The religious authorities came from Jerusalem with a question for Jesus. “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” Scribal Judaism was full of man-made ceremonial rules in our Lord’s day, just as Isaiah had said it would be. They were “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Isaiah 29:13). The Lord was interested in healing “defiled” hearts and not in ritual washing.
Meanwhile, “a Canaanite woman” was begging Jesus for some help for her daughter who was “severely oppressed by a demon.” While still preserving the distinction between Jew and Gentile, Jesus was able to teach all who were paying attention about the only way to obtain divine favor for those who were far from God’s covenant. “O woman, great is your faith!” It was by trusting Jesus that she received a gift from the Almighty.
The Messiah went up a mountain by the Sea of Galilee “and sat down there.” Great crowds were following Him in order to be made whole, and soon everyone beheld “the lame walking and the blind seeing.” If we stop to imagine what it must have been like to observe such astounding deeds of power, we should have the same reaction that they did. “They glorified the God of Israel.”
As in the previous chapter, Jesus was again in a remote place with a hungry crowd that had “nothing to eat.” The Lord used His disciples to do the impossible and to distribute food to everyone with “seven loaves and a few small fish.” Without anyone seeing how the miracle was accomplished, “they all ate and were satisfied.”
The contrast between Jesus and His religious adversaries could not be greater. They were ready to condemn the guiltless, and He had divine strength to restore the broken and to feed the hungry. The kingdom of God had come to earth and a most unexpected Man was at the center of it all.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord of Glory, help us to distinguish between the traditions of men and the Word that comes from above. Cleanse us from within, that we would no longer be filled with sinful thoughts. Have mercy upon us and our children. Defeat the forces of evil that oppress the church. Grant to true worshipers a crumb from the table of the kingdom in the midst of this world of death. Thank You for such kind compassion lavished upon us in our time of need. Use Your chosen servants day by day as agents of abundant divine love.