Matthew 15:21–28: Crumbs from the Table of the Son of David
At this point in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus has complete his ministry in Galilee. From this point until Matthew 21, Jesus will minister in Gentile areas as a foreshadowing of the Great Commission when he will tell his disciples to go into all nations to make disciples (Matt. 28:19). It is no accident that the first person Jesus encounters is a Canaanite woman. Of all the Gentiles Jesus may have met, this woman was the least likely to receive salvation from the great Messiah of Israel. Nevertheless, this story sets the tone for Jesus’ interaction among the Gentiles, showing that the Son of David will reign over the nations.
1. Where is the district of Tyre and Sidon? Who were the inhabitants of this area? Why is this shift of location important in the Gospel of Matthew? Who were the Canaanites? What does the title “Son of David” mean in the Gospel of Matthew? Why was it ironic that a Canaanite woman should seek Jesus’ mercy by calling him the Son of David? What did David do among the Canaanites to establish the kingdom of Israel?
2. What did the disciples want Jesus to do with the woman (v. 23)? Why doesn’t Jesus do what they ask? Why does Jesus say that he was only “sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v. 24; Ps. 78:70–72)? What observations may we make about his response to the woman? How does this force the woman to think through her acknowledgement that Jesus is the Son of David? On what basis, then, does she kneel down before him and ask him to help her?
3. What exactly does Jesus mean when he speaks of throwing the children’s bread to the dogs (v. 26)? How does this question foreshadow the Messianic banquet? How does this question foreshadow Jesus’ feeding of the four thousand (Matt. 15:32–39)? What kind of “dogs” does Jesus speak about in this passage? How does the woman respond (v. 27)? How does Jesus evaluate the woman’s response (v. 28)?
4. What similarities might we see between this story and the story of Rahab in Joshua 2? What kind of conquest were the Israelites beginning in the book of Joshua? What kind of conquest is Jesus beginning as he moves here into the Gentile regions surrounding Israel? What should we learn from Jesus’ interactions with the Gentiles? How do we have better covenant promises than this woman had when she approached Jesus (Heb. 8:6)?