21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 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.” 23 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.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” 25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
Just compare the attitude of the Pharisees with this Canaanite woman. She was making such a racquet that the disciples want to send her away. I fully understand this. Our house is very loud and sometimes I want to say, kids, go to your room and play the silent game. Please, give me a moment of peace and quiet.
The Canaanite woman is desperate because her daughter is demon-possessed. She must have caused quite a scene. At first, Jesus ignored her. But she probably cried out louder and louder. Help me! My daughter is sick! Lord, Son of David, have mercy! She knows Jesus is the promised Messiah. She knows that Jesus alone can heal. She didn’t care how she looked. She didn’t mind the stares from the crowds. Because she was desperate.
Not only was she desperate but she was also humble. The first thing out of Jesus’ mouth was “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” and this woman is not a Jew. She’s a Gentile from Canaan. So basically, Jesus is saying, sorry, but I didn’t come for you. I came for the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, the scribes, the nation of Israel, don’t you know. And ironically, the very people who know the OT Scripture backward and forward and who are so religious, they fail to recognize that all of their reading and praying was a pointer to the Messiah. And the Messiah now stands right before their eyes and they don’t recognize him. Their fine with their religion. They are fine looking pious and holier than thou even though their hearts are far from God, even though they have dead hearts. They are fine fixing the outside when the real problem is the inside.
Of course we know that Jesus came to save the world, but he did start with Israel and when Israel fully rejected him as their Messiah, due to that rejection, the gospel spread to the rest of the nations through the ministry of Apostle Paul.
If it wasn’t bad enough that Jesus said, sorry, I didn’t come to save you right now, you’re going to have to wait, Jesus in v26 calls her a dog. Jesus is saying this as the woman is throwing herself at his feet. The contrast between the Jewish religious leaders and this woman is startling. Look at her humility. She is not offended. Without skipping a beat, she responds in v27, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Amazing humility. She is called a dog by Jesus and she says, yeah, you’re right. I am a dog, but even dogs get to eat crumbs that fall from the master’s table. Give me a crumb. I don’t deserve anything. I don’t deserve to be treated any better. I am a dog. You are my master. Have mercy. I have nowhere else to turn.
Compare this Canaanite woman with the Pharisees. The Pharisees would never have tolerated this kind of insult. You can’t humiliate a religious person because they’re not humble. Jesus is saying, your religoin is all wrong. You need to start over. But this is offensive. They hav ebeen working hard at religions their entire lives. They are not humble so ‘t have ears to hear. Their view of themselves is too high. If you think you are way up here and you have to be treated as such, a respectable person, a person to admire, a person who has a lot to offer, if this is your self-identity, you will never allow yourself to be humiliated because the fall is too great. And thus, you will never experience salvation.
It’s so offensive to be called a dog if you think you are so worthy of honor. To admit, yes, I am a dog, I am a sinner, there is nothing good in me, I need to start over, this is repentance. Proud sinners hate to repent. We hate to be humiliated because we are not humble. But to fall on our knees before Jesus is the first step of having a saving encounter with Jesus.
Not only that, she came to Jesus, she flung herself before Jesus, she knew Jesus was her only hope. This is faith. And you can bet that Jesus was waiting at the edge of his seat to hear her response because as soon as he hears it, he launches into praise. Woman, you have great faith! And the daughter was healed. Faith is putting your entire life in the hands of Jesus. Lord, I will live for you. I entrust my life to you. I will follow you all the days of my life. Repentance and faith. This is how you and I can be saved.
Jesus came to save the sick. He came to forgive sinners. To be called a sinner is the most offensive thing for proud people like us. It’s the last thing we want to hear. Give me a tradition. Teach me an insight that I can apply. Help me to exercise my effort to be righteous through my discipline. Let me stay in control. Let me optimize my surroundings so that the good in me can flourish. This is what proud, religious people want to do. The last thing we want to do is to admit that we are hopeless sinners. We can lose hope in everything else, but hope in oneself is the last thing that often dies in us. Our hope in ourselves, our pride will kick and scream and claw its way to survive.
Do you believe that you are hopeless? Only desperate and humble people will repent and place their faith in Christ and be born again.
In this chapter, we studied a spiritually dead religious Jew and we just read about a born again Gentile. Now I want to end with some encouragement for believers. Let’s look at the disciples to see an example of a growing Christian. 2 things we notice. One, they ask. And two, they change. I mentioned this point last week. The disciples are different from the crowds because they care enough to bring their questions to Jesus. The crowds listen and leave, but the disciples stick around and ask.
15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.
The disciples heard what Jesus said about the Pharisees and so they ask him, explain the parable please. They want to know. This is a sign of life. They care enough about their spiritual lives to ask. Jesus calls them dull. But they are undeterred. They keep asking. This is an evidence of grace. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem like we are changing. You might look back on this year and you may conclude, man, I was dull. But did you keep asking, did you keep struggling, did you bring your questions to Jesus, do you ask others to pray for you? This is what growing Christians do. They ask because spiritual life matters to them.
Second, growing Christians change. We just studied the feeding of the 5000 and now we have the feeding of the 4000. This is only a headcount of the men so they fed 10000-15000 beforehand and now another 8000-12000. That’s easily over 20,000 people back to back. And there’s only 12 of them. Imagine the hard work. It’s tiring to pour out your life for needy people. But I am encouraged, in the midst of their exhausting service to others, there is a small internal change.
32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” 33 His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” 34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.” 35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied…
Compare this feeding of 4000 with the feeding of the 5000 in the previous chapter. What do you notice? v33 is somewhat discouraging. They still think, where on earth are we going to get enough food to feed this many people? Because we’re in the middle of nowhere. Hello? Did they forget what Jesus did to feed 5000 by multiplying 5 loaves and 2 fish? The disciples are still dull. They are not perfect. They have a long way to go. But there is encouragement in this chapter.
What do you see? It’s easy to miss. They don’t say to Jesus the second time around, send the crowds away. That’s an encouragement. Be encouraged. They are slightly more compassionate today than they were a few days earlier. They learned something.
The key is–they stuck with Jesus. They stayed near Jesus. You might not be able to see dramatic growth in your life this past year, but I can guarantee that if you stay close to Jesus, if you abide with him consistently, there will be fruit. You will change. Fruit grows slowly, gradually. But if the seed is alive, fruit will be born. Religion is outside in. Christianity is inside out. Focus on your relationship with Jesus. Focus on your heart. Focus on the inside. If the inside changes, outside change will come naturally. I pray that we can all bear fruit for God’s glory in 2013.