Jesus dealt with some pretty unsavoury people (in the eyes of the reader and the eyes of someone at the time). He could have easily said at many times during his life that he didn’t want to associate with the “sinners” or even the regular citizens when he was tired, but he continues to have compassion on them. He has compassion on a crowd of 4000 people and decides to feed them (15:32). He clearly has had compassion on those he heals … and basically has it on most everyone he meets.
Jesus is also called rabbi, meaning teacher. This means that he teaches, which he does a lot of in these passages as well. Sometimes when I read the teaching sections I imagine him saying it like with much gusto and really driving in the point, but other times I can envision him speaking gentler and with more evident compassion on his listeners. I especially see the latter in talking with his disciples.
So the teachings … he starts off by rebuking the Pharisees and telling them to quit bending the rules that they wanted and sticking to the other pointless ones like glue. He then goes on to further reiterate the point saying that it wasn’t necessary to purify themselves before they ate, saying that it was what they filled their heart with that made them clean. This always reminds me to be cautious to what I spend my time doing, what shows I watch, what music I listen to … because I don’t want to fill my heart and my mind with things that can lead me astray or cause my actions to be things that are not pleasing to God.
Jesus also talks about his own identity and death in this passage. It’s easy to think the disciples were thick not to understand what he was saying, but in reality no one fully understood the implications of what it meant to be the Christ. It then makes sense to me that Peter would try and tell Jesus to stop talking about his death, but clearly God’s thoughts and actions are far above my own (and Peter’s) understanding, and trusting, though hard, is the only way to go.
The disciples couldn’t have known the full implications of Jesus telling them to take up their cross and follow him at the time, and though I’ve heard it many times, it is always a reminder that each day and hour is a choice to follow Christ and not my fleshly desires.
Reflecting on this passage, I love how Jesus teaches through compassion and love for the lost sheep of Israel and for those who have faith like the Canaanite woman. Jesus-like compassion is something I must continually pray for – compassion that turns into action.