Summary: A sermon on the great faith of the Canaanite woman.
August 14, 2005 Matthew 15:21-28
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.” 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.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “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.” Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
What would Miss Manners have said of Jesus’ behavior in Tyre and Sidon? Here this poor lady comes for some help, and Jesus ignores her! If you wouldn’t know any better, you would assume that He didn’t really want this woman to believe - didn’t really care if she followed Him or not. What is worse, is that he takes it a step further and calls her a dog! What nerve! What outrage! Who does he think he is!?!
He is God. Psalm 115:3 Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. He doesn’t have to answer to Miss Manners on Judgment Day. His main concern was not whether people liked Him or not, but whether people believed in Him or not. As we look at this text this morning - we need to keep this concept in mind. Jesus doesn’t want us to like Him, he wants us to love Him. He isn’t interesting in winning a popularity contest. He didn’t come to get voted on as most likely to save the world. He came to conquer death, defeat Satan, and put sin in the grave. He came to be our Savior, not just our friend. He was and is God and man.
That means we can call Him our Friend, but it also means we remember He is our Lord. When Jesus called His mother “woman,” He was reminding her of her place. When He calls us “children”, He is reminding us of our place. We are not made to be on an equal level with God - we are made to be under God. He can call us anything He wants. The key throughout all of this is to do like the Canaanite woman and remember -
Even Dogs Eat the Crumbs
I. You were a born Dog
When the Canaanite woman came to Jesus for help, after he ignored her, Jesus called her a “dog.” This term is used several times throughout the Scriptures. Philippians 3:2 says, “Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.” Paul was referring to certain Judaizers who were telling the Christians of his day that they had to be circumcised if they wanted to be saved. This term is also found in Psalm 22:16 - Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. This would seem to be referring to the Jewish leaders or the Roman soldiers at the cross. Generally it was a term that Jews used for Gentiles. Most dogs back in that day would roam the street and were kind of mean and vicious. It wasn’t exactly a compliment.
But the term Jesus used for the Canaanite woman was actually a more gentle term in the Greek. It was - êõíáñßïéò. Basically it means “little dog” or “house pet.” He was telling her that she was not one of the children of Israel. She was only a Canaanite. Therefore, Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” His commission of public preaching and teaching was to the Jews - who He referred to as “lost sheep.” Which is more insulting? Pet dog or lost sheep? Neither is exactly flattering. The word for lost also is used in the Greek for “condemned.” Jew or Gentile - Jesus used an animal to represent them both - not very impressive animals at that. One was lost and dumb and the other was a slobbering beggar.
The Scriptures are full of these terms - reminding us of who we were and where we came from.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians -
Ephesians 2:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
Ephesians 2:12 You were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.