We have seen many healing summaries like the one in vv. 29-31, and Jesus just fed the 5,000 in the previous chapter, so why revisit these themes? The greatest danger we face every Sunday is not a failure to learn something new, but a failure to remember something old. As Luther said, the gospel must be beat into our heads continually. We must visit the same themes again and again because we forget. There is a feast for us here too. The feast we must partake of daily; God’s miracle Manna for us in our wilderness.
Yet, there is something distinct about this summary, and the feeding of the four thousand. Jesus has left the area of Tyre and Sidon and headed back to Galilee (Matthew 15:21, 29); so He has withdrawn from Gentile country, right? The acute reader among Matthew’s original audience would ask which side of Galilee Jesus is on. Mark informs us that He is in the region of the Decapolis. The Decapolis was a league of hellenized cities that were predominately southeast of Galilee. Jesus is still in Gentile country. Matthew brings this out when He says this crowd, “glorified the God of Israel.” The messianic feast is for the Gentiles too (Matthew 8:11). The kingdom has dawned, and its salvation is sweeping up the Gentiles too.
So these healings and the feeding are to be linked with the healing of the Gentile woman in Matthew 15:21-28. She came to Jesus crying out for the “Son of David,” to have mercy. She bowed before Him and called Him “Lord”. Why would a Canaanite woman come to a Jewish King – for healing? When the Jewish Messiah came, Isaiah foretold the effects of His rule:
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert (Isaiah 35:5-6).
Adam was a king under God. He was given dominion over the earth. He was told in Genesis 2:15 to work and keep (guard). Because of Adam’s presence the garden was to be safe and flourish. But Adam didn’t protect the garden. He let the dragon in. Now everything, instead of flourishing, is wilting. Because of Adam’s sin we are not safe, we are under the dragon’s sway. Because of Adam’s sin, we are not flourishing, all of creation is in a state of chaos.
But Jesus comes as the second Adam (Romans 5:14, 17). As Adam’s disobedience resulted in de-creation, Jesus’ obedience results in new creation. All things are put under His feet. He is undoing the curse and putting all things right. Jesus comes into our wilderness, and instead of making food for Himself, becomes God’s miracle Manna for us. The desert is blooming! Things are again becoming safe. Things are flourishing. Even death itself is working backwards.
In The Lord of the Rings, Aaragon the long awaited king saves Minias Tirith, the great city of men. The salvation he brings the city comes because he chose a deadly path. He does not look like a king, he has lived as a wanderer. How was the city to know their king? It was said, “The hands of the King are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.”
When black breath blows
and death’s shadow grows
and all lights pass,
Life to the dying
In the king’s hand lying!
Our King came disguised. He rode a donkey, not a mighty stead. He took the deadliest road, defeated the dragon, and conquered death. How are we healed? From where does our healing come? It is in the hands of the King. Those hands had to become incarnate. They had to take on flesh, be pierced, and let blood. Blood so precious, it is making all safe. Blood full of life causing all to flourish.