Matthew 15:21-28

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Jesus gives grace to the Syro-Pheonician woman

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**Philly airport story**
-have you ever recieved help you didn’t deserve?
-I want you to think about that, as our sermon today really just has a simple point and message that we’re going to get to at the end, so stick with me


-Gospel of Matthew was written by the Apostle Matthew
-This Gospel is very Jewish
-The Gospel begins with a geneology linking Jesus to Abraham and David
-There is a great amount of quotes from the OT
-Matthew usually prefers the Jewish words and phrases
-Even though this Gospel is very Jewish, Matthew is also very concerned to show that the mission of Jesus will in fact reach the Gentiles
-The wise men
-The Great Commission
Whenever we do exegesis in the Gospels, we call each separate narrative account a “pericope”
-That’s just a fancy word for an account in the Gospels
-For instance, the pericope of Jesus feeding the 5,000 or healing blind Bartimaeus
Whenever we’re doing exegesis in the Gospels, we always want to ask ourselves why is this pericope placed where it is?
-The Gospels are not just some random placement of stories about Jesus with no connection to each other
-The Gospel writers are actually very calculated about the selection of their accounts of Jesus, and their arrangements of these accounts
-So we always need to take stock of the surrounding context
-We need to be thinkers when it comes to the Scriptures
-Almost like detectives or journalists, asking many questions of the text
-So let’s look at the surrounding context of this pericope and maybe get a clue at the message that Matthew is trying to communicate, not just from our 8 verses, but also from this section of His Gospel
In chapter 15, we have very scathing and very sad indictment against the Jewish leaders
-They come to Jesus at the beginning of chapter 15, essentially accusing the disciples for not holding to the tradition of the elders (vs. 1-2)
-It’s actually a back-handed way to accusing Jesus of not being a good leader and teacher
-Notice they’re not confronting the disciples, they’re confronting Jesus
-Jesus then exposes them for their hypocrisy and disobedience to God’s commands by pointing out that they give people an out to not honor and take care of their parents, thus breaking the 5th command (vs. 3-6)
-He then applies Isaiah 29:13 to them
Isaiah 29:13 NKJV
Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,
Jesus then tells the whole multitude that it’s not when enters a man that defiles him, but what comes out of a man
-What he’s saying is that keeping these traditional instructions and holding to these ceremonial cleansings is not what makes a person pure or impure to God
-it’s what is in the heart that comes out in our speech and actions
The disciples tell Jesus that He offended the Pharisees with this saying of His, to which He responds:
Matthew 15:13–14 NKJV
But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”
-What an incredibly scathing thing to have the Judge of the Universe say about you
“Let them be”
Jesus then goes on to explain his parable
-He tells them that whatever is eaten is ultimately expelled and doesn’t defile someone
-But the sin in one’s own heart that comes out, that’s what defiles a man
-So, we have the failure of the Jewish leaders to recognize their Messiah
-They draw near in outward appearances, but they reject the Promised One
-And Jesus says, “let them be”
And it’s in this context, that we find our pericope
Let’s read through the text, and then we’re going to sit in it:
Vs. 21
-Jesus withdraws out of the territory of Israel into a Gentile place
-This is incredibly rare in Jesus’ ministry
-When Jesus’ commissions the 12 in Matthew 10, he tells them
Matthew 10:5 NKJV
These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.
-This is a very rare thing
-And notice, it’s not even like he’s going to Samaria, which he did a few times during his ministry
-The Samaritans were at least partly Jewish
-He goes to the completely gentile region of Tyre and Sidon, who were honestly not any friend of the Israelites or Yahweh in the OT
-You can go to Ezekiel 26 and find there a pretty intense prophecy against Tyre the Yahweh Himself gives
-And Jesus leaves the area of the Israelites and goes into Gentile territory
Vs. 22
Now, notice how Matthew describes this person
-First of all, she’s a woman
Matthew and his readers are living in a day and age which women are not very highly thought of
-Back then in this culture, women and men had very little social interaction with men
-Men often wouldn’t even address their wives in public
-At times, women were viewed as little more than property in this culture
Second of all, notice how Matthew describes this woman:
-she’s a woman of Canaan!
-This is the ancient enemy of Israel
-This is the people that God told the Israelites to completely
-What I think Matthew is trying to do here is to is show the contrast between her and the religious leaders of the day
But she comes to Him in desperation, crying out to Him for the healing of her daughter
Notice that she calls Him “Son of David”
-This is a Messianic term
-This is what the Jewish people would have called their Messiah
-This is what the crowds cried out at Jesus’ triumphal entry
And this woman is crying out, seeking to lay hold of the help of the Jewish Messiah because her daughter is severely demon-possessed
Now think of it:
-This woman is so far outside of the covenant community
-She really has no claim on the Messiah of the Jews in the eyes of those near Jesus
-I mean, she’s a woman, she’s a Canaanite
-What hope does she have??
-And yet she throws herself on the mercy of the King of the Jews, begging Him to heal her daughter
Vs. 23
-And notice Jesus’ response to her:
“But He answered her not a word.”
Why is that??
-Doesn’t that seem hard or cold or calloused by our Lord?
-I mean, this woman is crying out for help, and He doesn’t do anything
-He kind of just ignores her
-Why would He do that??
-I want you to think about that
The disciples get tired of it!
-They ask the Lord to “send her away for she cries out after us”
Now, it’s interesting to note the context and Jesus’ response here
-Are the disciples asking to Jesus to turn her down and send her away?
-Or are the saying, “just grant her the request already so she’ll leave us alone!”
it’s actually the latter!
-They’re asking Jesus to grant the request and then send her away
-In vs. 24, as DA Carson, notes, Jesus gives a reason as to why He isn’t helping her, not why He isn’t sending her away
Vs. 24
Jesus’ answer is that He is sent only to the lost sheep of Israel
-He’s giving the reason why He hasn’t helped her and answered her request yet
And the reason is this:
**He’s been sent to the house of Israel
Matthew 10:5 NKJV
These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.
Does God love Jews more?
We need to realize this:
Jesus’ mission by God the Father was to go to Israel as their Messiah
Why is that?

that His activities were circumscribed not only by the inevitable limitations of His manhood, but by the specific part that He had been called to play during His brief earthly life

Jesus in His humanity could only be one place bodily at one point
-The promises of the Covenants were given the Jews, and Jesus was there to fulfill them
The Father commissioned Him as the Jewish Messiah, and as one commentator notes, Jesus delighted to do the will of Him who sent Him (Carson)
And so it’s not that God loves Jews more, it’s just that they’ve been given the promises and the Covenants
And so Jesus ignores her
-And when the disciples urge Him to grant her request, He refuses and won’t give in
-And Jesus, thus leaves this woman in her desperate state
Now, is Jesus being cold or calloused or insensitive here?
I want you to think about that, and I’ll get back to it at the end?
Vs. 25
The woman comes again to Jesus in desperation to Jesus
-the word for “worshiped” there in your NKJV probably isn’t a great translation
-While the word can mean worship and often does indeed mean that, it can also just mean to kneel or bow down
-Most other translations translate this word as “knelt”
So she comes and kneels before our Lord and notice what she says:
“Lord, help me!”
She’s a desperate mother!
-Her daughter is demon-possessed, that situation is dire!
-She comes, falls at Jesus’ feet and begs for help!
And how does He respond?
Vs. 26
**read the verse**
-that sounds like a slam doesn’t it?
-During that time, Jews would refer to Gentiles as “dogs” to show their disdain
-It almost sounds like Jesus is agreeing with them here!
-It seems like he’s turning her down based off of her ethnicity
-Almost like she’s second rate because she’s not a Jew
Some commentators and Bible scholars try to soften this by saying that the word Jesus uses for dog is not the normal word for dog.
-The normal word for dog “kyon” often has a more negative connotation, like the scavenger type of dogs
-Whereas this word for dog used here, “kynarion”, is more of a little dog, maybe even the kind you’d have as a pet and allow into your homes
-while this may indeed soften the word dog here some, I don’t believe that’s the main point of what Jesus is trying to say, that Gentiles are actually nice dogs as a opposed to scavenger dogs
So what’s going on here?
-Well, there is a definite distinction being made here between Jew and Gentile
-But the emphasis, as DA Carson points out, is not one of the amount of blessing, but of precedence: the children get fed first
Jesus comes first to the people of of Israel
-And this was understood by the Apostles as well!
Romans 1:16 NKJV
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
So Jesus here, is not being racist or slamming her, but is making sure she understands why He’s been called and the order in which the covenant blessings are distrubuted
Which leads us to her response:
Vs. 27
-And this is where we get to see the heart of this woman!
-Here’s what she’s saying!
-Yes Lord, I know that I’m a dog
-I know I have no claim the You the Jewish Messiah as a Gentile
-I know I don’t deserve Your grace!!
. . . but would you give it to me anyway?
And what happens?
Vs. 28
-Jesus grants her her request
And this is the whole point of this perricope! We see 2 things about Jesus:
-Jesus wants us to understand our need and our unworthiness to lay claim on Him
He wanted this woman to come to this place of desperation
-He wanted her to see her own unworthiness to lay claim to God’s grace and blessing
-Jesus wasn’t being cruel!!
-He loved this woman so much!
-And in His love, He brought er to this place of utter desperation and dependence on Him
-He lovingly shows her that she doesn’t deserve His grace
And in our own lives, we need to often be brought to a place of utter dependence on God
-We often think that we’re sufficient to meet our own challenges and help ourselves
-And often we think that somehow we deserve God’s mercy and grace
-And we don’t!!
-outside of Christ, we’re sinful dogs far removed from the covenant blessings of God
-We’re all Gentiles, born outside the promises and covenants.
-And we need to see our desperate need for God!
And secondly, Jesus is the kind of Savior who lovingly and abundantly gives grace to those who do not deserve
-When poor, wretched and helpless sinners come to Christ, saying to Him: “I know I’m sinful! I know I’m helpless! I know don’t deserve your grace! . . . but would you give it to me anyway?”
-Christ gives them grace
-Because that’s who He is
On the cross of Calvary, Jesus suffered and died, the just for the unjust, to be able to feed us from His table
-He died and rose again, and when we come humbly to Him, seeking His mercy and grace, He gives it to us even though we don’t deserve it
-Just like the woman at the airport who helped me, in a much greater way . . .
And as a Christian today, I want to encourage you:
-God may just be using the circumstances in your life to humble you
-to remind you once again of your need for Him
-Of your dependence on Him
-Maybe you’ve fallen into a thinking that you somehow deserve something from God because of your effort or performance
-that your devotions or witness for God somehow put you in His debt
-Instead of us being frustrated with God when things aren’t going our way, maybe we ought to view our hardships as gifts from the hands of a loving God who desires us to draw closer to Him in times of need
And as a Christian, we serve a Savior who is (as one pastor I heard calls it) “Omni-gracious”
-When we come to Christ humbly, seeking His grace to help us in our need
-whether that be spiritual need in a sin struggle
-whether that be financial need
-relational need in your life
-emotional hardship
We can be confident that our Savior hears our prayers, and will give us mercy and grace
Hebrews 4:16 NKJV
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Lastly, when we’re shown mercy and grace, it ought to lead us to show that to others
**Tim Keller story about the lady visiting his church**
-Lady came in
-seemed a little out of place and would leave
-finally caught her
-asked her why she was here
-she told of her boss
-she made a grave mistake, one that could cost her her career
-her boss, a man of credibility and acclaim and clout took the blame
-he lost some of his credibility, but he took it and she kept her job
-She went and asked him why
“many times people will take credit for something they didn’t do, but not blame”
-he said, my life has been changed by a man who took my blame and bore my penalty
-And I’m here because I want to know more about this
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