140907 Matthew 15:21-28

Last Updated on Monday, 08 September 2014 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Matthew 15:21-28
Theme: Jesus Wants You To Be A "Crumby" Christian

It's a fairly common English word, but it is hardly ever used in conversation with its original meaning. I'm sure that you've heard it before. There is a good chance that you have said it before. The word I am thinking of is "crumby."

According to the dictionary "crumby" means "to be covered in crumbs." But the word also has a secondary definition, what we might call a slang definition: to be inferior or worthless. If you look out the window in the morning and see nothing but gray skies, you might think to yourself that it's going to be a crumby day. If your boss is unhappy with your performance at work, he/she might tell you that you are doing a crumby job.

You get the point. "Crumby" is not a positive word, and no one would ever use "crumby" as a compliment, no one except maybe Jesus. In the miracle account before us today, Jesus had a spiritual conversation with a Gentile woman. He didn't exactly tell her that she was crumby, but he did use an illustration that had to do with crumbs. And when the woman responded, she used the same word picture to demonstrate her faith in Jesus, the kind of faith that Jesus himself described as great, the kind of faith that Matthew holds up as an example for us today.

And as you listen in on this conversation between Christ and the Canaanite woman, you will understand what I mean when I say that...


I. Don't be afraid to ask him for help
II. Don't be discouraged if nothing seems to change
III. Don't be surprised when you are blessed

Jesus needed to get away for a while. He needed to get away from Galilee. He needed to get away from the crowds. He needed to find a quiet place where he could teach his disciples without any distractions. So they traveled north and west toward the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon.

But any hope of remaining anonymous quickly disappeared. The reports about Jesus had traveled beyond the borders of Israel. And as soon as one of the local women heard that Jesus was in the area, she sought him out and cried out: "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession" (22).

It isn't all that significant that the woman addressed Jesus as "Lord." "Lord" was a fairly common term, a term of respect the woman would use a couple more times in the course of their conversation. It is the other name the woman used that caught Jesus' attention.

"Son of David" is loaded with meaning. "Son of David" is a Messianic title. It brings to mind God's promise to David that he would establish his kingdom forever (II Samuel 7). It makes us think of the angel Gabriel's promise to Mary that her son would sit on David's throne (Luke 1). It takes us to the streets of Jerusalem, where people waved palm branches and worshiped Jesus, shouting: "Hosanna to the Son of David" (Matthew 21:9)!

How much did this woman know about the man who stood in front of her? We don't know, but we do know that she knew something. She knew that Jesus was special. She believed that Jesus could help her daughter. And she wasn't afraid to ask.

Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Ev'rything to God in prayer (CW 411:1)! You might recognize those words from the hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," but those lyrics are not just poetry. Far too often in our lives those words become reality.

In his Word the Lord invites us to pray to him, to cast all our cares on him, to call upon him in the day of trouble, but we don't. We don't ask Jesus for the help we need. Why not? Maybe it's because we think we can take care of ourselves. Maybe we don't want to admit that we can't take care of ourselves. Maybe you can remember a time when you prayed and prayed and prayed for something, but it didn't seem to do any good so you gave up.

If you have ever used any of those excuses, especially that last excuse, you need to listen carefully. Listen to the Lord's conversation with the Canaanite woman and learn from her example. When you are in trouble, when you need help, don't be afraid to ask. And don't be discouraged even if nothing seems to change.

The woman had just poured out her soul to Jesus. She begged him to heal her daughter and waited eagerly for his response. And Jesus said...nothing. Not a single word. He didn't acknowledge her request. He didn't even acknowledge her existence.

The awkward silence was broken by Jesus' disciples, who came to him and said: "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us" (23). Did the disciples want to get rid of this woman because she was causing a scene? Or were they asking Jesus to grant her request and send her on her away?

We don't know for sure, but Jesus' response might give us a clue. He said to his disciples (notice that he still isn't speaking to the woman): "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel" (24). In effect, Jesus was saying: "I am a Jew, and I was sent to the Jews. This woman is a Gentile, and helping her would go beyond the scope of my mission."

The woman heard what Jesus said. It must have sounded like Jesus was saying "No," but she wasn't about to take "No" for an answer. She approached him a second time, this time on her knees, and with all the emotion you can imagine she pleaded: "Lord, help me" (25)!

Perhaps the woman considered it a small victory when Jesus finally addressed her, but she probably didn't like what she heard. The Lord replied: "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs" (26).

You heard correctly. Jesus indirectly called the woman a dog, but it's not quite as bad as it sounds. Greek has more than one word for "dog," and the word used here refers to small lap dogs, pets that lived in the house and ate the scraps from the table. Jesus' comparison wasn't meant to be an insult, but it wasn't exactly flattering either.

Jesus' words didn't faze the Canaanite woman. She accepted them for what they were. They were true. She wasn't offended. She didn't argue. In fact, she agreed. She replied: "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table" (27).

Jesus couldn't argue with that. He was the one who said: "Salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22), but he spoke those words to a Samaritan woman. He was aware of Isaiah's prophecy (taken from the Old Testament lesson for today): "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations" (56:7). When Nicodemus came to him with questions, Jesus didn't say: "God so loved the Jews." He said: "God so loved the world..." (John 3:16).

And that little word, "world," includes you. It doesn't matter where you live. It doesn't matter what language you speak. It doesn't matter which box you check when you are asked to identify your nationality. God loves you. He doesn't give you the leftovers. He doesn't make you settle for the scraps. He gives you his best. He gave you his Son.

Jesus sacrificed his life for your sins, for every time you failed to pray to him, for every moment when you doubted him. Because of Jesus those sins are forgiven. Because Jesus died for you all your sins are forgiven. You aren't a dog. You are God's child. You are an heir of eternal life, and you have Jesus' promise that he will take care of you in this life.

So don't be discouraged. Don't be discouraged even if the problems in your life don't go away. You have a powerful and merciful Savior, and because you do you shouldn't be surprised when you are blessed.

Jesus said: "'Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour" (28). Most people like to receive compliments, and this woman was probably no exception. But instead of complimenting how she looked or something she did, the Lord drew attention to something she had. She had faith, great faith, saving faith. She had the kind of faith that trusted in Jesus to meet all her needs.

Parents teach their children to say "thank you" when someone gives them a compliment. Even though it's not recorded in their conversation it would have been appropriate for the Canaanite woman to thank Jesus when he complimented her faith, not to be polite, not just because it was the proper response, but because the same Lord who had given her the compliment had also given her her faith.

This woman didn't decide to believe in Jesus. She couldn't make herself believe any more than she could make her daughter well. Both blessings came from God, but the greater blessing was the gift of faith. The girl who was healed eventually died. Her mother died. Some day we will die, but everyone who believes in Jesus will live forever. That is what makes faith so special. That is what makes faith so precious.

God gave this woman the faith to believe in him. She believed that Jesus could heal her daughter, and when he did she wasn't at all surprised. Because you have the same faith in the same Lord, you shouldn't be surprised when the Lord blesses you. And when you think about the great things God has done for you, when you stop to count your blessings, don't forget to put saving faith at the top of the list.

Think about all the fun you could have with today's sermon theme. For the rest of the week you can go up to people and tell them that you pastor said that Jesus wants you to be a "crumby" Christian. Imagine all the puzzled looks you would receive. And then imagine all the opportunities you would have to explain what that means.

So what does it mean? What does it mean to be a "crumby" Christian? It means not being afraid to ask Jesus for help in time of need. It means not being discouraged if the situation doesn't appear to change. And it means not being surprised when we are blessed. Amen.

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