THE TOUGH SAYINGS OF JESUS
"YOU PEOPLE ARE DOGS"
MATT 15:24-27 (p.693) July 18, 2010
My mom has this picture of Jesus over her bed. It's been there for us as long as I can remember ---so long I kind of take it for granted every week when I look at it while we watch Price is Right together.
He has long, flowing hair, a neatly trimmed beard, lily white skin, face turned toward heaven, welcoming blue eyes and there's this light coming from above that gives him a glowing complexion…he looks amazingly kind…sort of, like he wants to be my best friend.
It’s a nice picture…but I believe it's not very close to reality. I doubt there was a glowing orbit that followed Jesus around everywhere He went. I don't think he walked around staring up toward heaven and I sure don't think He had skin that "uh…Caucasian". The reality is that He looked like your very ordinary middle eastern man.
Isaiah 53: 2 tells us "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him nothing in His appearance that we should desire him."
He had no physical attributes that would set him apart as supernatural. Just an ordinary tradesman from a poor family.
At least the welcoming expression that reminds us He wants to be our best friend is right. Right?
Let's look at our text:
Matt 15:21-28 (p693)
I'd like to challenge you this morning to:
I DISCOVER A FAITH THAT MELTS BORDERS
There are some things that just look better on paper. We may like the idea of them, but they don't translate well into reality.
[For me pickled beets is one of those things. I love veggies. I like the idea of eating healthy beautiful food….and pickled beets are beautiful….they are my very favorite color in the whole world. The practical problem is the taste…
They make me physically ill….and no I don't want to try yours…they taste like purple pickled dirt. No matter how beautiful they look it still tastes awful to me]
And for us as Christians…that looks good on paper thing…can be sometimes applied to what we call unity. We champion the cause for unity and love the idea. We talk about it and study it. Every Christ follower intellectually nods their head in agreement when we talk about needy unity in the body of Christ.
Yet is most urban areas, these are literally hundreds of churches---many facing each other across the street.
Some are separated by different nuances of belief or practice...Think worship style, for instance: the regular worshippers, the charismatic worshippers, the liturgists, the readers, the silent, and those who believe in it all. I'm afraid churches separated by style preferences are, in many cases little more then cliques devoted to their own members.
But unbelievably, after all these decades many of our churches are separated by race and there's nothing wrong with recognizing cultural differences, particularly where language barriers exist.
But we have to look around and wonder…with all these church labels…how far have we really come on being a unified church in the world?
If there was ever someone who walked this earth who proved his openness to relationships, it is Jesus Christ…Samaritan woman, lepers, tax collector, out casts…He consistently associated with people who most would consider "off limits".
However, when we look at his followers in the 21st century the same spirit doesn't always exist.
If I were to ask you to explain the mission of the church of Jesus Christ…what would you say… and by the way, I bet your answer would look great on paper…like a big pile of purple pickled beets).
Your answer would be something like…"Our mission is to continue Jesus' work and spread his story"…Jesus didn't leave instruction about church structure or worship when He gave his final commission…He didn't give a list of rules about how to live a good life. His last words were ones of missions.
(MATT 28: 19-20)
He said "Go" or more correctly Jesus actually used a verb tense that says "As you are going".
He assumed his followers would be on the move…and as they were going they would be making disciples…He said they should keep going until disciples are made in every part of the earth.
Jesus last command presented the gospel out of cultural boundaries. In fact his whole point was to scale cultural walls…His story is one that is meant to break down those walls. Even though His followers might look different in different places…the message of God is supposed to be planted in every soil on the planet…Jesus began this work and He expects it to continue.
So what do we do with this story, where Jesus responds in a way that is, at least surprising, and some seems intolerant.
"It isn't right to take the children's bread and throw it to their dogs"
Jesus is calling this woman a "dog"
Keep in mind…that dogs aren't house pets, cute and fuzzy, they were scavengers, they were filthy and they were dangerous.
This encounter doesn't seem to help us get by any of the racial biases or presuppositions we all hold , whether we'll admit it or not, that drive us apart…but let's look closer and see….let's dig a little deeper into the tough sayings of Jesus to reveal His heart and our mission..
Our need to look for.
II. DESPERATE PEOPLE WITH A PURE HEART.
Jesus has purposely withdrawn to the region of Tyre and Sidon. In the Old Testament they are the poster children for paganism and godlessness. In fact they were specifically condemned by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.
Throughout the history of Jesus their identity was their special calling from God as "His chosen people"…They were to proactively set themselves apart from people groups who didn't acknowledge Jehovah as the true God. Because of this Jews distanced themselves from everyone who wasn't Jewish. No Jews were gentiles. Gentiles were pagans…and since Tyre and Sidon were the poster boys for paganism…Jews would have considered it their religious responsibility to stay as far away from these 2 cities as possible.
And yet this is exactly where Jesus chose to go…Why? Well, to understand why Jesus goes here and what is taking place before him and this Canaanite woman we need to know what happened immediately before this.
When we look back at Matt 15:1-20 Jesus was facing off with the Pharisees on the issue of cleanliness---A hot topic in the Jewish religious system.
Matt 15: 1-20
The Pharisees had found yet one more thing to criticize about Jesus' ministry---the disciples don't was their hands before they eat….therefore they were unclean according to Jewish tradition.
Jesus is quick to defend his followers letting the Pharisees know that real purity was an eternal matter, not an external one.
He's saying "Real purity is a matter of the heart". It's not about what you eat or whether you wash your hands. It's not about where you live…or even what race you are.
It was on the heels of this conversation Jesus withdrew to Tyre and Sidon. I believe he went here…much like the divine appointment with the Samaritan woman at the well to teach a lesson…this lesson with a Canaanite woman involved real purity…and what better place to teach about purity of the heart than the most unclean place imaginable to his disciples.
I'm sure they hated being there…It felt dirty…they were uncomfortable. However, Jesus was looking for something when he heard "Son of David have mercy on me"
I think he found what he was looking for in this woman…This woman in desperate need would help show the disciples just what being clean is all about.
She's pleading…she's begging…and at first Jesus pays her no attention but finally when he does…He says that thing about "taking from the children of Israel to give it to dogs."
And the woman seems to respond in just the right way to prove Jesus' point…Rather than anger or contempt she says "I might as well be a dog…because that's how much I need you "Help Me"
Jesus example of purity was not a woman commended for moral purification…He chose one that knew how much she needed Him in the dirtiest place possible. In Tyre and Sidon she found something clean. She's desperate…and desperate situations make for pure people, because in these desperate situations those people see there need most clearly.
She didn't care if she looked foolish….she didn't care about the judgmental glances…she was thinking about one thing….I NEED YOU JESUS!
And isn't that real purity…it's simple minded, whole hearted desperation for Jesus…It was the very thing the Pharisees lacked.
Those who don’t know this desperate need are proud of their own accomplishments. Their hearts are divided.
What we see in this woman---this unclean "second-rate" gentile woman--is purity.
And not only is she a lesson on purity she is a lesson in faith…and maybe those two attributes are linked more closely than we can imagine.
Remember why Jesus commended this woman; He didn't say, "Woman you have great purity… He said "Woman you have great faith"
You see when we are willing to come to God with nothing in our hands; when we say God "People may judge me, people may look down on me, people may think I'm weak…but I'm coming to you Lord…I believe that you are good and powerful…my finances, my yolk, my position aren't about my provider…You are Jehovah Jirah…you are my provider"...that takes great faith…that takes a desperately pure heart!
[It's why it’s so hard for rich young rulers to give up everything…because they believe it's their riches, their youth and their power that provides…and trusting Jesus to take the place of those things is impossible…"Unless you have great faith"…and a desperate heart.]
It's why Corrie Ten Boom, said "I have learned not to hold onto anything too tightly because it hurts when God has to pry my fingers from it".
You see the most grateful dog is the one who realized he's been rescued from the pound.