Matthew 15:21-28  14 August 2011

Jesus and the disciples have gone out of Israel to get some time away from the crowds. He has been talking to the people about the dietary laws and the fact that food is not what is wrong with people it is
their hearts that govern what comes out of their mouths. That is what defiles a person, the things they say to one another and about one another. He talks about the Pharisees as blind guides, people who do
not see what is wrong, they just know that they are the best and so everyone should follow them. Jesus says they are blind leading the blind and they both end up in the hole.

You might say that Jesus and the disciples are on vacation on the sea shore. I don’t know about you, but when I am on vacation, I like to be able to just relax, no pressure, no worries about anything, just
time to recharge my battery so to speak. Jesus had been under some real stresses in his ministry, the Pharisees and the Saducees wanted to get rid of him because he was teaching the people things that were moving them away from the laws that they had been teaching. Jesus was talking about grace and they had been talking about law and justice. Two different things, if you look for justice, then you get what
justice demands, if you instead receive grace then you receive what you don’t deserve, you receive a gift from God of justification. Your enmity with God is dissolved and you are justified, not guilty, better yet, innocent because the sin is no longer attributed to you.

So, here they are outside of Israel, no one here should know who Jesus is, maybe he can get in a round of golf, or some time in the pool, maybe do some fishing. However, here they are, walking along and this
woman comes up. She starts to cry out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, you son of David! My daughter is severely demonized!”

What? No one here should know who Jesus is, and yet, they do. This Canaanite woman is asking Jesus for help, for healing for her daughter, why? She is a gentile, this is not Israel, Jesus is here to
relax to have some time to recharge and get ready for more ministry in Israel. Jesus doesn’t even acknowledge having heard this woman. He doesn’t answer her at all.

Then the disciples come and say, get rid of her,she is making a ruckus, what they really mean
is look Jesus, this woman isn’t one of us, get rid of her, she isn’t a Jewish woman, she is a foreigner, a dog. Get rid of her. Now Jesus had been talking about grace before this. Hear what the teaching was
before they went to Tyre:

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.” He answered them, “And
why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ But you say that whoever tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God,’ then that person need not honor his father. So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’” Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:” (Mt 15:1-10 NRSV)11  it
is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”

After explaining to the disciples the teaching about food and what goes into the mouth versus what comes out of the mouth. They then head for Tyre and Sidon for a little down time. However, while they are trying to just relax, along comes this woman crying out for Jesus to heal her daughter.

Jesus now says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Meaning, sorry but you are not one of the people I was sent to, so I am not going to help you. She for her part, takes the part of
supplicant, she kneels before him and asks again for his help. His answer is really interesting, because it is what the disciples and many others were thinking about her. 26  He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

WOW, where is the grace in that answer? I mean come on Jesus, you talk about the terrible stuff that the religious leaders do, and even try to get the disciples to think differently about these things, and then you say something really hard. It is not fair to take what is for the people of Israel, and throw it to you dogs. Dogs was a term used for those who were outside the people of Israel, these were the gentiles who lived in the area around Israel. Jesus was using the term however in a different way. He did not use the term for mongrel, but rather the term for small house dog.

I remember growing up that we always had a dog, we had a Belgian Shepherd which is a smaller version of the German Shepherd. He was a good dog and of course when we would sit down to eat in the evening, he would find a spot to lay down, under the table, and wait for the morsels to drop to the floor, he would not try to take anything that was on the table, but whatever hit the floor belonged to him. My brothers and I would always manage to drop a morsel or two during the meal as a treat for that dog.;

The Canaanite woman has a reply knowing that Jesus was not going to refuse her request. 27  She
said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” What a wonderful reply, she shows that she has the faith to come before the Lord, and ask for grace and receive it. What a wonderful picture this is for you and I, and all human beings across this earth. God offers grace to all who will accept the gift. Jesus gave himself for all who would accept his sacrifice for them. Jesus now grants her request for her faith has proven to be a great faith. This is also the beginning of the change in the ministry. This miracle was done in gentile country, Tyre, and for a gentile woman. It is the only time that Jesus goes into gentile lands and of course the only miracle as well.

The woman at the well and other miracles are performed in the Holy Land, because Jesus primarily came for the lost sheep of Israel, but his ministry, being carried out by you and I today, is for all persons, from all walks of life. All are welcome to come and look to Jesus for forgiveness and the grace of God for themselves.

The only prerequisite to salvation, is acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord. The disciples learned that lesson, although some of them had to be reminded after Jesus rose, like Peter in Joppa when God sent down that sheet full of animal life and Peter said he would not kill and eat for the meat was unclean. God said what God has made clean do not call profane. The story can be found in Acts the 10th Chapter. It is a lesson we all need to learn, that all who come to meet Christ, and to worship with us are welcome in our Sanctuary that they may indeed receive the grace of God in their lives as we have received in ours. Amen.