Title: The Cure
Text: Matthew 15:21-28
FCF: We often struggle understanding the ongoing nature of our faith
Prop: Persistent faith seeking only mercy is honored, so we must possess this kind of faith.
Scripture Intro: - ESV
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew chapter 15. Today will be a rather difficult sermon for some of us to handle. Today we will see a Jesus that does not appear to fit our paradigm of who Jesus is. No doubt it will be somewhat challenging for some of you and I’d ask that you hang with me to the end. Start reading with me in verse 21 of chapter 15. Today I will be reading from the ESV, but follow along in whatever version you like.
The last two weeks have been difficult sermons. Seeing the deficient faith of Peter, the best of the disciples, as he actually walked on water… for a few steps. But he still sank. Jesus rescued him, and like a good father, he told Peter why he sank… Your faith was insufficient. Then Jesus tried to get him to think about why his faith was insufficient, asking, Why did you doubt? Then we see the disciples again, not understanding a basic parable that Jesus had already kinda explained once. Only to find a truly dissatisfying and distressing explanation. That the reason mankind is capable of so much evil. The reason that men can do terrible things to each other. The reason defilement seems so prevalent even when you are trying to be spiritually clean, is because, of who we are. We are wicked. Our wickedness flows out of the spring of our wicked heart.
After seeing these two depressing episodes in the life of Jesus and His disciples, we need a pick me up. And although it may not seem like it at first – Matthew has the cure for what ails us. Because this next episode, while confusing, and perhaps even a bit infuriating at first – is the pinnacle of this entire narrative section.
Today we see someone understand. Today we see someone get it right. But the who and the how, may be difficult to handle. Let’s look in verse 21.
I.) Jesus does not honor a plea of mercy and an expression of faith, so we must possess this kind of faith. (21-23A)
a. [Slide 2] 21 – And Jesus went away from there and withdrew
i. Perhaps the pressure of the Pharisees, or perhaps because He never really got that rest that they were looking for before, Jesus now withdraws.
ii. In Mark we see that he withdrew and was, almost, hiding out in a house so no one would know. But… that doesn’t last long as we’ll see.
b. to the district of Tyre and Sidon
i. [Slide 3] Both of these cities were coastal cities on the Mediterranean Sea. As you can see on the map.
ii. Both of them were predominantly gentile populated cities and were infested with pagan worship of numerous gods.
iii. And one question that comes up is, Is Jesus is going to a gentile city to rest? Maybe.
iv. We do also see the word district or region here in the text – so maybe He never got to the city limits.
v. But if your mission is to Jewish people, doesn’t it kinda make sense that going to a gentile city would equal rest?
vi. As a kinda off topic application here… Jesus recognized the need for vacations. Work hard… but take breaks. That was free. You didn’t have to pay for that application. I like to throw in free stuff occasionally. J
vii. Moving on…
c. [Slide 4] 22 – And behold a Canaanite woman
i. Canaanite is a somewhat archaic term here.
ii. What I mean by that is that there was no such thing at this time as a Canaanite. That would kinda be like someone calling you a Roman
iii. Do you have Roman descent? Doesn’t everybody? But to call you Roman is just not quite accurate enough.
iv. So why did Matthew call her a Canaanite?
v. Ok so who is Matthew writing to? Jews either saved or unsaved. And would there be any images conjured in the mind of a Jew when you mention Tyre, Sidon, and Canaanite in the same sentence? UHHH YES!
vi. Matthew’s intention is to illicit feelings of contempt and reviling. He wants His readers to feel in their gut a steaming ball of hate for this woman.
vii. Perhaps his readers would ask, Why has Jesus gone here, and why is this woman approaching Him. If he truly was the Son of Man – surely He wouldn’t be caught dead here with these gentile dogs.
d. 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.
i. Let’s look at the four components of what she said.
1. Have mercy on me. Asking for mercy reveals 3 things about you.
a. You understand that you have a need that cannot be met by anyone – especially not yourself. Humility.
b. You understand that you do not deserve to have the need met, in fact, you may understand that you deserve to be in need.
c. You understand that to have this need met, means you are asking the person meeting the need to be a bad judge in the sense that they do not give you what you deserve but grant you something better than you deserve.
d. All this points to the fact that - It is a desperate thing to beg for mercy.
2. O Lord. Before we jump to assume that she has faith at this point. It would do well for us to understand that Lord here simply means master. Again, she recognizes His authority over her. Which for a prophet from Galilee would probably be too high a title. So maybe some faith here.
3. Son of David. The seed of David is promised to heal the land and restore the people. He is promised to reign forever and bring prosperity. This title is Messianic and Eschatological (end times related)
a. Does she say this in faith? Is she saying this as if He is the Jewish Messiah?
b. Or is she saying this because she thinks it will butter Him up?
c. We can’t really know. But perhaps we don’t need to know. Where she is now in her faith is far less important than where we see her at the end of this episode. So let’s press on.
4. My daughter is severely oppressed by a demon
a. It is unclear what the condition of her daughter actually is.
b. We don’t know whether it is sickness, insanity, disability or otherwise.
c. Furthermore, we don’t know how a Canaanite would have assessed that it was demonic and not some other explanation.
d. What we do know is that she is desperately seeking a solution, not from pagan deities but from Jesus.
e. In this region there were many places for pagan healings and rituals to occur.
f. Whether she has tried them or not is uncertain, but now she comes to Jesus as her only hope.
ii. So in all of what she has said, for a Canaanite to call Jesus the Son of David would have been depressing to Jewish Christians and infuriating to Jewish unbelievers. To a Jewish Christian to hear a Gentile understand what many of their relatives did not would have been discouraging to say the least. And to Jewish unbelievers to have a Gentile dog call this man Messiah would have stirred the pot a bit.
iii. Based on the nature and character of Christ. Based on our evangelistic modes and methods. Based on everything we assume about Jesus, compassion, love, healing, kindness etc. What would Jesus do! WWJD for this woman?
e. [Slide 5] 23a – But He did not answer her a word.
i. No… I said what would Jesus do, not what would I do. Right?
ii. Oh – wait a second do I have the right book?
iii. Yep. The bible. Maybe it is the ESV. Probably a corrupt version right? Does your version include Jesus responding immediately to her? No?
iv. I guess when Jesus takes a vacation, He takes a vacation?
v. The title of this message was almost “Jesus the Jerk” but I thought that might be a bit prickly. Especially for people who see it on our website and choose not to listen.
vi. What happened here?
f. A Canaanite woman came to Jesus in humility and faith, begging for mercy, and Jesus wouldn’t even talk to her. That is what happened.
Does this shatter your view of Jesus? Are you surrounded with thoughts of THAT’S NOT MY JESUS. There has to be an explanation. Well buckle up. We aren’t done.
II.) Jesus does not relieve the irritation of His disciples because of His mission, so we must possess this kind of faith. (23B-24)
a. [Slide 6] 23b – And his disciples came and begged Him, saying “Send her away, for she is crying out after us”
i. The disciples of Jesus also come to Jesus begging.
ii. Although their motives are not quite as humble as the woman’s.
iii. It is clear they are mostly just irritated with her continued yelling. After all, they are trying to rest. It is vacation time, and it doesn’t seem like Jesus is responding anyway.
iv. And although it is unclear whether they are saying, send her away by granting her request or send her away without granting her request – it seems to make the most sense they mean the former.
1. First because before they suggested sending the crowd of 5,000 away to get their own food, and Jesus said, No! You get them something to eat. So maybe they took from that – alright don’t leave a need unmet. Got it!
2. Second, sending her away with silence wasn’t quite working and it would be a gamble at best that sending her away with direct command would work.
3. Lastly, by Jesus’ answer we see that they probably wanted Him to heal her daughter so she’d leave them alone. Because Jesus gives an answer and a reason for that answer.
v. So now His disciples, His followers, those whom were closest to Him, although not with the greatest of motives, are begging Jesus to heal this woman. The bible says that the fervent prayer of a righteous person avails much. That if we are persistent in our prayers we will be answered. That God will heal our land if we pray! His disciples, His followers, His church is asking, no, begging Jesus to perform this miracle.
b. [Slide 7] 24 – He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”
i. Translation, “No. I wasn’t sent here for her”
ii. But, God loved the world and sent His son that whoever believes might have everlasting life. Jesus… what are you thinking?
iii. Ok – well maybe we just need to understand what He is saying. Maybe there is something if we break it down.
iv. Jesus was sent – by the Father. He is the One who’s will supersedes all persons of the Godhead. So God the Father sent Him. Got it. For what?
v. To the lost sheep. Great. Everything is checking out so far. Jesus has been sent to seek and save those who are lost.
vi. Of the house of Israel. Wait a second. So, just because this woman is a Canaanite, Jesus won’t help her?
c. Matthew’s unsaved Jewish readers, and perhaps even saved Jewish readers – would have been kinda impressed and even pleased at Jesus’ response here.
d. Jesus seems to have the same kind of feelings about the Gentile dogs that Jews did. It wasn’t on mission. And He wouldn’t even consider helping by the request of His own followers.
e. And Matthew’s readers might be thinking “perhaps our hatred of gentiles is justified”
How is your image of Jesus holding up? Have you started second guessing that you know Him? Have you started assuming that I am speaking heresy? We aren’t done yet.
III.) Jesus rejects a worshipper asking for help because she is less than Jewish, so we must possess this kind of faith. (25-26)
a. [Slide 8] 25 – But she came and knelt before him,
i. She came running, no doubt through the arms of the disciples.
ii. She fell at his feet and worshipped Him.
iii. She assumed a posture of humility. She groveled in the dirt head on his feet.
iv. She became one with the dirt before Him.
b. Saying, “Lord, help me.”
i. The desperate cry and plea of a woman with no other hope
ii. She is broken and empty.
iii. Begging for the power of God on her life – Begging for the salvation of her daughter. Begging. Pleading.
iv. Surely Jesus would hear her and answer her now. SURELY JESUS WOULD HELP!
c. [Slide 9] 26 – And He answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
i. I’d imagine there was a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach at this point.
ii. Her only hope – the only chance she has for her daughter’s healing has told her no again.
iii. What is His reason?
iv. Let’s break down Jesus’ response.
v. It is not right. It is not just, proper, God’s will, in God’s order of how things should work. It is not godly.
vi. To take the children’s bread. The life, the sustenance, the provision. The means by which a child in the home would be raised and grown.
vii. And throw it to the dogs.
1. Many commentators try to blunt the sharpness of what Jesus says here. And they do so by many different means.
2. First they go to the word Jesus uses for dog here. Dog in the first century is notoriously used to indicate something that is unclean, unholy, or ungodly. We talked about this before in Matthew 7 where Jesus says not to give what is holy to dogs. He meant not to give the message of the gospel to those who hate it. However, Jesus uses a different word here which is little dog, or pet dog. Therefore Jesus is communicating a domesticated and probably loved dog. But, is this all that better? Israel is a child and Gentiles are their pets? Still pretty derogatory.
3. Seeing that, other commentators suggest that Jesus was smiling through this illustration. That although the text does not tell us, Jesus winked at the woman as He made this mild racial slur, indicating to her that He wanted her to engage with Him in a discussion. Again the difficulty here is that nowhere not even in Mark is there any indication that this was the case.
4. As a slave to the text then, I must leave this sharp. What does that mean?
d. Jesus is literally rejecting the request of help from a woman that is worshipping Him at His feet, simply because she is less than Jewish. Salvation is of the Jews. Another phrase said by Jesus to a Gentile.
i. Isn’t that kinda… racist?
ii. Another rejected title for this message “Jesus the Racist” – again – a bit to edgy even for me.
e. To a Jewish reader – again – they would be pleased with Jesus’ response here. In fact, they would often call the Gentiles, dogs. And it appears that Jesus agrees.
How is your image of Jesus doing? Is your faith shaken? Do you want me burned at a stake? Friends… we are still not done. J
IV.) Jesus answers her request because of her persistent faith that sought only mercy, so we must possess this kind of faith. (27-28)
a. [Slide 10] 27 – She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs
i. I agree with everything you said. You are right. Jesus, you are right. I surrender. I submit.
ii. I am a dog. I am not worthy. I am not included in these promises.
iii. I have no right to the fullest scope of the gifts that God has for His chosen people.
b. Eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
i. Per your own illustration, Jesus,
ii. The dogs must eat something.
iii. The children won’t eat it all. Perhaps they will have enough crumbs that they would otherwise discard
iv. Perhaps there would be something remaining for the ones who are only worthy to be fed when all others are full.
v. Perhaps Jesus, me and my daughter could only have a crumb?
vi. Again. This woman…. has humility. She sees herself in her desperate condition. She only wants mercy. What a desperate thing it is to beg for mercy.
vii. What now? What great insult does Jesus have prepared for this woman?
c. [Slide 11] 28 – Then Jesus answered her, “O, woman, great is your faith!
i. Oh, madam. Your faith is GREAT. It is HUGE. It is FULL.
ii. Why? Why was her faith so great?
iii. In humility, seeking only mercy, it persisted.
iv. Matthew defines for us great faith. Persistently humble desperation. Desperate Dependence and Sustained Surrender. That is Great Faith.
d. Be it done for you as you desire and her daughter was healed instantly.
i. Without effort and without strain, Jesus casts out a demon from a great distance.
ii. He need not know the demon’s name. He need not touch the afflicted’s skin. No holy water or swine are necessary.
iii. He simply wills it and she is healed.
e. [Slide 12 (blank)(end)] So why was Jesus acting the way He was prior to this? Was He tired? Did He have a bad day? Feeling cranky? Was He taking Ambien? If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry about it.
f. Last week we saw Jesus’ humanity seep through as He expressed His human shock at the disciples’ inability to understand the parable of defilement. This week has nothing whatsoever to do with His humanity. This passage talks about His divinity.
g. Several thousand years before the events we just studied occurred, God Himself promised something to a man by the name of Abraham. He told Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation and that all nations of the earth would be blessed through him. And just when it seemed that God had kept that promise, He commanded Abraham to take his son, his only son, up a mountain and to burn him as a sacrifice on an alter to God. Abraham was full of hope when he left, saying that God would bring them both home. But I’d imagine that as he raised the knife, there was the faintest thought of – this doesn’t seem like you God. Of course we know the end of the story. God stopped Abraham before he killed his own son. And God said to Abraham, I now know that you fear me and will not keep anything from me, not even your only son. Essentially God told Abraham that his faith, was great.
h. And now, another non-Jew, is told by Jesus 3 times – no. I will not save your daughter. I will let her suffer. And for this Canaanite, this gentile, that wasn’t good enough.
i. Jacob wrestled with God, Job endured great loss, Joseph endured hardship for godliness, Moses fought for the fame of God’s name to preserve His people from His wrath, God said no to removing Paul’s thorn.
j. In every story – God refused to help, had to be convinced to help, gives no explanation, and generally acts cold toward His people – And for what?
k. To test the faith of His followers.
l. Do they run with patience? Are they desperately dependent on Him? Are they Unyieldingly surrendered to Him?
m. Why this test? Why the trial? To perfect their faith. To bring it to greatness.
n. Do you really think that Jesus did not know this woman? He knew her before the foundation of the world. He knew her parents. He knew her lineage. He knew she would come to Him, and He knew where she would go after. He knew her faith was great, because His Spirit put it there. He just wanted to test it. To draw it out.
o. What we see here is Jesus laying the bread crumbs – and in a rare instance – it leads to the banquet of great faith. And although we can’t be sure – I’d wager a hefty amount, that not only was it great faith, but it was saving faith too. Because really, is it more difficult to trust Jesus for salvation from demonic possession or to trust Him for your soul’s redemption? We saw this before when Jesus asked if it was easier to say to someone arise and walk or to say your sins are forgiven. It may be on the surface to say arise and walk but it would be quickly disproven. And to believe someone is able to make you walk, is it really that hard to believe that they can save your soul? To believe that someone can cast a demon from your daughter is more difficult than believing that He holds the answer to eternal life.
So with all this behind us. What can we learn from this little dog? This dear Canaanite woman, of GREAT faith.
Well I think it would behoove us to look at Matthew’s portrait of Christ in this section. He uses people’s understanding or lack of understanding as a vehicle to teach us about who Jesus is. But what I’d like to do and what I think Matthew intends us to do, is to compare everything in this section to the response of this Canaanite woman. Her episode appears in, roughly, the middle of this narrative. And looking ahead, I think it is fair to say that Matthew intends for us to see her story as the pinnacle of this narrative and one that we must look to for comparison.
So at the tail end of Matthew 13, we saw the people of Nazareth giving Jesus no honor even though they knew Him well. Compared to people who knew Him well, this woman declared Him to be the Messiah and King, even though she had only known Him, at best by His reputation. She expressed her humble, and persistent dependence on Him for her need. And she didn’t try to drive Him off a cliff. J
In chapter 14, out of fear and paranoia Herod mistook Jesus for a ghost – this woman trusted Jesus with her daughter’s soul. Understanding her unworthiness but willing to wrestle with Him until He helped her.
In the feeding of the 5000, we saw that Jesus is compassionate, and even though he appeared not to be to this woman – she still believed He was. So she begged Him for a crumb.
In the boat on the way to Gennesaret, Peter stopped depending on Christ- The Gentile woman didn’t. Jesus calls Peter’s faith insufficient or deficient – the gentile woman’s faith was GREAT
Interacting with the Pharisees, Jesus refused to offer what is holy to the dogs. He did not spend time continuing to debate the Pharisees, and even told His disciples to leave them alone because they are doomed. And he tried to do the same to this gentile dog… turns out, she was actually a child of the King that wouldn’t let Him go.
So what was so peculiar about her story? What made her stick out? Desperate Dependence on and Sustained Surrender to Christ. This is great faith. This is saving faith.
There are two avenues I want to go down today. Two ways of seeing this that need to be drawn out before we leave.
1.) If you are here today and would call yourself a disciple of Christ. If you are here and you honestly believe that you are His follower. I have a question for you. How does your faith stack up to this Gentile dog? Persistent desperate dependence on Jesus Christ for all things, from the penalty of sin to oxygen filling your lungs. Does this describe your faith? Are you needy for Jesus? Do you pant after Him as a weary traveler in a desert land pants after water? Do you see Him as not just your source for salvation – but your source for life? Where would you be without Him?
We all have our dry times. Days when we convince ourselves that we can do it on our own. And if this is you right now in your walk. If you have convinced yourself that you only need Jesus for the big things. Repent of that idolatry right now. Because the truth is that you need Him for oxygen. You can do nothing unless you are abiding in Christ.
But If you believe your life would be mostly the same without Christ. Maybe a little less joy and no heaven – less busy Sundays – friends you do not understand what faith is. Saving faith, is a faith that has been humbled to the point that if Christ was not in me, if I were not in Him – I could do nothing. I could be nothing. I could not breathe. I could not eat. I could not walk. I could not live. Without His mercy – I would be dead. This woman came with a persistent faith that asked only for mercy. And it was granted to her. His mercy is our life bread.
But if this doesn’t describe the faith you currently have, then keep listening.
2.) Last week we talked about the true condition of mankind. That we are convinced that we are good and that it is society or environment or chemicals in our bodies or a whole host of other things that are responsible for the wickedness that mankind is capable of. But Jesus torpedoes all blame shifting and quickly assesses the condition of man. That the true source of our wickedness is that we are wicked. The true source of our sin, is who we are. Before this we learned that God is only pleased with a heart that is near Him. A heart that thinks as He thinks, feels as He feels, and acts as He would. Which we found, poses quite a predicament for us.
Because if God is only pleased by a pure heart – and ours are incurably diseased – then it is impossible to please Him.
If you were here, and this was a new thought to you. I told you to come back this week and you’d see a solution.
So have you seen it?
This woman’s daughter had a diseased soul. A spiritual plague was upon her. How did she respond?
Humility in recognizing her unworthiness. Desperate Dependence on Christ to provide the solution. Sustained Surrender to Christ to decide whether He would provide the solution.
Reckless faith. A faith that put her daughter’s life, soul, at risk. A faith that would plunge that knife into Isaac. A faith that would wrestle God until He dislocated your hip. A faith that would endure through hardship and trial with the promise that God’s grace is sufficient in weakness.
This is the only cure for the incurably sin diseased heart. It is reckless faith.
Repent = understand your unworthiness and humble yourself before a Holy God who has every right to judge that wicked heart
And desperately cry out for mercy - depending on Christ to take your place and provide you with everything you need to live a life pleasing to God. And Surrendering exclusively to His instruction and guidance to live that life.
This is the answer. The only answer. God provided one solution to the incurably diseased heart. It cost Him great humiliation and great heartache. He did it not because we were lovely, but because He is love. He did it not because we were worthy, but because He is worthy. He did it not because we were a great treasure, but to make us His treasure in jars of clay.
I dare not say more, but if you want to know more seek me out.