Sermon – August 30, 2020 – Pentecost 13

Printable PDF:  8-30-2020 Pentecost 13 Sermon

Pastor Mark Jacobson  ~  Pentecost 13  ~  August 30, 2020  ~  Matthew 15:21-28


21Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” 23Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” 25The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 26He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 27“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 28Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.




It was her little girl. She gave birth to her. Nursed her. Watched her grow. She was there for all her firsts – her first step, her first word, and her first day of school. She had been sick before, but nothing like this. She screams and hollers constantly. You can’t put new clothes on her because she’ll tear them right off. She used to have a nice ponytail, but now it’s almost all pulled out at the roots. She’s not herself. She is possessed by a demon. It’s a helpless feeling.

  1. Crumbs of grace for the searching soul

Then Jesus withdrew into her region. The region of Tyre and Sidon are a long way from Galilee, but news about Jesus has traveled fast and far before. After Jesus was born, the good news was not only communicated to nearby shepherds by angels, but also to faraway wise men or Magi by the means of a star. We don’t know how this Canaanite woman learned of Jesus, but she most definitely learn of him. She addressed Jesus as, “Lord, Son of David.” While many of the Jews still addressed Jesus as “Rabbi” or “Teacher,” she addresses him as “Lord, Son of David.” This title was used in Old Testament times to refer to the promised Savior. 

Not only did this woman live in a faraway land, but she also had a Canaanite background. Way back in Genesis, Noah cursed the Canaanites as the “lowest of slaves” (Genesis 9:25). The entire Bible book of Joshua tells the bloody saga of how Israel took over the promised land of Canaan. Most Canaanites were still worshipping idols, but not her. 

Not only was her geography and her family history working against her, but Jesus appears to have been working against her, too. Initially, Jesus doesn’t even respond to her cry for mercy, and when Jesus does respond to her, his response kind of makes us wish he hadn’t said anything at all. Jesus says to her, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Instead of taking offence, this faraway Canaanite woman takes an opportunity. Respectfully, she agrees with Jesus. A more happy translation is, “Yes, Lord, it’s not right to take away the children’s food and give it to pet dogs.” It’s not right to take God’s grace from Israel and give it to the Canaanites, but just as pet dogs will eagerly eat whatever falls to the floor so also, she will eagerly accept whatever she can from God. And then Jesus who had never lost a debate with anyone, loses the debate with this faraway Canaanite woman. “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have a great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment.”

Jesus has something for everybody. Maybe you feel like God has discriminated against you. Some sinners were baptized as infants like me, but maybe you have yet to be baptized or were baptized as an adult. Some Christians were brought to church as a child and raised in a Christian home like me, but maybe you never had seen the inside of a Bible until you were much older. Some adults have these Christian circles where all the people they know are Christians like me, but maybe the only Christian circle you can draw is the one around yourself. You might fit the comparison of a pet dog under the kitchen table as far as your Christian instruction is concerned, but, ah, a crumb of grace is enough for the searching soul. This woman received grace in the message she heard about Jesus. And when she had that opportunity to ask for mercy, she did not let go, and she did not go home disappointed. And neither will any of you here today, even if today is the only day you had ever heard about Jesus, you will not be disappointed. He will take care of all of your needs. Hold onto him and never let go.  

  1. An example of faith for the still learning disciples

Jesus has something for everybody. Crumbs of grace for the searching soul and an example of faith for his still learning disciples. It’s painfully clear this journey to the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon was not a mission trip. Ignoring people and insulting people are not good strategies for mission work, but this wasn’t a mission trip. It was a discipleship retreat. It was a time for Jesus and his disciples to rest up and to be rejuvenated for their home stretch. A successful business is first built on returning business. It doesn’t pay to get new business if all your current customers stop buying your product.

Were the disciples of Jesus really going to go and make disciples of all nations? Were the disciples of Jesus really going to be his witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria and to the ends of the earth? Last time we were in church together, Jesus was telling his Apostle Peter on the water, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Jesus wanted his still-learning disciples to be strengthened in their faith. They needed encouragement. They needed to learn what faith was all about, and this Canaanite woman was bothering them. “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me.” “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me.” “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me.” When the disciples said to Jesus, “Send her away,” we should interpret those words to mean “Lord, heal her daughter and be done with her,” but Jesus would not just heal her daughter and be done with her.

Jesus had his reasons as he always does, and one of those reasons was so the disciples could witness what great faith looks like. What does great faith look like? It looks like this Canaanite woman. She is the one to whom Jesus told, “You have a great faith.” She had these disadvantages – a faraway land, a Canaanite background, an ailing daughter, and testing from Jesus, yet she held onto Jesus for all that He would give her.

Some churches can be so devoted to outreach in the community they neglect in-reach to their congregation. Some churches are so concerned about conversions and baptisms, they don’t reflect so much on Communion and Bible study attendance. Like Jesus devoted so much time and attention to his disciples, so also our Pastors and Elders need to direct their time and our attention to the members of Grace. We want all of our members to grow in their faith and ultimately make it to heaven.  

And yet what a gift it can be to witness someone who was not baptized as a baby, who was not taught and trained in God’s Word as a child, hear the Word of God as an adult, and never let it go. Like this Canaanite woman, these adult converts have to wrestle with what they have been taught all their life, and with the help if the Holy Spirit, come to the conclusion that God’s Word is right. The Triune God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the only true God. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is the way, the truth, and the life; the world’s only Savior. There is nothing better in all the world than to believe in Jesus and walk in his ways.

Brothers and sisters, God does have mercy on us, but God does extend his mercy in different ways. The Christian Church is a gift to this world. We have the gospel message of Jesus Christ that can save souls. Jesus died for the sins of the world, and those who believe in him will have eternal life. And yet those who do come to faith in spite of great obstacles can put our lifelong faith to shame. God does not want to put us lifelong believers to shame, but God does want us to examine what we believe and repent of our lack of faith. God wants his Word and the examples of those who have overcome great obstacles to refresh us and rejuvenate us to live for our Savior Jesus and never let him go. Amen.