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A New Look at Jesus' Words to the Canaanite Woman

Sermon by John Leonard on Mar 5, 2017

Matthew 15:21-28

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Let me say again how thrilled I am to be with you here at First Pres. Jackson to renew old friendships, some people I haven’t seen in a number of years, and to make new friends. I am truly thankful to have had this opportunity to share with you. Our Scripture lesson this evening comes from Matthew, Matthew chapter 15. We’ll be looking at verses 21 to 28. Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, would You open our minds to understand Your Scriptures that we might see the lessons that You have for us in it. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Hear now the Word of the Lord:

“And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 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.’ 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.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ And he answered, ‘It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.”

Not a typical message, not a typical passage you’d expect to be read at a Missions Conference. I was teaching a Bible study for a group of men and there were several non-Christians in that group and after we read the passage one of these non-Christian men said – one of the reasons I like studying the Bible with non-Christians, they tell you the things we don’t dare say, he said, “It doesn’t sound to me like Jesus was acting very Christian in this passage.” This is one of those hard sayings of the Bible. How are we to understand what Jesus says here in light of everything else He says because this seems to be the exact opposite of everything He teaches in every other part of the Gospels. Well, I’m going to suggest to you that that’s the exact way we must understand the words of Jesus. In other words, we are not to take Jesus’ words literally, but He is speaking the exact opposite of what He means in order to make His point more clear and vivid.

Now, do we ever talk that way? Do you ever say the exact opposite of what we mean in order to make the exact opposite point? Well of course we do. I did it a couple of years ago when I was standing in the library of Westminster Theological Seminary. We just had our second snowstorm in a matter of a week and we had a lot of snow on the ground and I was standing next to a colleague and I said, “Oh great! Just what we needed – more snow!” Now, what did I mean by that? Well, if you had been reading those words without the context, you would assume that “Well, John loves snow. He’s happy to see another snowstorm on the way.” But I said, “Oh great! Just what we need – more snow!” in order to emphasize, by stating the opposite, that I really hate snow and wish there wouldn’t be any more of it.

Well, I’m not to not just suggest to you that’s the way we’re to read this passage; I hope to prove it to you in three ways. First, we’re going to look at the purpose of Matthew. Secondly, we’re going to look at the universal themes in the book of Matthew. Third, we’re going to look at the intricate structure of the narrative from Matthew 13:53 to 16:20. And hopefully, we’ll, in this way, understand the words that Jesus spoke to this Canaanite woman.

The Purpose of Matthew

Now it’s very important for us to understand that there is a purpose to the book of Matthew. In fact, Matthew is called “the disciple-making gospel.” It’s a disciple-making gospel because it’s all about making disciples. In fact, Matthew 28:19-20 is the capstone of everything that’s taught and said in the book of Matthew. “Go and make” what? “Disciples.” Jesus comes as the master Disciple. He does exactly what a disciple is to do in the opening parts of the book. He comes and presents Himself to be baptized. He then goes out and faces temptation and succeeds and then He goes and He preaches the Gospel. Jesus is making His disciples. It’s interesting that scholars in the book of Matthew will say that Matthew is divided up into five major discourses. Why five major discourses? You have the book of Moses, the Law, which contains how many books? Come on; you’ve got to speak to me. (Five) Very good; thank you. And so this is Jesus’ Torah. He’s making His disciples in these five major discourses in the book of Matthew. And so Jesus is making His disciples and they, in turn, are going to make disciples.

Jesus is Making Disciples

Now, what does He want His disciples to be like? What does He want us to know? How does He want us to live? And He mainly teaches us this in opposition in contrast to what group of people. To the Pharisees. You see, Jesus’ whole point is, “Don’t be like the Pharisees!” In the Sermon on the Mount, He says, “Don’t pray like them. Don’t give like them. Don’t fast like them.” But most importantly, what Jesus teaches us about not being like the Pharisees is He said, “Don’t be so hard-hearted and compassionate less as they are.” Remember all those times Jesus says, “Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice”? And so that’s the whole point of Matthew’s gospel is that he is writing this gospel showing us that Jesus is the master Disciple and the master discipleship maker and showing us that we are not to be like the Pharisees but we are to be like Jesus who is the exact opposite of what the Pharisees were. So that’s the purpose of the book of Matthew – Jesus is making disciples.

Universal Themes in the Book of Matthew

The second thing we learn from the book of Matthew is its universal themes; its universal themes. Now what’s fascinating about the book of Matthew is that it’s the most Jewish of the book and it’s also the most anti-Jewish of the books, of the gospels. It’s the most Jewish in its flavor and nature but it’s the most hostile to the Jewish people. And one can understand that because Matthew was a tax collector so the Jews didn’t like him to begin with and then when he was converted to a Christian they liked him even less. But what we find in the book of Matthew is that this remarkably Jewish book holds the Gentiles up in very high esteem. In fact, when the gospel of Matthew opens it opens in a very Jewish way with a genealogy. But this genealogy that is very Jewish is very un-Jewish in a lot of ways because there are four women in that genealogy. And you know those four women. Two of them are Canaanite women, then you have a Moabite and you have the wife of Uriah.

Gentiles Portrayed Positively

What’s also interesting is that throughout the book of Matthew what we find is that the Gentiles are portrayed in a positive light but the Jews are portrayed in the very negative light. So for example, the first people to come and worship and recognize Jesus Christ is who? It’s the Magi. Those people have come to the East. Think about the contrast with that with the people in Jerusalem – Herod and the people of Jerusalem. When the Magi showed up in Jerusalem and they announced, “We’ve come to worship the King who has been born. We saw His star in the East,” it says, “And all of Jerusalem was troubled.” And so when they saw the star and worshiped the child in Bethlehem, it says they did so “with exceedingly great joy,” while at the same time Herod was extremely disturbed. In fact, the response of the Magi is that they gave Him gifts. The response of Herod is that “We’ve got to kill this challenge to my authority.”

Irony in the Book of Matthew

Now when is the last time that Jewish children were being killed by a king? In Egypt. The irony in the book of Matthew is that where does Jesus have to go for protection? Egypt. You see, Israel is dangerous; foreign lands are safe. Now it’s interesting when Jesus is brought back by His father and mother they want to settle in Bethlehem but they dare not, because, Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, is there and he’s worse than his father. So they have to go up to Galilee. That’s interesting because Galilee is described in the book of Isaiah as “Galilee of the…” What’s the word? It’s “Galilee of the Gentiles.” See, that’s not pure Jewish lands. It’s kind of marginal, liminal space. And it’s just not the place that good Jewish people want to be but it’s the only safe place for Jesus to hide. And instead of Jerusalem being the city of the great king, when Jesus comes to the top of the hill and overlooks Jerusalem for that last time, what does He say? “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How I long to gather you under my wings like a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not.” He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! The city that” what? “Stones and kills the prophets.” You see, Jerusalem is a dangerous place and it will prove to be just that.

The Gentiles Great Faith

What’s interesting as you read through the book of Matthew is that it’s the Gentiles that have great faith. The only two Gentiles, the only people who are ever said to have great faith in the book of Matthew are a Roman centurion, the New Testament enemy of God’s people, and a Canaanite woman in our story, the Old Testament enemy of God’s people. In contrast to their great faith, what does Jesus say about the faith of the Jews? That they have no faith. “You demand a sign.” But they don’t believe. Also, what’s interesting in contrast to the great faith of the Gentiles is how are the disciples often described – people of “little faith.” And so the Gentiles have this very positive role in the book of Matthew, whereas it’s negative when it comes to the Jewish people themselves. So we have these very positive roles of the Gentiles in the book of Matthew.

Jesus’ Universal Message

Also what we find in the book of Matthew is that Jesus is that Jesus’ teaching is universal. What’s interesting is that Jesus is always teaching about the kingdom of heaven. Now what’s interesting about that phrase is that the other gospels, synoptic gospels – Luke and Mark – refer to it as the kingdom of God. Matthew refers to it as the kingdom of heaven. Now what scholars will tell you is that the reason he uses “kingdom of heaven” is because he’s protecting himself from violating the commandment about not taking the Lord’s name in vain so he uses heaven rather than the name of God. I would suggest that there’s another reason that he uses that term. He does not want God’s kingdom to be confused with an earthly kingdom because, you see, the Jews believed that what was most important was the earthly kingdom that God was going to establish through them. Jesus said, “No, this is not about your earthly kingdom. This is about a heavenly kingdom so you can’t get confused with an earthly kingdom.” And now this teaching on the kingdom of God has no ethnic dimension to it. It has not ethnic dimension to it. In fact, when John the Baptist shows up he says, “Who told you, scribes and Pharisees, to repent? God doesn’t need you as sons of Abraham. If God wants sons of Abraham, what will He do? He will raise them up from these stones.”

Jesus’ Call Has No Ethnic Dimension

And throughout the book of Matthew what we find is that Jesus’ call has no ethnic dimension. In the Sermon on the Mount, the beatitudes say nothing about where one comes from. It’s, “Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” When He calls His disciples, there’s no ethnic dimension to that. He says, “I will make you fishers of men.” When He speaks about those who follow Him you have the trees that bear good fruit and the tree that bears not good fruit. You have the net that’s thrown into the sea and it catches all kinds of fish. You have those who deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Christ and those who save their lives for their own sake. There’s no ethnic dimension to this new people of God. And Jesus actually blows this whole thing that somehow these people are special because of the blood that is in them rather than the blood that is one them, that is, the blood of Jesus Christ when He redefines the family.

You will remember in Mark chapter 12 when Jesus is preaching in a little house and it’s full and Jesus’ mother and brothers and sisters are outside and they send word to Jesus that, “Your mother and brother and sister are outside and they want to come in.” Now, why did they do that? You see, they believed that because they were related to the preacher they’d have front row seats; they’ve had backstage passes. They’ve have some type of special access to Jesus Christ. But what does Jesus say? “Who is My father, mother, sister and brother? Is it not those who do the will of My Father in heaven?” And on the last day in the day of judgment, Israel has no special place on that Day of Judgment. In fact, all Jesus says is that the nations will be called before Him and He’s going to – what? Separate the sheep from the goats; the sheep from the goats.

We Are All Brothers

So in this universal teaching of Jesus Christ, the most radical part of this teaching is the thing that we take most for granted. We say it all the time in the Lord’s Prayer when we call God “our Father.” You see, Jesus said, “We all have one God who is our Father and we all are brothers.” Now let’s not confuse that with the old liberal teaching of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of mankind, but the point is, is that it’s not about our DNA; it’s about Christ who is our Savior. So we find that Jesus, through His teaching, this universal teaching, blows the ethnic understanding of the people of God completely out of the water.

The Intricate Structure in the Narrative of Matthew

Now the next thing that we see in this passage is that Jesus has created through this new description a new category of humanity because He is calling people to join His new assembly, the Church. He’s calling people to join that new assembly. Now, this brings us to the handout that you have before you. We’ve looked at the purpose of the book of Matthew is to teach us how to be disciples. We’ve looked at the universal teaching in the book of Matthew. And now we’re going to look at the intricate structure of the passage that we’re looking at this evening. This passage in Matthew is a section of Scripture that begins in Matthew 13:53 and it ends this way – “And after He had finished saying these things.” The end of the parables of the kingdom. It ends in Matthew 16:21 where Jesus says, “From that time on.” Or Matthew says that. So what you have in this section is two clear markers of where it begins and where it ends. Furthermore, those who have done a lot of study in synoptic gospels will say that Matthew has been very free with the material about Jesus’ life and teaching. But when it comes to this section of Scripture, it’s almost as if Matthew just cut and paste the whatever documents they were using about the ministry of Jesus Christ. So Matthew now returns to a very traditional structure.

A Chiastic Structure

Now, look at this structure with me. I believe there is a chiastic structure in this section and it’s rather remarkable because the section begins with a confession at Nazareth. What’s the confession? Well, the confession is, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” Now, what was Joseph? A carpenter. I don’t like that translation. The better word would be he was a “construction worker.” If you have a picture of Jesus sitting at a little woodshop making chairs with tables, that’s not what Jesus was. He was a construction worker. A construction worker at the time of Jesus would have been working with what kind of things? Stone, beams, wood. This is important because this section begins with a confession of the people in Nazareth and it ends with a confession of Peter. It says, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And then what does Jesus say? “No longer are you to be called Peter. And upon this” – what? “Rock I will build my church.” And so Jesus is proving Himself to be the son of the builder but who is that builder? It’s the great building God of the Old Testament who promises He will build the walls of Jerusalem.

Now, what’s interesting, at the beginning the people in Nazareth want to kill Him. At the end, Jesus talks about His death. Then you have two feedings. You have the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand. This is very important. In each of those, you have the disciples being people of little faith. Then you have Jesus healing many people before and after. Then you have the tradition of the elders contrasted with the story of the Canaanite woman. And if I redesign this chiastic phrase I would suggest to you that the turning point of this chiastic phrase is this story about Jesus declaring all food clean. Because do you know what separated Jews from Gentiles? What separated them? Food! The fact that they were unclean. Here’s the great irony! The thing which most separated the Jews and the nations was a table. But in the church of Jesus Christ, what brings the nations together? The Lord’s Table. You see, we gather at that table to eat.

And so what you have in this particular passage of Scripture, I call it the hinge of the book of Matthew, you have the whole story of Matthew turning right here. Just like in the story of Peter in the book of Acts, when is Peter sent to his first Gentile to evangelize him? Right after he has what? Right after he has a vision that declares all food clean. And so what you have is Jesus declaring all food clean. It’s not the food that Jesus is declaring clean; it’s who? It’s the people.

Now what’s interesting is that you also have a geographical turn in this story because in this story what we find is that Jesus is the furthest away from Jerusalem that He will ever be in the book of Matthew, in Caesarea Philippi, the far north. Then He turns His face like a flint towards Jerusalem. So you have that real turn and then He starts heading for the cross.

Now also notice some of the themes that we find in this passage. Of the twenty-one times, bread loaves and crumbs are used in the book of Matthew, fourteen of the twenty-one of them are found right in our text. And if you look at your chart you’ll see where those are found. Also what we find is this idea of eating to one’s full. Now, do you know why I don’t go to the Old Country Buffet or the Hong Kong Buffet? You know why I don’t go there? Because I eat myself sick when I go there! It’s almost like I’ve been eating myself sick here every day! But the people, they ate themselves sick both times. They had everything they could ever want. Notice the contrast with those people eating everything they want, what does all the woman ask for? A few crumbs.

The Theme of Compassion

Now notice the next theme is compassion. Compassion runs through this section. In chapter 14 verse 4, Jesus is filled with compassion and what does He want to do? “I have compassion on this people. I don’t want to send them away. Let’s feed them.” He says the same thing in chapter 15 verse 32. “I feel compassion for these people. I’m not going to send them away. Feed them.” The disciples lack compassion in 14:15. They say, “Send the people away.” In chapter 15:5, the Pharisees lack compassion because they’re not even going to help their families that come and ask for help. In chapter 15:23, the disciples don’t want to help this woman; they’re compassionate less. In chapter 15:23-26 it seems like Jesus has no compassion at all. Then in chapter 15:32, “Jesus filled with compassion.” Notice there the contrast of faith. No faith by the people in Nazareth, little faith by Peter, little faith by the disciples in chapter 16, in chapter 15:28, “great faith.” People kept taking offense of Jesus. Jesus is withdrawing. What is fascinating in this passage is that Jesus is in His hometown and what do the hometown people want to do? They want to kill Him so Jesus withdraws. John the Baptist has been beheaded by Herod. Herod hears about the ministry of Jesus Christ. He’s interested in getting ahold of Jesus; Jesus withdraws. In chapter 15 Jesus offends the Pharisees who come for the first time to hear Him from Jerusalem and Jesus offends them and He withdraws. Jesus is constantly withdrawing for His own protection. And then notice the revelation that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is clearly revealed right here in this passage.

Painting the Scene

So we have this very intricate structure in this passage and the very middle of it Jesus says these things that we do not understand. So let’s try to put the story together. Let’s paint the scene. Jesus has withdrawn to the border of Tyre and Sidon because people are out to get Him. So He goes there for safety. Now my problem is, is that when liberals look at this passage they say Jesus has a problem. “He’s not quite sure of who He is and what He is to do because all He is, is a 1st-century misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic.” He sounds like a Republican, doesn’t He? Well, we think Jesus is a Republican, don’t we? “And so He’s not quite sure what He’s supposed to do and so Jesus has a problem and this woman helps Jesus with it. Isn’t it nice this woman helps Jesus with His problem?” Evangelicals say Jesus is trying to show the great faith in the woman and so this story is about bringing the great faith out of the woman. You know what no one ever says? What this story is really about. It’s about you and me; it’s about the disciples of Jesus Christ. And Jesus is testing them to see what they have learned because pretty soon they’re going to be on their own and He’s got to see how they’re doing. And all throughout this passage, Jesus has been testing His disciples. And so when Jesus, when this woman comes to Him and shouts out, “Help me! My daughter is cruelly demon-possessed,” Jesus is quiet, because, a great teacher, when He’s teaching and doesn’t say anything, He’s quiet because? Because? He wants an answer! He’s quiet. “Let’s see what you’ve learned.”

Jesus Tests His Disciples

Let me show you where Jesus has been testing His disciples. In the feeding of the five thousand in John chapter 6, it says, “And Jesus said this to Nathaniel to test him.” Jesus sends His disciples out into the lake knowing there would be a storm in order to test them. Peter gets out on the water and Jesus says, “Come on,” in order to test him. Jesus will ask Peter, “Whom do the people say that I am?” in order to test them. Now how did the disciples do when Jesus fed the five thousand? What did they want to do? “Send the people away!” Failed that test! When they were out on the boat filled with fear; Peter walked on the water for a little while so we’ll give them a “C;” an “s-e-a”! He got it! He got credit for the first question – “Thou art the Christ; the Son of the living God.” But then he challenges Christ. He becomes the stone upon which Christ can build His church but when he says, “No, Lord, you can’t go and die,” he becomes a stumbling block. So all throughout this section, Jesus is testing His disciples. This is a test. Jesus wants to know what His disciples have learned. And what’s happening? This woman is crying out, “Help me, Lord. Help me, Lord. Help me, Lord.” What do the disciples say? “Send her away! Send her away!”

Now it’s fascinating in the Greek that the two phrases are identical. The way the woman is continually pleading for help is the same way the disciples are continually pleading to send her away. What’s fascinating in this section of Scripture, what we learn is that the disciples are more responsible for sending more people away from Christ than bringing people to Christ. So Jesus answers – we don’t know who because it doesn’t say – and He says, “I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” I’m going to answer that in just a minute, but at that time He must have stopped because what happens? The woman comes around in front of Jesus and what does it say that she does? She kneels before Him. Now that’s a poor translation. It’s the same word used for the Magi who come in and kneel before Jesus offering Him His gifts. But this kneeling before Him is really that she throws herself at His feet, she collapses at His feet, and what does she say? “Help me, Lord.” So imagine this woman is at the feet of Jesus, she’s looking up at Him saying, “Help me, Lord.” What are the disciples saying? “Send her away!”

The Great Irony

Now here is the worst part of this entire story. Do you know in this section of Scripture there is a disciple of Jesus Christ at the feet of Jesus with his hands in the air and he’s crying out, “Save me, Lord!” And when this woman is at Jesus’ feet doing the very same thing, he’s saying, “Send her away!” Can anyone tell me who that disciple was and what happened? It’s Peter in the water, just in chapter 14. How do you imagine that picture? Do you see Jesus just kind of floating over the waves a foot or two like this? How far down do you think Peter gets before he cries out for help? The waters have come up to his neck, so here’s Peter up to his neck in this water holding his hands out to Jesus and what does he cry out? “Save me, Lord!” What’s the woman asking for? “Help me, Lord!” And here’s the great irony. It’s that what Jesus did for Peter in saving him in that situation, he has no compassion to see that the woman is in a similar situation and he says, “Send her away!” This has everything to do with Matthew chapter 18 and the story of the unmerciful servant where one servant is forgiven a great debt and another servant is forgiven a little debt and what Peter shows is that he is the unmerciful servant; that the grace he has received in Jesus Christ he refused to give to this woman. Have you ever seen the connection between those two stories before – Peter and this woman?

The Coming of the Nations

Now let’s deal with what’s said! Jesus said, “I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” I think what Jesus is doing here is He is putting a voice to the objections of His disciples. “We don’t want to help this person because she is not one of us.” Now it is true that Jesus sent His disciples out in Matthew chapter 10 and said, “Only go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” but that’s only a theological half-truth. You see, what we learned this morning and what we’ve learned probably in this Missions Conference is that when the Messiah comes to Israel the nations are going to come and worship God. What’s unbelievable for the Jews is that long before they received the Messiah the nations are coming anyway. The nations were the first to come in the Magi; they continue to come to Jesus. And the irony is that Israel doesn’t want its own Messiah. The rejection of Christ by Israel does not thwart the coming of Christ and His Messiahship.

Now let me ask you – Do we use theological half-truths to be disobedient to the will of God in our lives? Absolutely! We’ve got the greatest theology in the world to be disobedient and hide behind. We’re reformed! Do you know what that means? I don’t have to pray because God’s got it all worked out. I don’t have to evangelize because God’s already elected who’s going to be elected! I don’t have to do anything because what’s going to be is what’s going to be! And so we hide our sin behind theology. And I would say that Jesus is saying that. Now if you had been with Jesus that day, you should have corrected Him. “No, Jesus! Don’t You remember what You said to the Roman centurion? You said that many will come from the east and the west and dine at the table with the Lord. You’ve taught us how to read the Bible that nations are going to come and worship You. So that’s not the whole story.”

Folk Wisdom

Now the next thing that Jesus says is folk wisdom, not theology. “You can’t take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” You know why you don’t take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs in ancient times? Because you are one crop failure from starvation. The fact that you had enough to eat today doesn’t mean you’ll have enough to eat in three months because if your crop fails your family will die. You look around your table at the three or four children that you have; by summer, one of them is not going to be there, or maybe two or maybe three or maybe all of them. You see, when Jesus said, “Go into your room and pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’” you were praying for your daily bread because the cupboard was bare. And so Jesus says you can’t take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.

Now when Jesus says that right here in this passage, why should you laugh out loud? Why should you laugh out loud when Jesus says you can’t take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs? It’s because they’re spread everywhere. Jesus just said five thousand people; how many baskets left over? Twelve. Jesus will after this feed four thousand people and seven baskets will be left over. Where are those twelve baskets of leftover bread? Now I know they’re not with the disciples because in chapter 15 they’re going to the grain field picking grain. But I like to imagine each disciple having a large basket of bread and Jesus says, “You can’t take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs! There’s not enough bread to go around! If we give bread to you, there’s not going to be enough bread for us!” And the disciples, with their big basket of bread, “No, not enough bread here for us! Not enough bread here for you!”

Do you know what’s so foolish about saving bread? It’s no good after a couple of days! Did you know that when we lived in France, every night our dog got every piece of bread in our house! Do you know why? Because in France in the morning they bake new bread! You get warm bread! You get good-tasting bread! And what the disciples should have said is, “Jesus, yes, she may be a dog because she’s a Gentile, but we’ve got lots of bread.” In fact, in the feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand, there are the communal overtones to that because He takes bread, He breaks it, and He blesses it. And so these are spiritual blessings. And what Jesus is saying is that the spiritual blessings of God do not have to be rationed in the kingdom of God. Contrast that with what the Pharisees do in chapter 15 when they say they can’t help their own parents.

Our Lack of Compassion

You see, this passage is a rebuke to each and every one of our hearts because what it tells us is that we are far too compassionate less and we don’t really care about people who are not like us. If you have compassion for your own, are you really compassionate? But also, Jesus says you’re not people of faith because you believe the blessings of God are rationed, that there’s not enough to go around. You know, it’s amazing to me the faith that your Missions Committee in step of faith they are taking in asking you to give generously and sacrificially to the missions budget. It’s a step of faith. And there’s probably people here thinking, “You know, there’s not enough to go around.” But you know the blessings of God aren’t limited. They are in abundant supply and there’s plenty for everybody. And so Jesus says you can’t take the bread and throw it to the dogs. And what does the woman say? “Oh, even the dogs eat the crumbs from the table.” And if you were there you would say, “Well Jesus, what You said to the Roman centurion is that many will come from the east and the west and they’ll not eat crumbs on the floor; they’ll sit at the table of our Lord!”

Well you see, I believe this passage shows us that the disciples needed a lot of work. And if you read this chapter thinking there’s something wrong with Jesus or there’s something wrong with this woman and you don’t see that this passage is really about your heart, if you didn’t say when Jesus said that, “No, Lord. You said the nations would come,” or if you didn’t say, “No, Lord! There’s plenty of bread to go around,” then there’s a lot of work that Jesus Christ has to do in your heart as well. Jesus’ words to this Canaanite woman must be taken as the exact opposite thing they meant because of everything that’s going on in this chapter. The good news is that the blessings of God are not limited by our resources but by a God who gives us all that we need when we need it. Would we be people of faith this evening, would we be people of compassion like our Lord Jesus Christ, and would we reach out to all knowing that we’ll have everything we need when we do His work.

Let’s pray!

Our great God and heavenly Father, we ask that You would bless us because we are a needy people. We stand guilty and condemned before You like these disciples who are too quick to say, “Send them away; they’re not our type. We don’t want them here.” And would You help us to have this faith of knowing that there’s plenty of bread to go around? There’s plenty of resources to go around that You give us what we need as we need it. We ask all these things in Jesus’ name, amen.

© 2017 First Presbyterian Church.

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