Matthew 14:1 – 16:12 has a particular structure to it.
(A) Herod’s rejection of the good news
(B) Jesus feeds 5000 men bread in compassion – Jesus is the bread that sustains life
(C) Jesus’ saving from the storm is met by Peter’s little faith – followed by the healing of many
The waves torment the disciples and the winds oppose them but Jesus stills both with a word – subduing the chaos
Peter does not believe Jesus’ word that he is who he is and instead tests God but the his unbelief reveals itself in his little faith.
(D) Jesus teaches about what makes unclean
(C) Jesus saves a Canaanite’s daughter from an oppressing demon – followed by the healing of many Gentiles
The Canaanite woman does not dispute the justice of the mysterious ways by which God works out His divine purpose, choosing one race and rejecting another. She does not argue that her needs make her an exception, or that she has a right to Israel’s covenanted mercies. On the contrary, she accepts the implied allusion to herself; and in the very humility of such acceptance she reveals her faith. She enters the parable and allows herself to be claimed by it. Within the parable she has met a living Lord with whom she has struggled and contended. She has sparred with Jesus as Jacob sparred with God at Peniel. … at least she may be allowed to receive a crumb of the uncovenanted mercies of God. Jesus refers to this woman as a dog in order to test her faith – is it a persevering only-him kind of faith. This woman’s contending with Jesus is a fulfillment of Israel’s vocation; she, a Gentile, is a true Israelite.
Peter in the storm and the Canaanite woman narratives are connected in three ways: (1) both involve chaotic and evil forces – whether the deep or the demon (tormenting, opposing, oppressing) (2) both involve Jesus’ life saving authority (3) the contrast between the Jewish man’s little faith and the Canaanite woman’s great faith.
(B) Jesus feeds 4000 Gentile men in compassion
(A) The religious leaders’ rejection of the good news.
One must be careful of their bread (their teaching)
What separates the two halves between Jew and Gentile is Jesus’ teaching about what makes a person unclean. Uncleanness is not by touch and eating of food as the Pharisees taught. Rather uncleanness is what comes out of the mouth proceeding from the heart. Jewish hearts may be defiled by what lies in the heart and Gentile hearts may be clean by great faith in Jesus.
Ultimately what makes clean is the work of Jesus on the cross – alluded to by the bookends of hostility by Herod and the Jewish leaders that will culminate at the cross.