Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 15:31a (Holman) So the crowd was amazed when they saw those
unable to speak talking, the deformed restored, the
lame walking, and the blind seeing.
“The crowd was amazed.” Are we still amazed? Are we awed by the fact all believers will be healed eventually. When martyred by bloody Queen Mary, Hugh Laverock, who was lame, cast away his crutch, and said to John Price, who was blind, “Be of good comfort, my brother, for my Lord. . .is our good physician; He will heal us shortly, thee of thy blindness, and me of my lameness.”
For believers, the best is always yet to come–no sickness, no suffering, no pain–amen, we believe this. All believers will be healed. Are we still amazed?
When healing the masses here, Jesus did not employ the same method he used to heal the Canaanite woman’s daughter. The Lord’s ways are inscrutable. Encore is not in His vocabulary. He never lets any method become the main thing.
The Canaanite lady had to plead excruciatingly to receive healing for her daughter, but this throng was being healed almost before asking. She agonized to receive a crumb, yet in this text, a banquet was being served effortlessly. The Canaanite had to wring out one drop of cure, but now healing was gushing freely.
On this day, all Jesus required for people to be healed was their need for help. He was moved by the eloquent “oratory of misery” (J. A. MacDonald).
No questions asked, no prior-believing-in-Jesus requirement, no guarantee of faith in Christ needed. Jesus’ approach here presents a huge dilemma for those who believe the poor or hurting should somehow prove they deserve to be helped.
I and many others struggle with this. What is the best way to help? How can our church best help the hurting? Should we attach stipulations to our giving? Should we worry about being swindled or about becoming enablers?
Questions like these keep preachers awake at night. Jesus often put healing and helping in the same category with salvation, which means He dispensed them based on grace, not works. To what extent must Second do the same? I’m unsure.
For now, let’s keep helping as many people in as many ways as we can. At the same time, keep seeking God’s guidance. As Dad says, proceed on our knees.
Matt. 15:31b And they gave glory to the God of Israel.
Don’t miss the missions emphasis. The fact the people spoke about the God “of Israel” indicates the God they were now honoring was originally not theirs.
Jesus’ power mocked the weakness of all Greek and Roman gods worshiped in Decapolis. Zeus couldn’t do this. Aphrodite and Artemis were powerless here. Even Hercules was quietly slithering into hiding, embarrassed to show his face.
These pagan Gentiles were more impressed by Jesus’ miracles than the Jews were. The Gentiles had less pride, plus fewer barriers and preconceived notions to overcome. Common sense convinced them, the power behind these healings was Israel’s God, who was now being revealed in the compassion and power of Jesus.
For Jesus, ministering in Israel had become dangerous and tedious, but from the Gentiles refreshing breezes were blowing. These initial breezes finally became a mighty rushing wind, yea a hurricane, that continues to blow across our planet.
Learn from the people of Decapolis. Their thanks was beautiful. Gratitude is the only rent God asks for, the only fee He requires, in return for His kindness. Jesus expects us to be temples of His praise, not graves of His benefits (Trapp).
We all could do better at giving thanks. I like the spirit of King Alphonsus, who was not as amazed at his people’s ingratitude to him, as at his own to God.
The story in our text encourages us. In a land of unbelief, total pagans were drawn to our beautiful Savior. Faith can be found in unlikely places. Grace, not place, makes people believers (Ryle). Even the hardest cases can be won to Jesus.
Never give up on anyone. Never say some person will never come to faith. The moment we say never becomes the moment we quit trying. John Newton, the converted slave trader, said, “I have despaired of no man since God saved me.”
Matt. 15:32 Now Jesus summoned His disciples and said, “I have
compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three
days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away
hungry; otherwise they might collapse on the way.”
“I have compassion on them.” How many benevolent institutions of mercy sprang up in these words? Orphanages, hospitals, schools, old folks homes–a huge portion of Earth’s vast number of outposts of compassion would have never existed had it not been for Christ. Jesus invented universal compassion. His word keeps echoing through the corridors of time, springing up mercy like flowers.
Three days the crowd stayed. They wanted Jesus’ company bad enough to sleep on the ground two nights in the open air. Why did He keep them this long?
Jesus forced His disciples to interact closely with unbelieving Gentiles for three days. Some who had never sat side by side in a house, synagogue, or temple did so here. Are we making arrangements to interact with the lost somewhere?
Matt. 15:33 The disciples said to Him, “Where could we get enough
bread in this desolate place to fill such a crowd?”
How could they doubt this soon after Jesus fed 5000 with five loaves and two fish? Had they forgotten? We do. In current troubles we often forget former rescues from similar difficulties. We are cursed with an amazing ability to forget.
Spiritual amnesia is an ever recurring trait of believers’ hearts, but there may have been more than forgetfulness here. Prejudice may have been rearing its ugly head. Jesus had recently proved He could feed a multitude. Had they forgotten, or did they doubt Jesus would do for Gentiles what He did for Jews?
Matt. 15:34-36 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked them.
“Seven,” they said, “and a few small fish.” After commanding the
crowd to sit down on the ground, He took the seven loaves and the fish,
and He gave thanks, broke them, and kept on giving them to the
disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.”
Jesus made the disciples do the deed of mercy themselves. He forced them to minister to these outsiders, to people they would have thought unworthy.
Before Jesus used the Twelve, He made sure they knew how little they had. Once they were humbled He multiplied what was available to bless the multitudes.
They had precious little, but Jesus used them. We too have little, not much knowledge, little speaking ability, not much compassion. But He wants to use us.
Matt. 15:37-39 They all ate and were filled. Then they collected the leftover
pieces–seven large baskets full. Now those who ate were 4000 men,
besides women and children. After dismissing the crowds, He got into
the boat and went to the region of Magadan.
Jesus made no distinction between 5000 within the covenant versus 4000 outside it. He did for Gentiles what He did for Jews. Jesus kept eyeing Gentiles more and more. He still eyes unbelievers. Do we see the tear that lingers in His eyes for the lost? Are we looking where He’s looking, or focused on ourselves?
He forgave us. Do we doubt He wants to forgive others? Were we easier to forgive? He saved us. Doesn’t He want to save others? Have we forgotten what He did for us, or did we only forget what He did for us He wants to do for others?