Out of the Way
March 4, 2021
Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21).
Jesus left the town of Capernaum and walked to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea into ancient Phoenician territory - Gentile territory, out and away from Israel and Judah. Tyre was over 30 miles (as the crow flies) northwest of Capernaum. Sidon was another 20+ miles north of Tyre.
The parallel passage to Matthew 15:21 is found in Mark 7:24-25. In Mark’s Gospel we are told Jesus entered into the house of a woman whose daughter was demon possessed. The woman was a Greek and Syro-Phoenician by birth. We are told she was of the Greek religion, a Syrian in language and culture, and of the Phoenician race. However, the Jews called everyone who was not a Jew, a Greek. Even though the Roman Empire had superseded the Greek Empire, the Jews still considered the world divided into Jews and Greeks.
If you recall, the evil Queen Jezebel, wife of King Ahaz of Israel, was a Princess of Phoenicia and the daughter of Ethbaal, King of Sidon (1 Kings 16:30-31). So the territory to which Jesus intentionally traveled was notorious for its godlessness. Why would He go there? Why would Matthew and Mark point this out?
First. At this point in Jesus’ ministry He entered the period known as ‘the 2nd retirement’. In other words, it was our Lord’s 2nd attempt to get away from the crowds (and especially the Scribes and Pharisees) to spend time alone with His disciples. In just over 1 year He would go to Jerusalem to be crucified, so it was imperative that this time be devoted to preparing the disciples for His death and their apostleship after His death.
Second. Although the 1st priority of Jesus was to minister the Gospel to the Jews as their Messiah, He came to bring salvation to anyone who would believe in Him and receive Him as Lord and Savior. That included Jews and Gentiles.
Third. Most of the Gentiles in and around Galilee were more open and receptive to the ministry of Jesus than the Jews in Palestine. “They had long since lost their military and commercial power as well as much of their religious and cultural heritage. Their pagan religious systems had repeatedly failed them and now had little influence on their living” (John MacArthur). In other words, they were ripe for the Gospel.
Anyone, Jew or Gentile, who approached Jesus with genuine faith and a humble spirit would find Him willing to minister to them. May that truth be said of us who live in a similar culture today.
“Lord Jesus, may we be open and receptive to anyone who desires of us the ministry of the Gospel. Remind us that in Your Kingdom there is no Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, slave or free, male or female. Everyone must be given the opportunity to know You and the gift of eternal life You offer. To Your honor and glory and to the salvation of souls I ask. Amen.”