Crumbs from the Table


Crumbs from the Table
Matthew 15:21–28 “Jesus answered her, ‘O
woman, great is your faith! Be it
done for you as you desire.’ And her
daughter was healed instantly” (v. 28).

The distinction between clean and
unclean animals may be designed to remind
Israel of the fall. Clean animals
are visibly separated from the ground by
cloven hoofs or scales and fins that
enable them to swim away from the ocean
floor (Lev. 11:3, 9). Unclean animals
touch the earth directly. They have paws
or crawl upon the sea bottom because
they lack fins and scales (vv. 10–12,
26–27). Other taboo creatures eat dead
flesh (v. 18). Since Adam’s sin brought
a curse on the ground and death (Gen.
3:14–19), not eating animals associated
with such things reminded Israel of
creation’s brokenness, cultivating hope
for the curse’s removal and the
world’s return to its original goodness.

On the cross, Jesus took the
curse upon Himself (Gal. 3:13), and now all
creation waits for its goodness
to be made fully manifest (Rom. 8:19–21). With
the curse broken, what was
unclean is now clean, and thus the old Mosaic food
laws need not be followed
in the new covenant. This is the logical conclusion
of Jesus’ teaching on
this point (Matt. 15:1–20; see especially Mark 7:19).

Removing the curse
will also end the division between Jew and Gentile, a truth
hinted at in
Matthew 15:21–28. As Christ nears Tyre and Sidon, a Gentile woman
Jesus and begs Him to heal her daughter (Matt. 15:21–22). He
ignores her at
first, but then tells her His mission is to Israel (vv. 23–24).
He is not
denying salvation to the Gentiles; He is reminding her that He comes
Israel before going to the nations. Jesus’ later exchange with the
about giving the children’s bread to the dogs is related. God, the
Father, feeds His children — His people Israel — prior to feeding the
dog (vv. 25–26).

The woman, a daughter of Israel’s ancient
enemies in Canaan, knows this truth
well, and her daughter is healed when she
asks to mercifully share in the
abundance of the Messiah’s feast, not to be
fed out of order (vv. 27–28). John
Calvin says that the woman does not
impiously contradict Christ. “As God
preferred the Jews to other nations, she
does not dispute with them the honor
of adoption, and declares, that she has
no objection whatever that Christ
should satisfy them according to the order
which God had prescribed.”

Coram deo: Living before the face of
John Calvin comments, “At no
time, certainly, did God shut up his grace among
the Jews in such a manner as
not to bestow a small taste of them on the
Gentiles.” Throughout redemptive
history there have been Gentiles who have
come to trust the God of Israel.
Yet God is the covenant Lord of Israel, and,
therefore, the Gospel goes to
the Jew first. Take some time to pray for the
physical sons of Abraham, that
they would come to know Jesus.

For further study:


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