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Questions/comments for GD NT Lesson 13

Posted by BrianJ on April 14, 2007

I appreciated Robert C’s focus on part of Lesson 13 (NT Lesson 13: Thou Art Peter), and I have a few more little questions and comments on my mind:

Matthew 15:21-28

I was reminded of Elijah’s trip to the same region (Tyre/Sidon) and his encounter with a widow there.

When it says, “But he answered her not a word,” does that mean Jesus was ignoring her, or was he waiting to see how his disciples would respond?

In verse 24: “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Is this an answer to the disciples or to the woman?

Was Jesus testing the woman’s faith or did she really get him to change his mind?

Matthew 16:6

What is the purpose of leaven? It causes dough to rise. It doesn’t add any nutritional value to bread, but makes bread more palatable. Is that the leaven of the Pharisees—they “inflate” the Gospel in an attempt to make it more palatable, but all the while add nothing substantive? Is this the same as the warning against mixing the philosophies of men with scripture? (see Matthew 15:7-9 and Isaiah 29:13).

Matthew 16:22

Peter was being protective—that’s not a bad thing, right? But he was rebuked because his “good intention” was just that: his. Jesus was telling his disciples about God’s plan, but Peter had plans of his own. Reminds me of Isaiah 55:8.

10 Responses to “Questions/comments for GD NT Lesson 13”

  1. nhilton said

    Brianj, Here’s my effort at collective thinking regarding your questions/comments:

    #1 Matt. 15:21-28: This pericope seems parallel to the pericope of the Nobleman and the healing of his son. This Canaanite woman & the nobleman were both Gentiles yet believed in Jesus unlike the Jews to whom Jesus was sent to minister.

    Since Jesus doesn’t answer her (not ignoring, just not answering) I’m thinking that as he speaks to his disciples he calls this woman one of the “lost sheep.” He’s speaking of her, not the Jews, meaning this is EXACTLY who he IS sent to–those who believe on him but are without a shepherd (similar to his seeking out the man at the pool of Bathesda (at the Sheep Market). Elijah’s similar encounter with a Gentile woman of great faith is a foreshadow of Jesus’ encounter. Perhaps Jesus was waiting for his disciples to see the parallel. I think Jesus was testing her faith, similar to Elijah’s test of the woman.

    #2 Matt. 16:6: This statement falls on the heals of the people being fed bread during the feeding of the 5 & 4 thousand. These miracles were seen as signs & yet the Pharisees & Sadducees desired ANOTHER sign. End of verse 2 & verse 3 aren’t included in early manuscripts, but if they are authentic then this allusion to recognizing the signs of the times can be correlated to the 7 loaves of bread & 7 baskets & the dispensations of time with the coming of the Savior, etc. Nonetheless, this sign seeking seems to be what Jesus is warning against in v. 6 (by my reading), as well as the “puffed up-ness” of these people. Leaven is also used to “multiply” bread, make more of something that initially is small. Jesus does this in the feeding of the multitudes. As his opponents attempt to “feed the multitude” Jesus warns of their kind of “multiplication” of the bread. All your “take home messages” are right on!

    #3 Matt. 16:22: Peter was denying the need of the Atonement (naively aligning himself with Satan), something Satan & his cohorts do throughout scripture. Jesus had enough opposition, he didn’t need Peter opposing him, too! The following verses show Jesus’ compassion for Peter & his apostles as he teaches them so lovingly. I think v. 25-27 continues the allusion to Satan tempting Christ in the wilderness, similar to the very real temptation Peter began to lay in front of Christ. It’s important that this whole episode PRECEEDED the event described in Ch. 17:1-9. Peter really was ignorant with no malice intended, however, the effect would be the same in that if Peter had his way Satan would win.

  2. brianj said

    nhilton: thanks for the thoughts! In class today I treated the issue both ways, “What does it mean if Jesus was testing the woman? What if he was testing his disciples?” It’s a bit of a cop-out, but it let us talk about possible meanings. I actually began the lesson by asking the class to think of examples of Jesus blessing/teaching non-Jews—and, of course, we had no trouble coming up with examples. It got people thinking that maybe the straightforward interpretation of Matt 15:24 (viz. that Jesus could not and would not teach to non-Jews) should at minimum be reconsidered. I also pointed out that in Mark’s account of this story, Mark completely omits the part of the disciples.

    I want to agree with how you treat it, saying that Jesus was referring to her as one of the lost sheep, but then he adds that “of the house of Israel” part. She definitely was not of the house of Israel. And when he compares her to a house pet—well, that at least agrees with the idea that he did not go there specifically to find her (or those like her).

    One more thought I had was how this word-sparring about crumbs falling to house pets sits right next to a story about how Jesus sates a huge multitude and has tons of food leftover—food that could be fed to the dogs, perhaps? I had one student who gave a very lengthy and wonderful comment tying this story in to the parable of the workers and the “last shall be first and the first shall be last.”

    To tie this all back together, I’m leaning towards reading this way: Jesus really wasn’t sent to this woman or any other non-Jew. His primary ministry was as he said: to the the house of Israel. But he has so much to give that he can heal all the multitudes of Galilee and still have enough leftover for the widows of Sidon. He has prepared rooms in his Father’s house for the sheep of Israel, but there is also space for the Gentiles. It is, as you (nhilton) say about Jesus’ leaven: he “makes more of something that initially is small.”

  3. brianj said

    nhilton—one more response. Thanks for pointing out the way the mount of transfiguration follows this. How did I miss that?! I think I was too focused on Matt 16:21, “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” It seems that Matthew is saying that up until Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ (not just another prophet), that Jesus taught his disciples about charity, faith, repentance, etc, but didn’t really get into the atonement much. Peter’s confession opens the door, so to speak. I should have carried that thought on to Ch 17 as you did, so thanks for picking up my slack!

  4. nhilton said

    I don’t think you have to read Jesus as saying the woman wasn’t part of his ministry. John the Baptist had already told the Jews that God could raise stones as seed to Abraham, implying a grafting in or adoption. House of Israel is literal but can also be read as a culminating “kingdom.” Anyone with faith in Christ is his family, as he taught. This woman was indeed faithful & demonstrated her worthy inclusion in His house. Jesus didn’t “come” to the gentiles, but he repeatedly reached out to them, inviting them, healing them, ministering to them. To think he ONLY came to the Jews to the exclusion of everyone else is erroneous. He “came” to the Jews to be cruxified by them but he “came” for everyone else.

  5. brianj said

    Nanette: I think you misread me, and as I reread what I wrote I think it is my fault. I agree that the woman—indeed, the entire world—was part of Jesus’ ministry. But what I think he is saying is that his primary mission was to the lost sheep of Israel. They are the “children of the house,” whereas non-Jews are like servants or house pets within the house; i.e. they may have to wait a bit to have their turn.

    So to be clear: I do NOT think that “…he ONLY came to the Jews to the exclusion of everyone else….” Rather, I think he is saying that he came FIRST/FOREMOST to the Jews, and then to everyone else. (Cf. 3 Nephi 15:23)

  6. Robert C. said

    Great questions Brian.

    Regarding this Matt 15 bit, Leon Morris takes the “but” in verse 24 as contrasting with the disciples (rather implicit) desire that Jesus heal the woman and send her away. On this view, I think Jesus’s initial silence might be a way of making a point to the disciples that Jesus’s mission was (primarily) to the Israelites. Contra Nanette, I think this Israel-Gentile distinction is indeed important to understand. I don’t claim to understand why this distinction is so important, but we see it emphasized over and over in all of our books of scripture (except maybe the POGP?). I’m sure we’ll have a chance to dicuss this more when we get to the Pauline epistles….

  7. Robert C. said

    Regarding leaven, Leon Morris in his commentary book on Matthew (p. 353) notes that leaven was not exactly yeast but was basically old, fermented dough used from a previous baking. This leaven, it seems, was subject to “corruption and infection.” Morris seems to take Ex 12:15 as a command to annually throw out all leaven to prevent this kind of infection.

    What’s fascinating to me is that although leaven is usually used as a negative metphor, it is used a positive one in Matt 13:33. Again, I think the moral is that we have to be careful in trying to read scripture too formulaically….

  8. BrianJ said

    Robert, #6: Okay, something you wrote should have been obvious to me but I totally missed it. I read the disciples as saying, “Tell this woman to go away because she is bugging us.” But what you are saying (or Morris), is that the disciples are saying, “Heal this woman so that she will go away and stop bugging us.” That’s a big difference in reading. If the later is correct, and it seems to be, then the disciples see miracles (i.e. the grace of God) merely as a tool to get rid of this woman. Yikes!

    And why would they want to be rid of her? I’ll insert some words into the text, and suggest that their motive could be so that they can be alone with Jesus and hear his teaching without any distractions. Thus, the teaching of the word is more important than the doing of the word.

    Now, I admit that I may be reading to much into the text, but I’m okay with that—mostly because I know that I have been and often am guilty of doing exactly what I suggest the disciples were.

  9. BrianJ said

    Robert: by the way, I assumed the “but” in verse 24 you refered to is the first “but.” There are actually two “buts” in 24.

  10. Jim F. said

    Just a nit-picky note: Old fermented dough from a previous baking works because it contains yeast. So ancient bakers used yeast just as much as do contemporary bakers, only in a different form.

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