Daily Lesson for Tuesday 12th of December 2023
Bible scholars believe that the Gospel of Matthew had been written specifically for a Jewish audience, and that Mark was written with primarily a Gentile audience in mind. It is helpful to keep this distinction before us as we study the Gospels.
Read Matthew 15:1-39:22-28 and Mark 7:1-37:24-30. What differences do you see in how the woman was depicted?
Notice how Matthew describes this mother using her nationality or race: Canaanite. Mark is led by the Holy Spirit to use additional terms to describe this mother as “a Greek” or “a Gentile” and then gives additional information: “a Syro-Phoenician by birth” or “a Syrian of Phoenicia”—the only time that this term is used in the Bible.
Consider how this story in Matthew 15:1-39 would impact the intended primary audience with their background and worldview. Matthew’s audience would see this mother as a despised heathen. This comes from the Jewish people’s historical experience with the Canaanites as an idol-worshiping people group whose evil lifestyle and practices had long been a stumbling block to their nation. Even Christ’s disciples did not consider the possibility that this woman had faith and was part of the kingdom of God!
In Mark 7:1-37, Mark’s audience of Gentiles would have a different response from that of Matthew’s. The Gentiles did not have the same experience as the Jews did with the Canaanites. Instead, the Gentiles would identify with this woman, “a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth” (NKJV). Jesus healed one of their own! For the Gentiles, this woman would be regarded as a beloved mother who was concerned about the fate of her daughter and wanted the Master to heal her, regardless of this mother’s ethnic and national background.
“Christ did not immediately reply to the woman’s request. He received this representative of a despised race as the Jews would have done. In this He designed that His disciples should be impressed with the cold and heartless manner in which the Jews would treat such a case, as evinced by His reception of the woman, and the compassionate manner in which He would have them deal with such distress, as manifested by His subsequent granting of her petition.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 400.
Read 1 John 2:2. What should this text tell us about how we are all the same before God?