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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

August 16, 2020 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Pentecost

Passage: Matthew 15:21–15:28

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 15:21-28
Date: August 16, 2020; Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon, which was Gentile territory northwest of Galilee.
  • Our Lord typically stayed within the borders of Galilee, but he was avoiding Jewish opposition that was the result of a recent confrontation that he’d had with Pharisees from Jerusalem.
  • The  Pharisees were upset that the disciples broke their tradition of ceremonial hand washing before eating, and they wanted Jesus to answer for it. 
  • But instead of offering an apology, Jesus challenged their practice of placing man-made traditions above God’s Commandments and He taught them that unholiness is the result of our sinful nature - and has nothing to do with observing their humanly instituted rules. He also called them hypocrites. 
  • So, it’s understandable that he withdrew to Gentile territory for a while to give them some space - let them cool down a bit.
  • While He was there he was approached by a Canaanite woman who was in great distress. 
  • Her daughter was severely oppressed by a demon and she was desperate to help her.  She came out crying to Jesus, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David” (15:22).
  • Even though she was a Canaanite woman, considered to be an unclean Gentile,  she spoke like a believing Israelite when she called Jesus “Lord” and addressed Him as “Son of David”. She recognized that He truly is the promised Messiah and turned to Him for help. 
  • Somewhat surprisingly, Jesus didn’t even acknowledge her initially and remained silent. 
  • So, the disciples came forward to try and deal with the situation by asking Jesus to give her what she wanted and to send her away.  That way she would leave them alone and stop crying out after them.
  • Jesus’ response in this situation is shocking.  It’s certainly not what we expect.
  • Up to this point, Jesus had helped and healed many people who cried out to Him for mercy.
  • But in this case He said to the disciples, “I was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel” (15:24).
  • In other words, because this woman and her daughter were not Israelites, they were not part of the group that He had come to save. Sorry. Tough luck.
  • But even in the face of this seeming harshness, she persisted. She knelt before Him and called Him “Lord” for a second time and cried out again, “Help me!” (15:25).
  • If Jesus’ words to the Canaanite woman seemed harsh before, they only seem to get harsher. 
  • He answered her, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (15:26).
  • In other words, Jesus answered that He has been sent only to save the lost sheep of Israel, and it’s not right for this Canaanite woman to receive what by divine right belongs to the family of Abraham.
  • Jesus wants to know if she really knows who He is. Were they just words when she called Him “Lord” and “Son of David” or did she actually mean them?
  • She remained persistent and showed her faith when she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table” (15:27).
  • In other words, she responded, “Yes, Lord, You are Israel’s Messiah, and the bread You give does belong to them. Yet, I believe that the bread of the Messiah is so abundant and so overflowing that some of it falls from the the table to the floor, and even the crumbs are enough for me and my daughter.” 
  • In faith, the Canaanite woman cried out to Jesus for grace and mercy.  And that’s what she got. “Then Jesus answered her, ‘O woman, great is your faith!  Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly” (15:28).
  • We don’t know who taught this Canaanite woman about Jesus being Israel’s Messiah. 
  • But we do know that ultimately it was the Father who revealed it to her, even though she was an unlikely candidate for such faith.
  • We too are unlikely candidates for such faith since we also are not by birthright God’s people. Even more, we are sinners who deserve God’s present and eternal punishment.
  • But we too have heard the Good News about Israel’s Messiah. 
  • For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:11).  
  • St. Paul teaches that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek and that the same Lord is Lord of all and that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:12-13).  
  • So we call on the name of the Lord, continually crying out for mercy: “Lord, help me.” 
  • And we have heard the word of Christ that reveals to us that God has answered our cry for mercy through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. 
  • With the Canaanite woman, we are not God’s people by birthright and we do not deserve to have a place in His household. Our sin deserves eternal separation from God.
  • But our baptism has changed that. Through the waters of our baptism we are adopted into God’s family and we are made His own.
  • In his letter to the Galatians St. Paul says that those who have been baptized into Christ have put Him on, and if we are Christ’s, then we are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:26-29).
  • As fellow heirs, we are invited to the Sacrament of the Altar, where we don’t just receive the crumbs that fall from the table, but the Bread of Life itself - Jesus’ true body and blood that forgives our sin, nourishes our faith, and promises eternal life.
  • God works through His Word and Sacraments to create and sustain our faith. 
  • St. Paul teaches that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham and that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham has come to the Gentiles (Galatians 3:7-14).
  • It’s remarkable that the woman persisted when Jesus didn’t even answer her with a word and seemed to dismiss her because she was a Canaanite.  
  • There are times in our lives when it might seem like God doesn’t answer us with a word and that He has dismissed us too.
  • But with the Canaanite woman we recognize our humble position before God, and in repentance, cry out, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David."  
  • God truly has answered our cries for mercy with a word, the Word made flesh.
  • In His name we persist in faith trusting that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

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