Matthew 15:21-28


Matthew 15:21-28
A GENTILE WOMAN – Great Faith – Greek Mega!
A Hopeless Woman with Great Faith in Jesus / Lord Help Me!
 A key to unlocking this account in the Gospel of Matthew…  Is that the community and culture are important…  Contemporary American society is highly individualistic.  – 
 Most of the societies in the world still function as tightly knit communities. 
Our American thinking is…
“Cogito, ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am). 
Middle Eastern theologians reply, “I am, because we are.” 
 In the biblical accounts about Jesus, the surrounding community is a critical component in all that takes place 
The community’s presence must be factored into any interpretive effort.
For example… Look at Luke 16:20
Luke 16:20  (NKJV) 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,
Each day Lazarus “was laid at the gate” This means that he was too sick to walk but was respected by the community. He had a good neighbor 
As a result, his neighbors carried him daily and placed him at the gate of the rich man.
The CSB translates:  But a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, was lying at his gate. (Luke 16:20  CSB)
Such a small change in the detail…  From “a poor man was laid at the gate” to “a poor man was laying at his gate. “
The caring community disappears 
But the community was part of the story. They would lay Lazarus at the gate. It changes the story drastically. 
  But in the account that we are looking at this morning… 
  the community is composed of the woman.
i.    Jesus is not simply dealing with only the woman; 
b.    Who else is watching this take place?
i.    The disciples… he is also interacting on a profound level with the disciples. 
ii.    AND We must take into account that the disciple’s are ordinary men
1.     who are entrenched in the larger communities, customs and traditions.. 
2.    Jewish traditions, We have to try and think like they would have thought… 
3.    The culture has a big influence on them. 

c.    Sometimes as we read accounts like this is the Bible… 
i.    We forget that the disciples are students who are 
1.    learning how to think and observing how the Master Teacher functions in this world. 
ii.    Jesus is constantly teaching these men who will one day be entrusted with his bride. 
1.    They are to pave the way, and bring the message of salvation to the world. 
2.    To go into all the world reproducing what they see Jesus doing and saying. 
3.    They are ordinary men.
a.    Now they are following Jesus around and there developing a new world view. 
d.    I want you to Dog ear that in your mind… 
i.    Filter this story through that point of view…
e.    Jesus means to pull the rug out from the way everyone thinks and he is taking old traditions and making them new. 
i.    We see this in the Passover meal and now we have the Lord’s supper.
ii.    Jesus pulled the rug out from a long-standing tradition and gives us a new meal with clearer and greater meaning.  
1.    Let’s set the scene… In the previous verses… After another clash with the Pharisees. 
a.    Jesus was explaining that defilement comes from the heart not external things...
i.    Its not what you eat or drink that makes you unclean… It’s a heart issue
ii.    The Disciples don’t fully understand what Jesus was teaching to the Pharsiees… 
iii.    So Jesus goes and finds a living object lesson and addresses the heart issues of the disciples… 
b.    Jesus moved out of the area of Galilee and he went in a most unexpected direction: 
i.    They are heading to an area that would be considered by their tradition as unclean. 
ii.    He just rips the band aid off…
21 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
2.    Tyre and Sidon were ancient cities on the Mediterranean coast
a.    These cities were cultural centers because they were major seaports. 
b.    Both cities still exist today and are part of Lebanon.
3.    It is significant that Jesus now goes into Gentile territory. 
a.    A gentile is anyone who is not Jewish…
b.    He is moving his teaching from what would have been for the most part a comfortable people group to an uncomfortable people group. 
i.    Who would have not been as friendly to the disciples... 
1.    Even hostile…
4.    The Jewish community was taught for generations to despise the gentiles. 
a.    This was generational bigotry. 
i.    It was engrained in their world view. 
b.    The disciples were not fans of going into gentile territory… 
i.    But, This is what they find…
22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” 
The word BEHOLD tells us that what you are about to read is extraordinary. 
1.    The woman begins with the traditional cry of a beggar, “Have mercy on me.” 
a.    There are two very big barriers that this woman is attempting to cross when she approaches Jesus. 
b.    One – She was a gentile… 
i.    Canaanites were considered to Israel as ancient enemies. 
1.    They were a perverse people who were in the land when Abraham arrived. 
2.    Because of the wicked they practiced in their religion
a.    Such as temple prostitution 
b.    Child sacrifice
3.    And because of their refusal to repent and turn to God. 
a.    They were viewed as street dogs. 
c.    The second barrier was that She is a woman, and Jesus is a man. 
i.    Even today in the Middle East, in conservative areas, men and women do not talk to strangers across the gender barrier. 
ii.    In public… rabbis didn’t even talk to female members of their own families. 
a.    What we are about to see and feel from how Jesus responds to this woman... 
i.    Is going to make us feel awkward. 
ii.    You will probably think... Jesus... he was a Jerk. Or a chauvinistic pig. 
b.    And so, to avoid any ill, incorrect or false thoughts about Jesus. 
c.    I want you to keep two things in mind. 
That our Lord responded to this woman as He did, not to destroy her faith, but to develop it. 
Jesus was not only speaking to this woman but also to his disciples. 
Christ responded to this woman’s plea in four different ways: first, He was silent; 
23 But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” 
a.    Jesus responds to the woman’s request with silence. 
i.    Jesus chooses to give her an exam. 
2.    Jesus has given out exams before. 
a.    When dealing with the man who lay for thirty-eight years beside the pool…
i.    Jesus asks, In John 5:6 “Do you want to be healed?” (Jn 5:6). 
b.    The reason for the exam is to say to the paralyzed man, 
i.    “You have survived as a beggar for years. 
ii.    If Jesus heals you, you will have your livelihood stripped from you because no one will give to a healthy man. 
iii.    Are you ready for the new responsibilities that will come with healing?”
Not only are exams familiar.. but also the disciple’s attitudes when Jesus is interacting with a woman we have seen before…
1.    We see this in John 4:27 the disciples return to Jacob’s well only to find Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman. 
John 4:27 (NKJV) 27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”
a.    We see this same tension with the Canaanite woman in today’s verses. 
b.    Except in the account of the woman at the well… the disciples wanted to ask, “Why are You talking with her?” 
i.    Basically saying… “Would you like us to get rid of her?”
1.    But they chose to not question Jesus.
c.    That same urge to ask Jesus if they should get ride of the woman... comes up again… 
i.    but in this scene today with the Canaanite woman here the disciples are bolder… 
d.    “Send her away” they demand.
1.    But he doesn’t... Because Jesus is about to teach his disciples with a powerful living illustration 
a.    He doesn’t lecture them about negative stereotypes. 
b.    He doesn’t send the woman away.
c.    He doesn’t, sit the disciple’s down and have a talk with them.
d.    He doesn’t even rebuke them.
2.    Here why..
a.    The disciples are learning how to think… 
b.    Their hearts are about to be exposed…
In the very verses before this one.. Jesus says its not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man but what comes out. 
Jesus is showing the disciples what’s in their hearts. 
Christ responded to this woman’s plea in four different ways: first, He was silent; then He refused; 
24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
a.    Jesus was voicing, and exposing, deeply held prejudices buried in the hearts of his disciples. 
2.    The door was slammed in her face
a.    Moms in the room... Do you think she just gave up?
i.    This woman did not leave… 
The woman does not move… “No Jesus. I’m not leaving. I know you can do this… I’ve heard the great stories my neighbors have told me.” Here is what she did…
25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
3.    I admire the patience and persistence of this Gentile mother.  
a.    She came before Jesus as a humble woman needing help, and she offered no argument. 
b.    Then she said the three words that are among the most important words any human being can utter in the presence of Jesus: “Lord, help me!”
i.    She recognized Him as God incarnate and appealed to Him for help. 
1.    She did not want any sort of recognition. 
2.    She did not care what Jesus said to her or how He seemed to treat her. 
3.    She was convinced that He was the only hope for her daughter, so she kept pressing Him for help.
4.    Her response is both moving and magnificent. 
a.    As a care taker who is probably exhausted. 
i.    Who has sought help from everyone. 
ii.    Looked for answered everywhere. 
b.    With the sobbing screams of her child ringing in her ears, she kneels before Jesus and reduces her request to, “Lord, help me!” 
c.    Only the hardest of hearts would be unmoved as you watch this woman. 
5.    But… Jesus chooses to take the attitudes of the disciples and makes them watch where their line of thinking will lead. 
a.    He presses into the matter to prove that the logical conclusion is absurd. 
Jesus is teaching the disciples how to think for themselves. 
He is developing a new world view.. a kingdom world view
Basically, Jesus tells the disciples, “You will be happy if I get rid of this woman, and limit my ministry to Israel. Ok…, Watch where your theology leads us. This will give you a chance to observe the response of this ‘unclean’ Gentile woman.”
6.    This is an awkward living illustration… A woman crying out for help at Jesus’ feet worshiping him…
a.    This is shocking when put into words and seen vividly played out in front of the disciples…
i.    As their line of thinking is thrown in the face of a desperate, kneeling women pleading for the sanity of her daughter.
b.    It is intensely embarrassing to hear and see your deepest prejudices verbalized and demonstrated. 
c.    Evil cannot be redeemed until it is exposed. 
i.    In his dialogue with the woman Jesus exposes deep prejudices in the hearts of his disciples.
ii.    They are forced to face those biases.
d.    Contemporary history has a lot of examples of this from Gandhi to Martin Luther King.
e.    Its powerful and culture shaking… 
Christ responded to this woman’s plea in four different ways: first, He was silent; then He refused; then He seemed to rebuke her;.
26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” 
1.    The language Jesus uses is strong. 
a.    Dogs were not pets. 
2.    The awkwardness has been kicked up a notch
a.    Now the harsh language does carry a touch of gentleness. 
b.    Jesus speaks of the kynarion.
i.    Translated “little dogs,” 
c.    but don't assume the term is a compliment. 
i.    Try telling your wife she looks like a yorkie...
3.    Jesus was correct when he said that it would NOT be right for the parents to take the food that was intended for the children and give it to the dogs. 
Also note that the disciples haven’t said another word… 
This is awkward for them... 
They are seeing their sinful hearts and thoughts on display. 
They are witnessing their world view in living color.
Her exam has reached its most demanding section.
4.    How will she respond? 
a.    Will she bark back with an insult against the proud Jews who despise and verbally attack Gentiles. 
i.    Or is her love for her daughter
1.    her faith that Jesus has the power of God to heal
2.    her confidence that he has compassion for Gentiles 
a.     so strong that she will absorb the insult and press on?
This Canaanite woman knew she needed Jesus, so she replied with a simple but urgent plea. 
27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 
She was willing to take even the crumbs from Jesus’ table.
We can paraphrase her reply: “It is true that we Gentiles do not sit at the table as children and eat the bread. But even the little dogs can eat some of the crumbs!” 
1.    She knew that He was the Lord, the Messiah.
a.    But equally important, she knew who she was. 
b.    That is why, when Jesus likened her to a dog, she did not protest. 
i.    She knew she was NOT one of Jesus’ people and He owed her nothing. 
ii.    She did not come with a sense of entitlement.
iii.    She did not come to Jesus with a chip on her shoulder.
iv.    She knew she had no right to His help. 
v.    She acknowledged herself to be a “dog” and said she was only hoping for a few crumbs to fall her way.
1.    The disciples are watching and listening and learning. 
a.    In all Israel they have not seen such total confidence in the person of Jesus.
b.    Her response is a deadly blow to their carefully nurtured prejudices against women and Gentiles. 
i.    A new pattern of who God is and to whom he extends his love (through Jesus) has been born as a result of this dramatic scene. 
c.    A whole new world is being opened up as Gods mission field as God now reveals fully that he is pursuing gentiles. 
i.    That he is pursuing you… 
d.    Those disciples are challenged to flip their thinking upside down and no longer see this woman as a dog but as a sister. 
Christ responded to this woman’s plea in four different ways: first, He was silent; then He refused; then He seemed to rebuke her; and finally He rewarded her faith.
28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
Ibn al-Tayyib was a medical doctor of the eleventh century in the Middle East. In his thoughtful thousand-year-old commentary he notes that the woman does not cry out,  ‘O Lord, have mercy on my daughter,’ but rather, ‘Have mercy on me.’ 
1.    This was because her daughter was not able to feel what the mother was enduring. The mother was in pain!” 
And then he notes that at the end of the story “Jesus does not say, ‘O woman your daughter is healed,’ but rather he says, ‘let it be to you as you desire.’ 
a.    This caregiver is at the end of her rope and she also needs healing. 
1.    Now listen carefully because this is an important note. Jesus says O woman, great is your faith! 
a.    To her, it was great faith because she had so little on which to build it. 
i.    In other words, she was a pagan 
1.    outside the covenant, 
2.    outside the law, 
3.    outside the promises, 
4.    outside the Word of God, 
5.    outside the Scriptures, 
a.    and she had been in an area where the Lord Jesus had not been doing His mighty deeds. 
b.    So based on the amount of content and information she had, her faith is great.
2.    On the other hand, when the Lord says to the disciples, 
a.    “Oh, you of little faith,” it is only little in a relative sense. 
i.    Relative to all they knew and to all they had been exposed to, 
1.    they should have had a greater faith. 
ii.    But in her case, this is great faith. 
She basically says, Lord, you’re the Creator, help me. I’m a creature
It says that she worshiped, and the word literally means, she bowed down and worshiped, she put her head in the dirt.
Jesus uses this great faith to forever put her on display in the scriptures and thus instituting a new way of thinking
 And this new way of thinking is loud and clear in Romans 10
Romans 10:12–13 (NKJV) 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” 
This now echoes for all generations
This woman is Exhibit A of what it means to be a Christian. 
•    The only merit we have before a holy God is demerit.
•    The only advantage we have before a holy God is disadvantage
Our only hope to stand before a holy God is by appealing to His mercy and grace, for it is by His grace alone that anyone enters into His kingdom. 
We come to God with nothing but a life full of sin. 
Cry out to God.. “Lord Help me! I bring nothing to the table but would you give me a crumb?”