Jesus Heals in Response to Faith October 2, 2016 Matthew 15:21-28 Matt Rawlings

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1 1 Jesus Heals in Response to Faith October 2, 2016 Matthew 15:21-28 Matt Rawlings 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. [Pray] Before we begin to look at this passage specifically, I want to ask you, who does Jesus come to? Or rather, what kind of person does Jesus come to? Does Jesus only come to those who have it all together? What kind of person is the Messiah for? Does Jesus only come to those who are clean on the outside? Do we first need to clean ourselves up and then Jesus will come to us? How can we be healed, or made clean? Do we have to earn it first? Do we have to deal with our problems before we can come to God through Christ Jesus? These are the very questions that Matthew is seeking to draw our attention to in His book about the good news of Jesus Christ. This miracle occurs right after the Pharisees confront Jesus about His disciples breaking the traditions of the elders, by not washing their hands when they eat. Now, for us today, handwashing seems to be just a matter of good hygiene right? After all, we know that harmful bacteria and viruses can be passed by eating with unwashed hands. The idea of eating with our hands after touching the door-handle or the cart at Walmart, or after going to the rest-room might gross some of you out and understandably so. I am consistently reminding my kids to wash their hands both so that they won t get sick and so that I won t get whatever gross germs they ve picked up from the playground outside the zoo. I believe that I remind them of this because I love my kids and I m trying to be kind. But, the Pharisees aren t being kind and informing Jesus about good hygiene and trying to keep them from getting sick. They are concerned because they placed their faith in their religious rituals and they believed that by keeping certain religious rituals, one can be made clean. But the Pharisees missed the point altogether and Jesus calls them on it. He said, you keep these religious rituals but you fail to keep God s law and you fail to see that your inability to keep God s law from the heart is what makes you unclean. Matthew 15:11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person. A person is defiled by what comes out of the mouth, because it comes from the heart and this defiles a person. In other words, not keeping religious rituals and practice doesn t make a person unclean, what makes a person unclean is their unclean heart. But if a person is unclean 1

2 2 from within, from within our hearts, then how in the world can we ever be made clean? How in the world can we ever be healed? What do we have to do to be healed from the rot inside of all of us? Does God only deliver those who are already clean? Asked another way, what are the grounds for God, or Christ's grace His favor and mercy? This miracle seems to be an answer to all of those questions. Like a good object lesson in class, Jesus is giving us an object lesson on the basis for His cleaning, the basis for His healing, the basis for his mercy and grace. What we see in this short miracle account, is that the grounds for Christ s cleansing, His favor, his grace and mercy is faith. And Jesus shows us the kind of faith that is the grounds for His grace. The woman in this miracle illustrates for us that it is a Christcentered faith that is the grounds for His grace. 1. A Christ-centered faith Jesus has just left the Pharisees in Galilee. Now, Jesus goes into the district of Tyre and Sidon, a predominantly Gentile area. Even Jesus going into this area was not normal for His ministry, since it was technically outside of the land of Israel. According to Josephus, a first century, Jewish historian, the Phoenicians and Tyrians, are notoriously our bitterest enemies Josephus, Against Apion 1:70, 71; LCL 1:191 So what in the world was Jesus doing there? Was He lost? He may have been wanting to avoid the Jews who wanted to make Him King. Maybe He was also avoiding Herod, who had heard about Him and was looking to talk to Jesus because talking to Herod often ended badly. But, from what Jesus did in this miracle, it is clear that He was up to far more. The Canaanites were historically enemies of God s people that God had commanded Joshua to wipe out as the Israelites entered the land. Yet Jesus intentionally went into Gentile territory and when He did, He encountered a Canaanite, who would have been hated enough, but this was also a woman, and for a Rabbi to engage with a woman would have been taboo. So, this woman appears to be beyond the scope of God s mercy to begin with. But, here comes this Canaanite woman, crying out, or shouting to Him, pleading with Jesus. Notice what she says too it is surprising. She cries out, Have mercy on me and then she calls Him Lord, which seems a bit much for a Canaanite, who wouldn t have appreciated a Jew as their master. But the most surprising thing, is that she refers to Jesus by His title as the Messiah she calls him Son of David and that is the basis for her asking for mercy. She knows and believes in Jesus, even though she was not born a Jew and she is crying out to Him to have mercy on her. She tells Jesus that her daughter is severely oppressed by a demon, or as the New American Standard puts it, she is cruelly demon-possessed. A demon is tormenting her daughter and this woman knows that she desperately needs deliverance. Instead of turning to other things though, this woman is desperate for Jesus. Jesus is the object of her faith. But she doesn t turn to Jesus as just someone to get her what she wants, although she does seek Jesus to deliver her daughter. Her faith is a Christ-centered faith. Her faith is centered on who Jesus is. Jesus is her Lord. And Jesus is her Messiah, even though she is not a Jew. She is looking to the Son of David, the long awaited Messiah of the Jews to deliver her as well. In her desperation, she is actively looking for Jesus. She is looking for Jesus the Messiah to bring healing, to bring deliverance in her hour of need. 2

3 3 This is the kind of faith that is the fertile ground for God s favor. If we are thoughtful readers and if we really reflect on this interaction, it should provoke us. If God s grace is shown to those who are Christ-centered in their faith, what kind of faith do we have? When we are desperate, who will we turn to? Will circumstances drive us to despair or will they drive us to seek Jesus? Will we go to Him in our desperation? Will we seek Him? Will we cry out to Him because we must have Him? Is our faith centered on Him or circumstances or our performance or our cleanness? Or do we lack faith because we are aware we are unclean? It is a Christ-centered faith that is the grounds for His grace. And the second way that this miracle illustrates the grounds for God s grace is through the woman s persistent faith. 2. A persistent faith It is a Christ-centered faith that is the grounds for His grace. Jesus is full of surprises and every time we encounter a miracle that he performs or a parable that He teaches, we should expect Him to surprise us. Up until this point, Jesus has been full of mercy and compassion. He heals all who come to Him and He turns none away who seek to be healed or delivered by Him. When someone asks to be healed, He immediately answers their request. But the surprising thing, if you were to read straight through the first 15 chapters of Matthew, is that Jesus doesn t answer this woman. He doesn t even seem to acknowledge her presence. Some commentators in the past have read into this negatively and assumed that Jesus was prejudice and didn t care about her. But while the text is silent on the internal thoughts of Jesus, His actions and His final words reveal His true intent. So, even though He doesn t answer her it seems He is waiting to see how His disciples would engage with her. How would they answer her? How would they treat this woman whose daughter had a demon, after they had already come back from their own mission preaching the good news, healing people and delivering those oppressed from demons? Would they have mercy and compassion on this woman? Well, we don t have to wait long to see. But just for a moment, look back up to verse 22, where it says, 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. Now, you need to understand a couple things here when it says she was crying out. When we hear the word crying, it seems to us to be all about tears. So, we might think, this woman has tears and is crying, sobbing quietly to herself. But that is not what it means. She was crying as in crying out shouting, yelling with a loud voice, like a town crier in the olden days might announce the arrival of royalty. But in her case, she was loud and shouting at them, announcing her need for mercy. And she didn t stop. She wasn t embarrassed she didn t care who heard about her need. She didn t care if people thought she was weird. She didn t care if people thought she was crazy or annoying or obnoxious. Her faith was persistent. The other thing to note, is that her crying wasn t a one-time cry she kept on crying, shouting, announcing and pleading for mercy loudly. In fact, she was so persistent that she really bothered the disciples. This woman so persisted in crying out for mercy, that His disciples came 3

4 4 to Jesus and begged Him to send her away, because she was crying out after them. Basically, she was bothering them. She wouldn t quit. I have to confess that I can be tempted to respond with this kind of exasperation sometimes too, when one of my children keeps on asking or crying for something, or when people keep on complaining. None of us likes to hear someone persistently yelling or shouting for us dad, dad, dad, dad, dad! Here, this woman was annoying them, bothering them, inconveniencing them, embarrassing them by crying out to them like that. But she demonstrates that the grounds for the grace of God come through a persistent faith. A faith that clings to him no matter what. How is our faith? Are we persistent? Well, the next way that this miracle illustrates the kind of faith that is the grounds for God s grace, is that it reveals 3. A tested faith Illustration of a doctor testing and probing to see what is really going on so that they can get to the bottom of things, the root of things to pave the way for healing. But sometimes it is painful. That is what Jesus is doing and it is painful. We don t like it it s uncomfortable. What we see here is a faith that is probed and tested. Jesus didn t send the woman away, but his next comment could seem rude, especially to 21 st century ears: He answered, I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He doesn t say that she needed to go or that He wouldn t do anything for her, but he says, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Why in the world did Jesus say that? Was He being prejudiced or racist here? When He says He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, it is implying that the house of Israel is lost and He came to fulfill God s promises to save Israel and then through Israel, to bring all the nations to Himself. In a sense, he was just telling the truth, that He came to deliver God s chosen people of Israel first and then through Israel, He would deliver the nations. But at the same time, Jesus did come so that all the nations might be saved through Israel. So, when He said this, it seems as if He was testing His disciples and also the faith of this woman. This is most certainly the case, because earlier, in Matthew 8, Jesus had readily healed the Gentile Centurion s servant in response to his great faith. But it seems that the disciples did not remember that Jesus had already told them that many outside of the kingdom of Israel naturally, would come into the kingdom of heaven by faith and eat at the table with Abraham. The disciples also had forgotten that Jesus already showed He was not reluctant to cast demons out of a Gentile, because He had already cast out a legion of demons from a man in the Gadarenes. It seems that Jesus is testing the woman s resolve here. Does she really believe in Him? Is she really appealing to him as her Messiah too? We don t like this kind of probing. Jesus doesn t probe for sport or because He is unkind He probes and test our faith, because He is the Great Physician and He brings true healing. But if our Jesus is the kind of Messiah who doesn t test, doesn t probe, then He is a Messiah of our own making. 4

5 5 But consider what James the brother of Jesus said in James 1:2-4, Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Or maybe consider what Peter, the chief disciple and one of the best friends of Jesus said in 1 Peter 1:6-9, In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. We are tested, so that the basis for our faith is Christ and not ourselves. We are tested so that our faith is confirmed as genuine. Ultimately, it is for our joy, as we obtain the outcome of our faith the salvation of our souls. So, the kind of faith that is the grounds for God s grace, is a tested faith. And lastly, this miracle demonstrated to us that the kind of faith that is the grounds for God s grace, is 4. A humble faith This woman is one of the best models of humble faith in fact. She was undeterred by Jesus ignoring her though, and she was not hindered by the disciples request to send her away. She didn t care what they thought, she needed to have the Lord s mercy for herself and she wasn t too ashamed to grovel to get it. So, she comes and prostrates herself in a position of humility before Jesus, kneeling down in front of Him. And in a posture of humble worship, she pleads with Jesus, saying Lord, help me. Jesus seems to be testing the woman again and He said, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs. When we hear this, it sounds like a very offensive comment doesn t it? After all, in the 70 s and 80 s, when I was growing up, it was a terrible insult to call a woman a dog. And it still is very unkind to call someone a dog in a derogatory way. But I wonder if that is what is going on here or not? Jesus does call her a little dog, or a little pet dog, but it is still insulting, because he is saying that on her own she has no right to eat at the table, like the children of Israel do. But, Mark s account shows that Jesus intended for her to eat as well, when he said, Let the children first have all they want which implies that the dogs may eat afterwards. His insult is apparently geared to reveal and stretch the woman s faith. She turns His apparent insult around though. She said, Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." No matter what was meant, this woman is persistent. She has the kind of faith that won t quit, that doesn t stop in the face of adversity and opposition. She is undaunted by any perceived insult, and instead, she uses Jesus words to prove the validity of her own request. She basically says, yes Lord, you are right, the dogs don t deserve the children s bread, and I know that I don t deserve the children s bread, but even the dogs are allowed to eat the table scraps from their master s table. So, yes, then I am a dog, but by the way, you are the master of 5

6 6 this lowly dog and I am just asking to eat the crumbs that fall down to all those who take shelter under your table. And as your dog, I have a right to be fed and eat the crumbs. What a statement of humble faith. She acknowledges her own lack of deserving but she calls Jesus her master and appeals to Him as her master to let her eat the crumbs, the left-overs. She acknowledges Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and as her own master and she places herself squarely at His feet, humbly asking for mercy and expecting to be fed by Jesus. It is no surprise then, that Jesus sees her faith and acknowledges her. So, finally, what we learn from this miracle, is that receiving God s grace and mercy, receiving His healing power isn t about being clean, it isn t about earning God s favor. No. Instead, we learn what is the main idea of the text, that we want to focus on today, that Main Idea: Jesus has mercy on the seemingly undeserving who come to Him humbly in faith. At the end of this account, Jesus reveals his true intent all along. His debate had been a probing of sorts to draw out her faith and highlight that the faith of even Gentiles is rewarded. Look at verse 28 with me: Then Jesus answered her, O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire. And her daughter was healed instantly. He says "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." Why is her faith great? Because she believed in the midst of hardship. Her faith was centered on Christ Jesus as the source of her hope. She was persistent in her faith, even when it was tested. She believed in Jesus, and asked for His mercy even though she knew she didn t deserve it. She believed in the midst of being turned away. She persisted in pursuing Jesus, no matter what was said about her. She humbly acknowledged that she didn t deserve to be healed and wasn t worthy on her own, but she appealed to Jesus as her master and claimed her right to be fed by Him through faith. Jesus saw her faith and rewarded her faith. Through the conduit of her faith in Him, Jesus showed mercy to her. Immediately, her daughter was healed and delivered from the demon. Mark tells us that she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone. What joy she must have experienced. What a ground-breaking miracle because in this miracle Jesus showed that He will not turn anyone away who has faith in Him. He has mercy on all who come to him humbly by faith. And He doesn t even have to be present to heal. Even though she was a far-off Gentile, she was brought near and blessed by God. Even though she was a Gentile woman a little dog she received the same peace of God that surpasses understanding. She experienced what Paul talks about in Ephesians 2. Ephesians 2:17-19 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God In the end this woman was no longer a stranger to Christ. She received blessings and great commendation from Christ. She is one of only a handful of people that Jesus even commended for their great faith. She had a faith that puts no hope in oneself. Not a faith based on being clean herself. Not a faith that earns but a faith that looks to the master to provide. A faith that 6

7 7 seeks not to create our own food, but to fed by our master. Now - the beauty is, that it is those who come in faith that are not treated like dogs, but invited to eat at His table. In closing, let us hear the words of Jesus to the centurion who came to Him in faith, in Matthew 8:10-13, When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. By faith, we are no longer dogs, sitting under the table. By faith, we are invited into the banquet table of God the Father, to sit beside Jesus and all those who have gone before us and to recline at table in the kingdom of heaven. Amen. Let us receive this by faith Redeeming Grace Church. This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Website. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template. 7

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