Matthew 15:29–39: Crumbs to Feed Four Thousand
After Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21–28, readers are left with a lot of questions. Was Jesus’ care for this Gentile woman a one-time event, or did it signal a larger shift in redemptive history? On what basis did Jesus heal this woman’s daughter—merely as something to do, or as an act that fit into a the deeper logic of God’s covenant mercies? In this next section, Jesus demonstrates that his healing of the Canaanite woman’s daughter was not a fluke. On the contrary, Jesus shows us here that the Son of David will fully bless the nations.
1. Where is Jesus during this story (see also Mark 7:31)? Why is Jesus’ location important for the healings as well as the story of how he feeds four thousand people? Why is it significant that Jesus here goes up on a mountain and sits down (v. 29; cf. Matt. 5:1)? What significance is there that Jesus healed so many people in this region? What response do the crowds have for Jesus’ healing ministry (v. 31)?
2. In how many ways is this story different from the story of when Jesus fed the five thousand (Matt. 14:13–21)? In how many ways are these two stories similar? Why does Matthew specifically tell us in both stories that Jesus had compassion on the crowd (Matt. 14:14; v. 32)? Why do you think that the disciples once again express concern about where they might find enough food to feed the whole crowd (v. 33)?
3. How does the small amount of food connect back to the Canaanite woman’s comment about “crumbs” from the “master’s table” (v. 34; Matt. 15:27)? What significance is there in the fact that Jesus is “directing” (i.e., commanding/ordering) the people to sit down (v. 35)? Of what significance is the language of taking, giving thanks, breaking, and giving in v. 36? What does this tell us about the Gentiles in relation to the messianic banquet?
4. What kind of care do we see from Jesus in this passage? What kind of compassion do we see from Jesus in this passage? Eternally speaking, why are mere care and compassion insufficient for what human beings truly need? How does Jesus suggest a deeper solution through this feast that he gives to thousands of Gentiles? What does that tell us about the better covenant that he came to inaugurate?