Ministry to the Gentiles

Withdraw to Gentile Territory (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30). Jesus went away from
Capernaum to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Hostility was so intense that He went to a Gentile area
where the religious leaders would not follow Him. Here Jesus encountered a Canaanite woman of the
Syrophoenician race, who addressed Him as Lord and Son of David, and kept asking Him to cast the
demon from her daughter. The disciples tried to keep her away and Jesus tells her, “I was sent only to the
lost sheep of Israel.” It was not time to fulfill the “all peoples” aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen
12:3). But the woman, who recognized Jesus as the Messiah, would not be denied. Her persistent plea
demonstrates her faith in Christ. She, a Gentile (dog), asked for what the children (Israel) cast aside.

Jesus seemed against her, but He heals her daughter because of her great faith. Symbolically, this
woman stands for the Gentiles who so eagerly seized on the Bread of Heaven which the Jews rejected and
threw away. This was an important lesson for the Twelve to learn in view of the ministry that would be
entrusted to them.

Healings in Decapolis (Matthew 15:29-31; Mark 7:31-37). Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and
went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. Great crowds,
predominantly Gentile, came to Him, bringing with them those who required healing and Jesus healed
them. They glorified the God of Israel.

Feeding the Four Thousand in Decapolis (Matthew 15:32-38; Mark 8:1-9). This is somewhat of a
repeat performance, except the feeding of the 5,000 was predominantly a Jewish crowd. This time the
crowd is predominantly Gentile. This was another lesson of Christ’s changing ministry, He not only
wants to satisfy and save Jews, but Gentiles also.

The feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 act out the Parable of the Mustard Seed. In that parable, Jesus
taught the Kingdom of God is like the smallest planted seed which grows into a tree. In the two feedings,
He demonstrates that the nature of His ministry has small beginnings and big endings. From seven loaves
and few fish and from five loaves and two fish come an abundance of food with plenty left over.

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