More Than Crumbs
Sermon 1711 Matthew 15.21-28 August 30, 2020
My wife and I do not have a dog. Growing up we both had pets. Cats, dogs, goldfish. But we made a conscious decision when I went into the ministry—no pets. It was your parsonage we were living in and we didn’t want pets trashing it. We both had become attached to pets as children and I knew there would be enough suffering and grief to confront and share in the ministry. We just didn’t need the loss of Rover or Missy going missing to add to the pain.
But I tell you, every time I or Karen take out the Swiffer under the table, I reconsider. How can we be such messy eaters? How does stuff get to the end of the table where we never sit at? If we had a pooch, the floor would be spit polish clean.
Keep that picture in mind as we look at a day when a woman prevailed upon Jesus because she hung all her hope on one little word from Jesus’ lips.
More than Crumbs
Faith (21-22, 25).
The Mission (23-24).
God’s Promise Fulfilled (26-28).
Jesus had taken his disciples out of the country again, this time to the northwest, to the seacoast which we know as Lebanon. There is every indication he wanted time alone with his disciples so he could focus them on his mission. His crucifixion was less than a year away. He needed quiet time to start teaching them about it. His plans hadn’t panned out the last time, when he went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. There he fed an unexpected 5000 dinner guests.
“Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession (21-22).’”
Faith is more than crumbs.
Let’s be clear. This woman is not Jewish. She is the antithesis of Jewish. She is Canaanite, a descendant of people God told the Israelites to exterminate some fifteen hundred years before. Her ancestors could have ruled the Middle East if they hadn’t been so addicted to pleasure and gratification. So she is not, by blood, a member of God’s family. She is not Jewish.
But let’s also be clear about this. This woman is a believer. She calls Jesus “Lord.” That’s a powerful term. Yes, I know “lord” is a term people used politely to address their betters in the ancient world, like the Brits might say, “Your Highness.” She is using the word “Lord” as we would use it. She is addressing God. She calls Jesus the “Son of David.” She recognizes his Messianic claim. She shows she believes he is the Savior of the world. He is the Savior of the Jews, but he is also the Savior of the world and, as the Savior of the world, he is also her Savior. This woman has faith.
This woman has faith. She asks Jesus for something no human being can give her—she wants him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. Even after she has been rebuffed, her faith refuses to let go. “The woman came and kneeled before him. ‘Lord, help me!’ she said (25).” Faith is more than crumbs. Faith perseveres in the face of adversity. Faith throws away all modesty and social niceties as it holds on for dear life.
Oh, but what a fallen generation we are! We view faith as the smallest of crumbs, an inconsequential part of life. It is a distraction, a diversion, child’s play. Science will give us the answers. Human determination and grit will see us through. Faith is more of a cultural thing we have devised to bind ourselves together for the common good, so any faith that unites a people in love and brotherhood is good. And if people walk away from whatever faith they espouse or if they act contrary to their professed faith, well, I’m sure they meant well. Times are hard. Should we not be charitable and not point fingers?
Don’t you see what we are doing with faith? We are watering it down into a thin porridge that stands for nothing and stands up to even less. No wonder church services are non-essential. It would serve us right if the pandemic lasted a hundred years.
The mission is more than crumbs.
“Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel (23-24).’”
Jesus was in the area of Tyre and Sidon for a reason. He was trying to teach his disciples a difficult lesson: The Son of Man will be betrayed, delivered over to the hands of sinners, crucified and buried. But every time he was ready to teach it people descended on him like he had just won the Megabucks lottery. If your mission isn’t that important, oh, sure, you can have that second cup of coffee. No, no. I wasn’t doing anything important. Sure, I have a few hours to kill. My, where did the month go?
That wasn’t Jesus. Look at the three and a half years of Jesus’ public ministry. You will see no wasted opportunities, no letting up on the gas pedal. He urgently directs the missions of the seventy-two and the Twelve—do your job, don’t socialize. The seventy-two are under severe time constraints. Jesus is about to enter their assigned towns and villages. The Twelve are sent into a ripe harvest field. Farmers know what that means--every day the harvest is not harvested is another day the work of a whole year is at risk.
Jesus was to focus on the lost sheep of Israel. He was sent to his own. He was to stretch out his divine hands to a people, even though they did not seek him, even though his own did not receive him. Some would be left with no excuse as the wrath of God deservedly fell on them. Others would enter the Kingdom of Heaven because God refused to give up on them. But the millions and millions of those who were not Jews living in the Holy Land would have to wait a few more years.
Our Lord is a master tactician. He has more than enough to keep himself busy. Before he created the world, from eternity, he was infinitely happy, blessed, and serene. He didn’t need to do anything before the words of Genesis 1 started the history of this world. But out of his love for us, he did act. He created a perfect world. He created perfect people. When those perfect people chose to disobey him, he came with a focused mission—their rescue from sin, death and the devil. That’s why his revelation to mankind is so focused. Not a lot of history or biology or even sociology in the Bible. Politics? There’s no political answers in the Bible! But it is an “everything we need to know how to get to heaven” book and an “everything we need to know how to live a godly life in this world” book.
That makes me happy. As I get older I get more ADHD. I start doing something, but then notice, oh, this needs to be done, then something else captures my attention, then something else and before you know it, I still haven’t done the first thing I set out to do! But even if you are not old, you’ve got a million things on your mind. It is easy to lose focus. Our God is so focused on the mission, he won’t let us wander or stray. He hammers home his point at every opportunity. Your sins are forgiven. I love you. You are mine. Believe it.
More than crumbs—God’s promise fulfilled.
“It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she said, ‘but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. (26-27).’”
I do not like to do this. I do not like to pull Greek on you. It makes me into a “trust me” kind of guy and I want to be a “trust Jesus” kind of guy and make you into a “see for yourself in the Bible” kind of people. But even in our English translation, you can kind of see it. There were some vicious dogs in the ancient world. Remember the story of Jezebel’s death? How the scavenger dogs roaming the city left behind only her corpse’s---well, there are children present and I don’t need to go into that. Why in the world would you have a savage beast hanging around your child? You wouldn’t. There were also house dogs in Jesus’ day. Probably not Pugs or Chihuahuas, but little dogs. The Greek even says that. Kunarioi. Little dogs. Pooches. “You don’t pull the food out from under the children’s faces and give it to their pooches.”
Pooches. That’s what this woman’s faith latches onto. If Karen and I had a pooch, we wouldn’t have to Swiffer under the table. The original Rumba cleaning device would scarf it up. And boy, would he get fat when the grandkids were visiting!
Pooches. The pooches take their positions near the children at the table. The food falls like manna from heaven! Fruits and breads, puddles of pudding, entire meatballs. Some days the pooch has all the food groups covered!
She will not give up. She looks for the smallest hint of a “yes” in Jesus’ words and she finds it. She’s not asking Jesus to spend the next year at her house teaching all the pagans in Tyre and Sidon. She is just asking for a minute of his time so he can flex his almighty power to help her demon possessed daughter.
“Then Jesus answered, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour (28).”
Your request is granted. More than crumbs. God’s promise fulfilled. At that moment her daughter was healed. The demon was gone. And the woman, the woman knew that the one she trusted in, Jesus, the Lord, the Son of David, could give her even more. This miracle was just the down-payment. Forgiveness of sins, life and salvation were part of the blessing upon blessing she was receiving and would always receive from her Lord.
According to our sinful human nature, it looks like there are a lot of harsh words coming from our Lord right about now. And most of them seem to be saying, “I told you so.” But look closer. Look with the eyes of faith. Look with the knowledge that the Lord is on our side and he is pulling for us.
“Unless you repent.” But if we repent, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are ours! Often the Lord hems in our sinful path to such an extent that we can no longer pursue that course in life. I hear even in Alabama people are starting to rethink their position that football is God! And there’s lots of people who are discovering they can be quite happy without Happy Hour at the local watering hole. And if you saw the attendance figures in church and put them together with those who are watching our services online, we may never have had such a large percentage of our congregation participating in weekly worship!
“Give us this day our daily bread.” When we go to our Lord in prayer, we find out he not only gives us enough food to get by another day, but he gives us house and home, spouse and children, all that we own and all that we possess, good government, good neighbors, good weather. Yes. It is a paradise here compared to Death Valley. None of our neighbors have fire-bombed our houses. I don’t care what you think of who occupies the White House, a system of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed sure beats military coups like those that happen regularly in Africa.
My point is this. The Lord could have been eternally praised by every mouth if he only gave us forgiveness of sins, eternal life and deliverance from hell and the devil. What a wonderful God we would have even if he were only a Savior for our souls. Let’s call that crumbs, though those crumbs are as large as loaves of bread and those bits of meat that fall to the floor look more like a Tomahawk cut of steak. He is the Savior of our bodies as well.
So hold on to him. He can help. He will help. He is generous to a fault. He will fulfill all his promises to us and then double down on them again.
More than Crumbs
Faith (21-22, 25).
The Mission (23-24).
God’s Promise Fulfilled (26-28).
Even the little dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ tables. What more can I say to that? Woof! Woof! Mind if I park my furry tail here under the Lord’s table with you?