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BibleProject Podcast
BibleProject Podcast
Family of God • Episode 6
Jesus and the Gentiles
62m • January 4, 2021

Who did Jesus come for? Throughout the Gospel accounts, Jesus is laser-focused on Israel. Yet his ministry and even his family tree include many non-Israelite people. In this week’s episode, join Tim and Jon for a look at the family of God in the life of Jesus.

What You'll Learn:
  • Why Jesus came to Israel first
  • How lineage does not determine inclusion to God's family
  • How Jesus' resurrection extends his mission to all people
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What the woman does is pick up his riddle and then turn it back on him. And she’s like, “But you don’t starve your little puppy, you know? If the kids don’t finish their food, you give it to the puppy.” And Jesus says, “How great is your faith, O woman! What you asked for, it will be done.” All of a sudden Jesus doesn’t play hard-to-get anymore. It’s like the game is up, and all of a sudden he’s just super open with her. “What amazing faith!” He says to her what he says to the centurion.


  • As the story of the Bible progresses, Abraham’s family becomes just as fractured as the other nations and cannot fulfill its mission to the nations, which is why Jesus comes on a mission to Israel first.
  • Despite his mission to Israel, Jesus breaks down the idea that the new covenant family of God is determined by lineage. Rather, God’s family is made up of those who respond to God’s will revealed by Jesus.
  • After Jesus completes his mission to Israel and rises from the grave exalted as the new humanity, his mission explicitly extends to all nations.

Israel in Need of Rescue

In part one (0:00–11:00), Tim and Jon revisit God’s intended purpose for the family of Abraham: to be a blessing to others and peacemakers among the nations.

Abraham never fulfills this purpose perfectly, but he does have shining moments of partnering with God in his mission, like when he mitigates conflict with Abimelech by negotiating a covenant in Genesis 20.

Covenants are God’s given tool for creating unity. By facilitating a covenant, Abraham becomes a blessing to Abimelech’s people and a model of how to behave like family.

As the biblical story progresses, Abraham’s family becomes just as fractured as the other nations, which is why the prophets focus so much on the hope of the Messiah, who would reunite Israel and all people into one family.

Four Canaanite Women

In part two (11:00–24:30), Tim and Jon dive into the family of God theme in the Gospel according to Matthew, which opens with an patriarchal genealogy with four notable exceptions: the matriarchs Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and “the wife of Uriah” (Bathsheba).

Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth are all from unchosen people groups, and Bathsheba was married to a Hittite, yet they are key players in the Messiah’s lineage. Through unconventional means and surprising people, God is at work to accomplish his work in humanity.

“Jesus’ identification in Matthew 1 as the ‘Son of David,’ is capable of many meanings, but the presence of these gentile women highlights the inclusiveness of the Messiah’s role, to be a blessing to the nations as well as to save his own people from their sins…Is the Davidic Messiah’s role to be that of a new Joshua, who will again lead an obedient Israel to drive out the Canaanites?…Or do the Canaanite women in Jesus’ ancestry require a more positive relationship to gentiles? All this is at stake in Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28. She may as well have stepped out of the genealogy, in order to press her own claims on the line of David as Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba each did in their own way.” — Richard Bauckham, “The Gentile Forerunners of the Messiah,” in Gospel Women: Studies in the Named Women in the Gospels, 44.

Matthew wants his readers to keep God’s plan for all people in the back of our minds as he introduces us to Jesus.

Matthew 1:20–21
But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Jesus’ mission is to Israel, on behalf of all humanity. Just as God’s mission was to reach all nations through the family of Abraham, now Abraham’s family is in a state of covenantal exile, in need of rescue on behalf of all the nations.

Followers From All Nations

In part three (24:30–32:15), Tim and Jon examine the integral role non-Israelite people play throughout Jesus’ life and ministry.

Within Jesus’ earliest years, sorcerers from the East visit him, bearing gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The magi’s gifts come straight out of Isaiah 60, where the nations stream to the place heaven and earth are unified—presented here by Matthew as Jesus himself.

Isaiah 60:5–6
Then you will see and be radiant, and your heart will thrill and rejoice; because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you. The wealth of the nations will come to you. A multitude of camels will cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba will come. They will bring gold and frankincense, and will bear good news of the praises of the Lord.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, his teaching attracts a multi-ethnic crowd.

Matthew 4:23–25
Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.

Even though Jesus’ mission was first to Israel, members of the nations couldn’t wait to be a part of it.

“Matthew also wants his readers to know how widely word about Jesus spread (4:24–25)... [He] is also interested in the geographical distribution of this popularity...By ‘Syria’ Matthew probably means not the entire official province, but the region to the north-northeast of Palestine. Although many Jews lived in the Decapolis, these Jews’ hearing of Jesus in a predominantly Gentile region allows Matthew to point his readers to a geographically expansive Gentile mission.” — Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 158–159

The Nations in the Sermon on the Mount

In part four (32:15–40:15), Tim and Jon turn their attention to Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:14–16
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus draws imagery from Isaiah 2 and Isaiah 60, envisioning new covenant communities finally becoming what Isaiah believed they could be: a light on a hill to other nations.

After recounting the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew compiles a list of ten people in need of healing, one of whom is a Roman centurion.

Matthew 8:5–12
And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

This theme, represented first in the four Canaanite women present in his family tree, repeats throughout Jesus’ life: rejected by his own family, he finds a warmer reception with the families of the nations.

Jesus’ Laser-Focused Mission

In part five (40:15–48:00), Tim and Jon discuss Jesus’ laser-focused mission to Israel.

In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out his disciples. For the first phase of his mission, Jesus instructs his disciples to be just as laser-focused as he is upon Israel.

Matthew 10:5-7
These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go on the way of the nations, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’”

Despite his mission to Israel, Jesus intentionally breaks down the association that the new covenant family of God is determined by lineage.

Matthew 12:46–50
While he was still speaking to the crowds, behold, his mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to him. Someone said to him, “Behold, your mother and your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to you.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling him and said, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Behold my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus is making an earth-shattering claim: God’s family is determined by people’s response to the will of God as revealed by Jesus.

“In a peasant society, where familial relations provided one’s basic identity, it was shocking in the extreme. In first-century Jewish culture, for which the sense of familial and racial loyalty was a basic symbol of the prevailing worldview, it cannot but have been devastating. Jesus was proposing to treat his followers as a surrogate family. This had a substantial positive result: Jesus intended his followers to inherit all the closeness and mutual obligations that belonged with family membership in that close-knit, family-based society...This was not just extraordinarily challenging at a personal level; it was deeply subversive at a social, cultural, religious and political level.” — N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 278.

Another Canaanite Woman

In part six (48:00–end), Tim and Jon explore Jesus’ interaction with a Canaanite woman, who finds him when he retreats to a non-Israelite region to rest from ministry.

Matthew 15:21–28
Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and implored him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” But he answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and began to bow down before him, saying, “Lord, help me!” And he answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.

Jesus discerns the woman’s faith and tests her tenacity, and his silence compels this woman to keep chasing him down—not unlike Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, who all appear before male authorities with great courage and boldness.

When the Canaanite woman refuses to give up, Jesus immediately relents and gives her what she needs. By faith, non-Israelite people join his family too.

After Jesus completes his mission to Israel and rises from the grave exalted as the new humanity, his mission now explicitly extends to all nations.

Matthew 28:18–20
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Additional Resources

Show Music

  • “Shot in the Back of the Head” by Moby
  • “Artificial Music” by A Breath of Fresh Air
  • “Scream Pilots” by Moby
  • “Too North” by Lost Love
  • “Feather” by Waywell
  • “Defender Instrumental” by Tents

Show produced by Dan Gummel. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.

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Family of God E1  –  1hr 1m
God’s Global Family
1hr 1m
Family of God E2  –  56m
Our Collective Identity
Family of God E3  –  1hr 5m
What’s So Bad About Babel?
1hr 5m
Family of God E4  –  1hr 6m
Abraham, the Immigrant, and Circumcision
1hr 6m
Family of God E5  –  57m
Sibling Rivalry and Biblical Election
Family of God E6  –  1hr 2m
Jesus and the Gentiles
1hr 2m
Family of God E7  –  52m
Who’s In?
Family of God E8  –  1hr 6m
The Powerful and Not Powerful
1hr 6m
Family of God E9  –  1hr 5m
One Family Once More
1hr 5m
Family of God E10 Q+R  –  1hr 1m
Why Do Cain's Descendants Show Up After the Flood?
1hr 1m
An Interview featuring Dr. Esau McCaulley  –  52m
Reading While Black
An interview featuring Andrew Rillera  –  1hr 12m
Does the Church Supersede Israel?
1hr 12m
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