Matthew 15:21-28 -- A Persistent Faith

Matthew (Series A)  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:11:26
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Our text begins on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee in Gennesaret (14:34), to which Christ and the disciples had traveled after the events recorded in the Gospel from the last couple Sunday’s. Jesus draws opposition from unbelieving Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem. He then proceeds northwest to the Canaanite coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon.
If we examine the incident of today’s text carefully, something amazing is revealed. Persistence is the key. For as Jesus looked on the Canaanite woman, He did not see an interloper as did the disciples — an unwelcomed intruder on His time and energy. Instead, He was a woman of great personal faith. Instead of leaving us in doubt about the Lord’s words and actions, the text leads us to a better understanding of the nature of persistent faith. You see, Persistent Faith gives Christ Joy, it breaks barriers, and it’s grounded in God’s grace.

Persistent Faith Gives Christ Joy

Jesus has just been confronted by the scribes and Pharisees about handwashing. He calls them hypocrites “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (15:9). He then heads north, away from them, to the Gentile territory of Tyre and Sidon along the Mediterranean Sea.
A Canaanite woman comes out to Jesus, crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David” (v 22).
This is amazing. She is a Canaanite. The Canaanites were the idolatrous people living in the Promised Land whom God had told his people to annihilate. Even Abraham made his servant promise that he would not let Isaac marry a Canaanite (Gen 24:3). Yet this woman comes to Jesus, calling him “Lord” and “Son of David,” recognizing his authority and that he is God’s Messiah.
Her daughter is “severely oppressed by a demon” (v 22). She is desperate. She is convinced Jesus can help her. She is continual in her pleas.
But Jesus does not answer her a word!
She is so persistent that the text says the disciples beg Jesus to send her away.
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v 24).
He is telling them why he hasn’t healed her. She has no standing as a child of Israel.
But the woman continues. She begs Jesus.
She kneels in front of him. She cries, “Lord, help me” (v 25).
Jesus responds with this intriguing statement: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (v 26). I am not here to start a ministry in Tyre. I am not here to do miracles.
She says, “Yes, Lord.” She confesses that Jesus is right. She says absolutely, that’s exactly what I want.
You are feeding the children. Children always spill crumbs.
All I want is a crumb! Feed your children. Be the Son of David. And I’ll be satisfied with a crumb.
“O woman, great is your faith!” says Jesus (v 28).
It is done! Here is a crumb. Your daughter is healed, freed from her oppressive demon.
Jesus’ coming means crumbs, bread, life for the world!

Persistent Faith Breaks Barriers

Do you have a faith that tunnels through mountains when you cannot move them, trusting that God will provide a solution to your problems?
Pressured by life while God seems to be silent.
The trouble is that you and I often get sidetracked and stop pursuing God’s mercy. The cares, burdens, and riches of this life skew our vision, choke our breath, and weaken our steps so we end up choosing the path of least resistance. I’m sure you have heard the old proverb that when the going gets tough, the tough get going, but sometimes when the going gets tough and believing seems useless, we act uselessly, quit believing in his desire to rescue, and do not hold on to Jesus through the problems.
What if the Canaanite mother had taken Jesus’ silence as his final answer? Perhaps she knew God’s promise in Christ to the Gentiles from Is 49:6, and God’s invitation in Jer 29:13 to keep seeking him.
Jeremiah 29:13 EHV
13 When you seek me, you will find me, when you will seek me with all your heart.
Jesus tells the story of a widow who kept coming to a judge who neither feared God nor cared about people. Her plea was that he grant her justice against her adversary. Though he refused for some time, the judge finally granted her request. That story’s ending asks, “If the Lord Jesus returns today, in what condition will he find your faith?”
The Woman Never Gave Up
Despite what most would describe as resistance, the woman was convinced that Jesus was the only answer. She didn’t grow discouraged; faith persisted and that persistence paid off! Christ’s power becomes ours as we believe that He can overcome any barrier, any obstacle.
If we are honest with ourselves, we must sigh as penitent sinners and admit we have not yet achieved the level of faith in Christ which is perfect joy. We do not always seek persistently and kneel before him, confident that he will in his due time restore, establish, and strengthen (1 Pet 5:6–10) as he shapes and fashions his life in us.
1 Peter 5:6–10 EHV
6 Therefore humble yourselves under God’s powerful hand so that he may lift you up at the appointed time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 8 Have sound judgment. Be alert. Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him by being firm in the faith. You know that the same kinds of sufferings are being laid on your brotherhood all over the world. 10 After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called you into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you.

Persistent Faith is Grounded in God’s Grace

God takes what is nothing, worthless, despised, and dead, and works it into something precious, holy, and living.
Jesus looks at this Gentile Canaanite. He knows her anguish and her trust. He looks at his disciples. He knows their lowly background. Likewise, he knows your background and circumstances, and the condition and concerns of your heart. He came to seek and save the lost, to redeem and rescue, to build one new community including both Jew and Gentile by means of his cross.
The Canaanite mother, in spite of her background, somehow knows Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of David, who would provide an eternal home for his people, where they would no longer be disturbed nor oppressed by their enemies. But look at how he treats her. He gives her the “cold shoulder,” shunning her with silence so that her faith, empowered by the Spirit, may rise to the challenge. He then tests — exercises — her faith further, first by delay and later by training with the Word. He does this for her own good and also so that the disciples may see what great faith is, and how it is developed.
You and I know him who achieved an eternal place for us. He entered our world to overcome sin and death through his cross, and to make available to us new life, love, and liberty through his resurrection. He has opened the kingdom of heaven, the household of faith, to all. But look at how his love sometimes treats us. He disciplines those whom he loves. He prunes and trims and cuts us way back or down to size, then builds us up with faith, hope, and love. As Paul says, suffering produces endurance (Rom 5:3–5). See also Ps 119:75–76.
Psalm 119:75–76 EHV
75 I know, Lord, that your judgments are righteous. In faithfulness you have afflicted me. 76 Please let your mercy be my comfort, according to your saying to your servant.
Consider how Jesus was treated by his Father, who said, “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Father delivered him into the hands of sinful men according to Satan’s wiles, and on the cross he endured the unspeakable torments of death and hell itself. He gives the one he loves into the hands of the enemy (Jer 12:7). He stands back at a distance, and Jesus cries out from a state of abandonment. Jesus drinks this cup handed to him by the Father, for the joy set before him (Heb 12:2).
Can you or I resist such love? He takes our place in suffering and death, and then in exchange gives to us his life and wisdom and enduring strength, so that we can persevere to victory through our life’s struggles.
Conclusion: The Lord Jesus is greatly concerned with the progress and development of your faith in him, as you live through the afflictions that has beset us these days, the torments of Satan, the pressures of life, and the torments of your own conscience. Consequently, he works in you to will and to act according to his good pleasure (Phil 2:13), nurturing and fashioning your faith, which is your victory over the world (1 Jn 5:4). Your faith can even count hardship a joy. With James (1:2–4) you can consider your trials to be pure joy, leading to maturity.
This is the faith the Lord Jesus cultivates in you. As the Canaanite woman is a model for us, so we model this faith before all people and verbally share with them. This kind of faith is a saving faith—for you, for me, and for all.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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