Summary: This sermon offers practical principles for those times when we pray and feel as if no one is listening
Matthew 15:21-28 – This is ONLY a Test
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 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.” -- 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.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But she came and knelt before him, saying,
“Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.”
Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
This is ONLY a Test
I don’t know about you… but I hate tests. The stress… the fear of failure… maybe I'm weird but the slightest noise blocks my ability to concentrate. That’s why I LOVE this story:
The setting is Ohio State University about six or seven years ago in a lecture hall filled with approximately 1000 students taking their Calculus final.
Apparently this particular professor wasn't very well liked. He was one of those guys who would stand at the front of the class and yell out how much time was remaining before the end of the test, a real charmer. Since he was so busy making sure that everyone was aware of how much time they had left, he had the students stack their completed exams on the huge podium at the front of the room.
One particular student entered the test needing a decent grade to pass the class. His only problem with Calculus was that he did poorly when rushed, and this teacher barking out how much time was left didn't help him at all. To assure himself a good grade, he completely ignored the professor... EVEN when he said "Time’s up!”
Five minutes turned into ten, ten into twenty, twenty into forty… almost an hour after the test was "officially over," our friend finally put down his pencil, gathered up his work, and headed to the front of the hall to submit his final.
"What do you think you're doing?" the professor asked the young man. It was clear that the professor had waited simply to give him a hard time.
"Turning in my exam, sir" answered the student. "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you," the professor gloated, "Your exam is an hour late. Therefore, you've failed and, consequently, I'll see you next term when you repeat my class."
The student smiled slyly and asked the professor "Do you know who I am?"
"What?" replied the professor gruffly, annoyed that the student showed no sign of emotion.
The student rephrased the question, "Do you know what my name is?"
"No", snarled the professor.
The student grinned and said slowly, "I didn't think so," as he lifted up half the stack of exams, shoved his test neatly into the center, turned around, and walked casually out of the huge lecture hall.
That’s ONE way to beat a test – Amen??
Problem is, most tests aren’t so easy to navigate… like the one in our text. Allow me to set the context:
After His collision with the Pharisees, the Lord set his sites on the people across the sea, Northward, to the region of Tyre and Sidon. These two Phoenician cities had a history of seafaring and sin – of commerce and corruption. THERE, the Lord met a pagan woman, noted by Matthew for her persistence.
Keep in mind, Matthew wrote His Gospel for a Jewish audience – and HERE marks a stunning shift in our Lord’s ministry – Jesus is moving AWAY from his ministry to the Jews (for those in authority were actively rejecting and opposing Him,) and now shifts His focus to the Gentiles. The interaction between Christ and this pagan woman makes her the first among the hundreds of millions of Gentiles who now make up the Church.
He had looked for faith in Israel, and upon finding none, turned to a land He knew would be filled with brokenness and sin.
The pagan woman in our text, wasn't just a Gentile – she was a Canaanite – a member of that accursed race whom God had commanded Joshua many years before to exterminate. Why would God pass such a harsh indictment against a nation? In a word: wickedness. After Joshua’s invasion, the Canaanite culture virtually died – leaving only a small, scattered remnant.