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Jesus and the Gentiles


When Jesus sent out 12 apostles during his public ministry, he instructed them, “Do not go into Gentile territory and do not enter a Samaritan town” (Mt 10:5). The focus of Jesus in proclaiming the gospel was in Galilee and Judea where settlers were predominantly Jews. Galilee had Gentile settlements around it. Its pagan neighbours were Phoenicians in the west, Syrians in the north and the east, and Samaritans in the south. Jesus went to these areas once in a while to be free from the Jewish crowd in Galilee and Judea so he could rest or spend time with his disciples. However, he was generous in helping the suffering people in those areas during such visits. If Jesus had given equal importance to the Gentiles at first, he could not get acceptance among the Jews who had a negative attitude towards them.

The major encounters of Jesus among the Gentiles were:

1. Matthew, who wrote for a Jewish audience, documents the visit of the gentile wise men when Jesus was an infant (Mt 2:1-12).

2. Jesus appreciated the faith of a Roman Centurion and healed his paralyzed servant at Capernaum (Mt 8:5-13; Lk 7:1- 10). During this event, Jesus prophesied the salvation of the gentiles who would dine with the patriarchs in the Kingdom of Heaven. “I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth” (Mt 8:11-12). Thus, Jesus envisioned the inclusion of the Gentiles in his Church soon.

3. While Jesus visited Gadarenes, he healed two demoniacs (Mt 8:28-34; Mk 5:1-20; Lk 8:26-39).

4. Jesus went to Tyre and Sidon, where a Canaanite woman pleaded for her demon-tormented daughter. After assessing her faith, Jesus healed the sick girl (Mt 15:21-28; Mk 7:24- 30).

5. From Tyre, Jesus went to the district of the Decapolis where he healed a deaf and mute man whom people brought to him for healing (Mk 7:31-37).

6. According to Mark, the feeding of 4,000 might have happened in the Decapolis region after preaching to the Gentiles for three days (Mk 8:1-9).

Thus, Jesus never excluded the Gentiles from salvation and cure, but was beginning his ministry with the Jews and then extending to all the nations.


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