Matthew 15:21-28 – Table Scraps

Listen here.

Matthew 15:21-2821 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, for even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Several places in the Gospels, Jesus does or says things that make us uncomfortable. Matthew 13:58 is one: “[Jesus] could not do many mighty works [in Nazareth], because of their unbelief.” Mark 8:22-26 is another; Jesus lays His hands on a blind man to restore his sight. But when Jesus asks the blind man if he can see, he responds, “I see people, but they look like trees walking.”

Today’s text is a big one. You can’t get around the fact that in this text, Jesus is rude, racist, and just downright mean and insulting. This is one of those texts that can make us uncomfortable in a society where “tolerance” is the chief virtue. If you will allow me a baseball analogy, Jesus strikes this woman out on three pitches.

This Canaanite woman comes to Jesus for help – and not for herself. She cries out, “Kyrie Eleison! Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” What problem could she have that is more compelling? She’s not coming for her husband or even for her son; she is making a request on behalf of her poor daughter. Her daughter doesn’t need help because she’s done something wrong. A demon is oppressing her and oppressing her wickedly.

But what does Jesus do? Jesus gives her the silent treatment. “He did not answer her a word.”

Strike one.

The disciples come to Jesus, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” The disciples seem to want Jesus to give this Canaanite woman what she wants so they can get rid of her. Jesus responds with a quick response that, frankly, sounds racist. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In other words, Jesus directly tells the disciples (and indirectly tells the woman), “I’m not here to help the likes of her.”

Strike two.Jesus and the Syrophoenician Woman

Down in the count, the woman falls on her knees before Jesus. “Lord, help me.” If Jesus sounded apathetic before, His next words are downright mean. Jesus winds up and throws a killer screwball, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” You heard it right. Jesus just called her a dog – a dog unworthy of His help. Ok, it’s time to be offended. Time to slap Jesus in the face. Time to get on social media and ruin Jesus’ reputation.

It’s strike three, and she’s out in humiliating fashion.

But notice, she’s not offended. In fact, she agrees with Jesus. She says, “Yes, Lord. It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. Give the bread to Your children. But when the children eat, they get sloppy. And their sloppiness means we dogs eat too. Your bread is so good that even the crumbs are more than enough for me and my daughter. I’m not asking for their bread, all I need is one of their crumbs that carelessly falls on the floor.”

Not many things impress Jesus in the Gospels, but listen to what Jesus says, “O woman, great is your faith!” Great faith. What makes this woman’s faith great? There are two things about this woman’s faith that are a lesson for us.[1]

First, great faith knows who Jesus is. This woman is a foreigner – she is a Canaanite. As a Canaanite, she is outside of the promise God made through David’s Son. Jesus is Israel’s Messiah whom God had promised to send through David’s line. You see, “God doesn’t keep every promise [you] can think of. He only keeps the promises that He has made” (Gibbs). And, through faith, this woman knows that Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of Israel. It is not right to interrupt God’s plan by taking the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. But she doesn’t ask Jesus to do that. Because she knows who He is, she says, “Yes, Lord. For even the dogs eat the crumbs,” which brings us to the second thing that makes faith great.

Great faith knows that Jesus has something for you. That doesn’t mean that God will give you whatever you want. In fact, God may give you something you don’t want. Jesus is Lord, and you are not. Jesus has something for you, but it may not be what you want. If presented with the choice between bread and crumbs which would you chose? Yeah, bread every time.

Who here would chose to be saved by a God who sacrifices Himself in weakness and shame by dying on a cross? That way of salvation is silly; it is foolish. But, believer, that is the only salvation there is. That is the only salvation from sin, death, and the devil available to anyone.

You see, Jesus is Lord, and He does have something for you. He has given Himself, all of Himself, His body crucified and His blood shed – for you. To believe this is saving faith, and saving faith is always a gift of God.

And remember what Scripture says about faith – what this faith does for you – it makes you a child of God. John 1:12–13 12 But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Remember who Jesus is. Remember that you were separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But remember that He has something for you. Christ Jesus, the Son of David, has brought, even you who were far off, He has brought you near by His blood. You are no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:12-13, 19). Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] For these two things that faith believes, I am indebted to Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs’ commentary and a sermon he preached on this text.

This entry was posted in Year A.

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