Matthew 15:24, Jesus Shuns Gentiles

But [Jesus] answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 

//A reader of my upcoming book about John’s Gospel questioned why I portrayed Matthew as anti-Gentile. (The book contains a fictional character named “Matthew” who is the author of the Gospel carrying his name.)

I guess I do portray Matthew as much more loyal to Jews than Gentiles, but not without reason. Sometimes, unless you are looking for them as you read the Bible, you don’t notice little nuances. Like this one: In Matthew, Jesus restricts his mission during his lifetime entirely to the Jews. He follows divine instructions such as that recorded in today’s verse. Moreover, when he sends the disciples on their own mission, he gives explicit instructions for that journey as well:

These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  –Matthew 10:5-6

This is hardly the picture we have in Jesus in the other Gospels! So, while I may take creative liberty here and there by exaggerating the differences between Gospel writers in my book, their personalities there are not without foundation. :)

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4 Comments

  1. “Shun” to me means to be expel from a community or group. God all throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation has always included the Gentiles. However, in this situation, God wanted to first reach the Jew’s first because it was Abram first, that decide to serve only one God, him and his posterity, therefore, it was only right that they be the ones to share the plan of salvation, since the rest of us was still worshiping our own little Moon god and other gods with the little “g.” But God has always included the Gentiles in some way or form. In fact Abram use to be a gentile until he cross over, and that is what the word “Hebrew” means one who has cross over. “Hebrew” is the anglicized form of the Hebrew word ‘ibri, which comes from the root word ayin-bet-resh, “to cross or pass over.” This word means “ones from the other side/beyond,” though the other side — perhaps the Jordan River, or perhaps the Euphrates. But they had to cross some water and leave the pagans worship alone to be a Hebrew. We have to do the same thing too, cross over through baptismal in the name of Jesus.

    So since Abram did this first, is only right and fair that his off-spring be given the first shot to enter into the plan of salvation. However, the first shall be last and the last is now the first.

    God bless you!
    Pastor Debbie

  2. Lee Harmon

    Hi Pastor Debbie! Thanks for the feedback! More often than not, my posts are there to make you think, not to convince you of any particular belief or doctrine, so I appreciate comments … especially insightful ones! :)

  3. Pastor Debra is right on regarding the Hebrew word/root “ibri” referring to the “Hebrew” people does mean “those who have crossed over” — literally or symbolically crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land, to me, refers to achieving the shift in consciousness that takes one from shallow idolization to a more esoteric grasping or awareness of the transcendent one God, the I AM. Anyone who has made that leap is in a sense a “Hebrew” — he/she is “chosen by God” because he/she chose God freely.

    It’s my understanding that Jesus kept his mission strictly to “lost sheep of Israel” because it was part of the covenant that the Jews/Israel would be the light to all the nations. And Israel had to be whole again first for that to happen. The ten tribes of Israel had been scattered — and needed to be regathered to be joined with the southern tribes of Judah (“Jews”) and Benjamin to make God’s people whole again. This was an expected role of the Messiah. Jesus’ “lost sheep of the house of Israel” could be an allusion to the lost 10 tribes of Israel on one level. On another level, “lost sheep” of course can refer to any Jew who has strayed from the Way of Life, the Torah, the covenant with YHVH. Jesus of course was teaching the Torah, but also calling for people to do even better and transcend the letter of the law.

    Of course Jesus ministered to and healed Gentiles when they asked of him, but he kept his main focus on his own people. I get the sense Jesus knew his time was limited, time was running short, and his mission was urgent, so he had to prioritize and limit his focus to the Hebrew people. Once the Hebrews were whole again, they could then enlighten the Gentiles (which is what Paul assumed as his mission).

    Matthew was likely a Jew writing his gospel for other Jews, hence his is a more Jewish message (strict adherence to Torah!), in accordance with Jewish scripture and belief that Israel must first reunite and then be a light to all the other (Gentile) nations as part of the realization of the Kingdom of God (belief that God would return to rule on earth).

  4. Lee Harmon

    Say, WP, do be aware that I am not discussing what Jesus did or not do. Merely the difference in atmosphere between the Gospel writers. In this case, between Matthew and others.

    So, yes, I agree with your point – Matthew is, indeed, a more Jewish perspective. The Jewish perspective of Jesus differed from the Gentile perspective of Jesus.

    Differing perspectives can make the study of scripture very interesting. :)

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