Matthew 15: Slow Learners

A note on Matthew 15: maybe my new favorite miracle is here, the feeding of the 4,000. Here’s what I love about it. The story plays out just like you always heard: Jesus teaching to big crowd until late in the day, tells his disciples to feed them because they are too far from any concession stands, they say “How could we POSSIBLY” feed so many with seven loaves of bread and a few fish, Jesus says, “Have faith. I got it.” And then he takes the loaves and fishes and feeds the crown with baskets left over. You know this story. 

Here’s why it’s my new favorite: You know this story, in part, because almost the EXACT SAME THING happens in the previous chapter. Except for a couple details – it was more people, and less bread – the script is the same. 

There are narrative reasons for this kind of repetition – it highlights what’s in between the stories by bracketing them, which in this case was the definitive turn of Jesus’ ministry from Jews (as the Pharisees come down from Jerusalem to say “nice that you are healing all these people and preaching good news, but your people don’t wash their hands before meals, so you must not be legit”) to the Gentiles (as the Canaanite woman deftly argues Jesus into healing her child). That’s why this is really here, to set off those two events as big deals.

But the reason I love it is that it’s reminiscent of my life. God does something amazing in my life in a time of anxiety, and, the next time I face an anxious situation, lo and behold, I’ve COMPLETELY forgotten how God came through last time, and I’m as stumped as the disciples are when they say God can’t possibly manage to feed a group that’s eerily similar to one he JUST did. 

Nice to know that my lack of faith-memory puts me in such good company.

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