Preacher: Pastor Ray
Text: Matt 15:21-28
Summary: For what kind of faith does Jesus offer His highest commendation? Answer: a faith that is not easily offended. A Canaanite woman overcame the following: 1) Jesus’ silence, 2) disciples who were annoyed by her, 3) Jesus’ confusing statement toward her, and 4) what appears as an outright insult from Jesus.
21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman 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.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Father, we want to learn from Jesus and from this Canaanite woman what kind of faith is required for us to receive this kind of commendation and praise from Jesus when we see Him. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen
I never quite understood the meaning behind this account fully until this week and I’m thankful to the Lord that He has revealed the meaning. To understand it, we have to look to the section above.
12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”
What were the Pharisees offended by? When Jesus is saying what defiles a person is not what comes in through the mouth but what comes out of a heart and then the mouth is what defiles a person, the Pharisees hearing this from Jesus know it’s about them. And they are so offended.
There are many things that happen in life and many things that even Jesus may say to us that if we’re not careful, it may offend us. The word ‘offense’ has such a range of meaning. It means to scandalize. That’s where we get the word ‘scandal.’ There are many meanings such as, when one has put a snare so that you stumble over that snare. It also means to cause someone to fall away, or to cause someone to be so shocked, indignant and offended.
Clearly the Pharisees were offended and I think we can see the complete opposite in the Canaanite woman. She should have been offended. She should have been discouraged. She should have been stumbled. She should have fallen away. But Jesus doesn’t put out a snare. He puts out a test. One by one, this woman overcomes each of them and at the end receives such commendation and praise from Jesus.
21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman 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.” 23 But he did not answer her a word.
What’s the first thing that this woman had to overcome and not be stumbled by and not be offended by? It is Jesus’ silence. When you have issues and you pray to the Lord, you bring it before the Lord, and He doesn’t answer you right away, are you offended? Are you stumbled? Do you seek out other counsel? Do you just start doing things and hope that you get it right?
This woman should have been offended but she overcomes through her perseverance in her trust in the Lord Jesus. That’s why this woman is commended and praised for her faith. She overcomes the silence. If you are praying to the Lord and the Lord is not answering you on a particular matter, welcome to the club. It is part of the process of growing in our perseverance so that we trust in the Lord Jesus no matter what He says or doesn’t say. It is part of our training.
If you’re a Pharisee, you don’t even sit around to wait if Jesus doesn’t answer you. You just walk away. They’re not even waiting there. They don’t even care about what Jesus has to say. The moment He doesn’t say anything, they’re gone. But for us as disciples of Christ, we must persevere even in the silence and not be stumbled by it.
What’s the second thing that this woman overcame? It is the disciples.
23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”
How many times do disciples of Jesus say or do stupid things? How many times do we as disciples of Jesus say and do stupid things? This woman could have been so offended. These disciples are misrepresenting Jesus and that’s not the heart of Jesus. We may have had parents or Christian leaders in the past. I know I have a list of people who did not represent God well to me. I could hold a grudge. I could blame them and that could be the obstacle that stumbles me. I could be stuck for decades pointing a finger at that person or that leader or that parent.
At some point, we need to overcome these things. You and I have to overcome and say it’s time to take ownership of my life. I am not bound by the past. I’m not bound by those comments. Disciples of Jesus can say and do stupid things, and they may misrepresent God but am I going to be stumbled for the rest of my life because of something that someone said or did to me years ago?
This woman is not deterred. She perseveres and she presses in when most people at this point would be saying, okay, I’m done with this. I’m not going to ask. I’m not going to embarrass myself. The disciples of Jesus are saying this and I’m not going to tolerate this kind of humiliation. She could have walked away, but someone who perseveres in their trust instead of retreating presses in even more.
Jesus is silent but the woman presses in and overcomes. The disciples say something very stupid and misrepresent Jesus, and still the woman presses in and perseveres in her trust
In verse 24, it starts to get even more difficult. He answers, I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Now this is a tough one because basically Jesus is talking to the non-Jew, this Gentile woman, and basically saying, I didn’t come for you.
To me, this represents something that’s very confusing to the Gentile woman. When Jesus says something to you or asks you to do something that is very confusing, will you retreat out of offense? I think many people at this point would have walked away. If you’re a Gentile woman and you hear Jesus saying, I came for the lost sheep of Israel, many people at this point would say, I’m done humiliating myself. I already endured the silence. I endured the disciples. Now I have to endure Jesus saying to me, a Gentile woman, that He only came for the lost sheep of Israel?
How many of us would at this point be so offended that we would walk away? It’s confusion. Look at John the Baptist. The same word is used when Jesus says, blessed is the one who is not offended by me. All that John the Baptist did was preach the truth. He was doing the baptism of repentance. He was paving the way for Jesus who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. And he calls out Herod for the sin that he committed against his brother by taking his brother’s wife unlawfully. John as a prophet just calls out things and says things the way he sees it. That gets him in prison and eventually he’s going to be beheaded shamefully.
And Jesus says about John the Baptist, blessed is John if he does not take offense, if he does not stumble, if he does not fall away. There’s a test before John. It’s just confusing to John and so in his confusion he sends his disciples to ask Jesus, are you the one?
There are times in our lives that are just so confusing. We have a choice at that point. Are we going to keep pressing in and persevere and trust? Are we going to retreat and stumble and possibly fall away in the in the midst of the confusion?
Lastly in verse 25, she came and knelt before him saying, Lord help me. You see how she presses in? She’s not just enduring and just standing there. Now she is moving toward Jesus and falling at his feet and kneeling before Him, saying, Lord help me.
This woman endured silence. This woman endured the disciples who said stupid things and misrepresented God. This woman endured Jesus saying something so confusing to a Gentile woman. Now she’s kneeling at His feet. She’s pressing in. That’s perseverance and her trust in the Lord Jesus.
Now the final test is in verse 26. Jesus answers, it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.
If you’re somebody who is like a Pharisee, then just one comment and you won’t even sit there to figure out what it is that Jesus is saying. Just on the surface, it seems like Jesus is against me. He’s calling me a dog. So insulting. If you are a pharisaic, sensitive type who gets easily angry at comments, you would not even pause but simply react. I bet you would say something and then just storm off in the opposite direction because you took such offense at what Jesus said. Because on the surface it is insulting. It seems very insulting. It seems like Jesus is against me or He’s against this woman.
It’s even worse if you think about the fact that Gentiles were viewed in a derogatory sense. They were called dogs and women were in these biblical times were considered less than men, often perceived as property. So as a woman and as a Gentile, you hear this and wouldn’t you be tempted to get so angry. You might slap Jesus in the face and storm off.
But did you know what the Lord showed me this week? Did you know that when Jesus says “dogs,” He doesn’t use the derogatory word that was used of Gentiles by Jews. He uses a more affectionate term referring to a household pet.
And we may say, well, that’s not that much better. You call me a wild dog, a stray dog on the street, a mutt, or Fritz or Georgie (my nieces’ dogs), the little dog that we care for in our house. To a woman who was a Gentile, I think both terms could be so offensive. And it could seem like Jesus is against her.
This might not be the best analogy, but when I joke around with the boys, there is a lot of affection in what I say mixed in with a little bit of truth. And I’m trying to produce a change in the long term. But I’m not doing it in an aggressive, angry way that would cause them to hate me and resent me.
When I say, your shot is broken, or you’re wobbly, or you are not working hard enough, if you’re a sensitive type, you could get so angered by the surface of what I say. But if you see that I have a little smile on my face and that there’s a lot of affection, you would not take offense.
I want my boys to be so confident that no matter what anyone says, they’re not shaken by it. They’re not upset by it. And so in some sense, what I say to them are like little tests. I’m trying to toughen them up. I want them to be so confident. At the same time, I don’t want them to be arrogant. I want them to be humble.
And that’s a very unique mix for a believer. We are so confident on the one hand of the Father’s love and Jesus’ love. At the same time, the Father does discipline at times. He does prune. It is painful at times. There’s some truth mixed in, but there’s a lot of affection.
Jesus is very harsh to one kind of person. To a Pharisee. He is so affectionate, so long-suffering, so patient with His actual disciples and with God’s children. He speaks so differently. Jesus speaks truthfully without any affection you could say when He’s speaking to the Pharisees. Because He knows these guys are not going to repent. They’re just going to be so offended by the truth and they have no intention of repenting. But toward God’s children, He does speak truth, but it’s done with such affection.
And so when Jesus says, it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs, He’s giving a little clue about salvation history. He’s saying, yes, I came for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. That was confusing. But it’s true. My mission during my earthly ministry was targeting Israel first. They’re like my children and I will give my best to my children because I love my children. But the household pet — they’re also included. They’re also in the family. It’s not a stray dog. It’s not a mutt on the street. It’s a household pet who’s there in the house. And even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.
And without missing a beat, this woman, who does not get easily offended, right away, she understands. Oh, this salvation is for me. God is including me in the salvation story. I am not a dog who was excluded and left outside of the house. I am someone who is welcome.
She right away knows. Oh, this is a play on words. The Jews say, yeah, you guys are mutts. You guys are dogs, stray dogs. But Jesus is saying affectionately, Gentiles, you guys are also included. Just you wait. I’m going to start with you. The same way I did with the centurion whom I praised. This Gentile Roman soldier. Now, I’m also going to take you in as well.
You can ask the Lord, what does it take for you to hear the words at the end of your life — Well done, good and faithful servant. What will it take? What will you present to the Lord Jesus for Him to commend you like this? Is it to save a hundred people, lead a hundred people to Christ, a thousand people to Christ, a million people to Christ? Is it to attend church and be faithful to all the meetings at church? No. I think here, clearly, as it was in the case of the Roman centurion, this woman is commended because her faith is not deterred very easily.
She does not give up very easily. She does not panic very easily. She doesn’t get offended very easily. Look back at the last few things that have happened. Stressful situations and how you responded. People saying things and how you responded. Jesus Himself communicating things that are confusing and how you responded. And times when it seemed like Jesus was against you.
How did you respond in those moments? Did you retreat in offense? Did you retreat in panic? Did you retreat in worry? Did you get so angry? Did you become so embittered by that word? Or did you persevere in your trust? Because if you did, then there is a great likelihood that at the end of your life, Jesus will say, Well done.
For me, I don’t want to just barely make it into heaven. I want to hear those words loud and clear — Well done, Ray. You pressed in. You persevered in your faith. You were not offended. The way that John the Baptist was on the edge of disaster. He was on the verge of possibly being offended and falling away. But he passed his final test. When things happen to us that are so confusing and it even seems like Jesus is against you, will you still trust Him? When Jesus is silent, will you trust Him?
For some, we’re just in the period of we’re asking for Jesus to reveal Himself. We’re asking for Jesus to come through. Will you persevere in the midst of the silence? For others, we’re just getting comments left and right from disciples of Christ and they’re misrepresenting Jesus. They’re saying hurtful things. They’re saying stupid things.
Would we overcome that, or would we say, Christians and God, they’re all the same? And we attribute those hurtful, stupid things and say, they must be a reflection of my Heavenly Father or Jesus. And we project whatever bad images we’ve seen from authority figures and and we project that on our God. And that’s why we feel so insecure before Him. Can we overcome even the hurtful things that the people of God say to us?
And third, would you overcome the confusing things that Jesus Himself speaks to you? Will we keep wrestling with it and try to understand? What does He mean by that? Instead of saying, I’ve thought about it and it doesn’t make sense, I’m going to dismiss it. Would we just keep wrestling until that confusing thing becomes clear?
And lastly, when it seems like Jesus is against you, will you persevere in your trust? He’s not there to tear you down. He’s not putting a snare to tempt you so you fall away. No, Satan does that. Jesus puts a little test and this woman passes every one of them with flying colors.
You notice, she’s not commended for anything she did. She’s commended for the quality of her faith. And I would simply summarize it as — this woman is not offended easily. This woman doesn’t get stumbled easily. This woman keeps pressing in, keeps persevering in her trust in the Lord Jesus when most everyone else in her situation would have fallen away. And if we live like this woman, there’s a good chance that at the end of our lives, we will hear Jesus say of us — Well done, good and faithful servant.
Okay, let’s pray.
If there’s one person in Scripture that I would love to emulate, this woman would be very high on my list. Just a remarkable woman. She overcame the silence. She overcame the disciples saying stupid things. She overcame Jesus Himself saying something so confusing to a Gentile woman. And she overcame what many would perceive as an insult. And she kept pressing in, she kept persevering, she kept believing and trusting in the Lord Jesus. And in the end, she experienced Him and she received the greatest gift. It’s not the healing. It’s the praise and commendation from the lips of Jesus. She heard it with their own ears.
I pray that all of us would live for that same type of commendation and praise. That at the end of our lives, we would have proved ourselves and passed every test. We will have overcome all the silence, the comments from disciples that misrepresent our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus, the confusing things that Jesus Himself says, and even the potentially hurtful and insulting things. For the believer, there is such a gift if we keep enduring, persevering pressing in with full trust.
Father, we want to learn from this woman. Such a remarkable woman who had faith, even greater than Peter, James and John at this point in their spiritual journeys. She saw things that they did not see. She endured the silence. She endured the disciples’ annoyance at her. She endured Jesus saying something so confusing to a Gentile woman. She endured even a potential insult.
She kept pressing in, and at the end, You praised her for her faith, Lord Jesus. We want that kind of faith. Forgive us we give up so easily. We’re stumbled so easily. We’re offended so easily by silence, by comments, by confusing things You say, and even, potentially insulting things that You say. You’re not here to stumble us. You’re not here to offend us. You’re trying to draw out a faith worthy of commendation. And that is what we want, Lord Jesus. We want to hear from You at the end of our lives — Well done, good and faithful servant. Teach us how to do this, Lord. Thank you. In Jesus Name, Amen