraculously feeds a large crowd in the country side, or “wilderness”. See Matthew 16:9,10 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?
    • But then, how do we account for the remarkable similarities between the two stories? Could it be that there was only one feeding miracle and some how through oral tradition and differing sources, two stories developed?
    • And even more difficult is how could the disciples, having experienced the first feeding miracle, finding themselves in a very similar situation, ask the question “Where are we to get bread enough in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” Could they really be that absent-minded?
    • If what we have here are variant versions of the same event. But then, we are left with the problem of 16:9-10, quoted above.
    • Matthew 15:32 ¶ Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way." 33 And the disciples said to him, "Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?" 34 And Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" They said, "Seven, and a few small fish." 35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.
  • We have the account of the Canaanite woman in vv.21-28 in Gentile territory Mark 7:31, after the story of the Canaanite woman, says Jesus went to the Decapolis region where Jesus heals and so the healings recorded at 29-31 are in Gentile territory also, though not stated. Notice that the crowd “glorified the God of Israel” which suggests that they were not themselves “of Israel”. If they were Jews, one would expect “they glorified God.” Next, we have the feeding of the 4,000 which could have been Gentiles if it were in the Decapolis area and thus a continuation of Jesus’ ministry to Gentiles. Some even see symbolism in the numbers of the 2 feedings: seven baskets, representing the 7 deacons of Acts 6; 12 baskets representing the twelve disciples as representative of the 12 tribes of Israel in the first feeding. The meaning of the 2 nd feeding miracle is that Gentiles also can enjoy the benefits of the coming of Messiah as have the Jews signified by the 1 st feeding.
  • The Miraculous Feeding of the 4,000
    • Is Jesus still in Gentile territory in vv.29-31 (heals many) and in vv.32-38? If so, then we have Jesus ministering to the Gentiles, introduced by the story of the Canaanite woman.
    • How do we interpret Matthew in the light of Mark 7:31 where Jesus is in Decapolis before the feeding of the 4000?
    • Some see vs. 39 as supporting that Jesus was still in Gentile territory before going by boat back to Israel.
    • Some see elements in this story that pertain to Gentiles: the number of loaves 7 and the baskets left over 7 and even the Greek word for “basket” which is different from the word used in 14:20 and more akin to Gentile use. Thus, just as Jesus fed a Jewish crowd in 14:13-21, so here he feeds a Gentile crowd. But there is still the question of whether Jesus was on Gentile soil. In Mark’s account, however, Jesus is in Gentile territory on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. But it is not that clear in Matthew.
  • Lessons From the Miraculous Feedings
    • In both stories what is stressed is Jesus’ compassion for the people, not as a demonstration of his power; in both stories the event takes place in the “wilderness” where food was not readily available. In both stories Jesus prays and then enacts the miracle through his disciples .
    • The story teaches us about Jesus’ power and compassion for his people. He is a Savior who desires to meet our needs. Here, we see Jesus, like his Father, recognizing his people’s need before they ask (6:8,32).
    • Jesus acts even though his disciples do not have an understanding of his power; they still think they must supply bread by purely natural means (15:33).
    • What was not humanly possible, Jesus performed as a miracle; the distribution of the food was humanly possible, and Jesus directed the disciples to do so.
    • Both miraculous feedings evoke the rich biblical symbolism of feeding stories in the OT, of Jesus’ Last Supper, and the Lord’s Supper celebrated by all Christians.