Matthew 15:21-28 (click for full reading)
Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
(Click on the title above to listen to the sermon)
This is an uncomfortable text to read and/or hear.
Not only is the woman awkwardly persistent with her cries for help, but Jesus seems to act so out of character!
First he ignores her, then he tells the disciples he hasn’t come for her, and then finally he calls her a dog.
What do we do with this story?
Most helpful I think is the context.
Matthew writes to a Jewish audience. They have heard many times before this and in Matthew’s Gospel all over the place, that Jesus has come for them. Jesus even says in the text today that he is there for the “chosen people of Israel”. So for them, they’d hear Jesus chastise this woman and they’d agree. But what Matthew does, what Jesus does through his interaction with this woman, is open the doors of salvation WIDE OPEN.
He calls her, a Canaanite women, faithful. Not just faithful, but a woman of great faith. It’s the only time in the entire New Testament where these two words are strung together. Great faith. And it’s about a Canaanite woman.
This is HUGE.
The original audience that heard this story had their minds blown at that moment. This woman is a genius. She knows that Jesus is here for the chosen people, but she also sees that there is something left over. She asks for a scrap, because when she looks at Jesus, she sees abundance. And so should we.
We aren’t Israelites. We aren’t the original “chosen people of God.” But there is a place for us at the table. We are called children of God because the love and grace of God overflowed to include us all. And thank God for that.
Questions to Discuss/Ponder
1. Most of us reading this would be considered “insiders” of the church today. Who, do you think, might be the outsiders for our time?
2. What might we experience differently when we understand that the abundance of God includes those outsiders as well as those inside?
3. Would this change the way you treat anyone? Would it change the way you interact with people?
Just as Jesus widened his scope to include those who were thought of as “outsiders,” so too do we need to widen our own lens of who is worthy of a place at the table.
There is abundance, and that means EVERYONE has a place at the table. Sinners and saints. Rich and poor. Black and white. Israeli and Palestinian. Suni and Shia.
In our divisive culture and world today, many people daily experience life on the outside. This week, find one person who you have named as an “outsider” and engage them in conversation, take them out for lunch or coffee, or help them move one step toward the table. It’s big enough for all of us, so let’s get to work bringing people to the spot that’s saved for them.