Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Our text for this morning is the Gospel Reading from Matthew 15—it’s this strange story of an odd interaction between Jesus and this Canaanite woman. And, let’s be honest, there’s a lot in this story to cause you to scratch your head and wonder what’s going on. But for all of the confusing parts of this story, the main point is quite clear when you look at the last thing that Jesus says to this woman: O woman, great is your faith! (Matt. 15:28). In other words, Matthew has included this story in his gospel in order to highlight the great faith of this woman and to contrast it with the lack of faith that we see in the Pharisees and even is disciples in the first part of chapter 15. So, this morning, I would like to take some time to examine the great faith of this Canaanite woman—not as some intellectual exercise, but with the goal that you and I might use this as an opportunity to evaluate our own faith in relation to this Canaanite woman’s great faith.
2. There are three ways that this Canaanite’s woman’s great faith is on display in this story. The first is seen in verse 22. This woman comes to Jesus and cries out: Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon (Matt. 15:22b). The first way in which this woman displays her great faith is that she knows who Jesus is. He is, first of all, Lord. He’s Yahweh, the God of Israel. He is the creator of the universe. But he is also the Son of David. Or, to put it differently, he is the Messiah—Israel’s Savior. He’s the one who has come to save God’s people. This woman, first of all, shows her great faith because she knows who Jesus is. So, my first reflection question for you this morning is, do you know who Jesus is? Do you really know him? …I mean that in the biblical sense of knowing. In biblical thought, knowing someone is more than knowing about them—knowing their name, where they’re from, their hobbies, etc. Truly knowing someone means having an intimate connection with them—having experienced them. So, do you truly know Jesus? Are you growing in that knowledge of Jesus through his word? Do you know Jesus like this Canaanite woman?
3. The second way in which this woman displays her great faith is seen in verse 25. Jesus has just said, I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. [But then the Canaanite woman] came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me” (Matt. 15:24-25). See, this woman doesn’t just know who Jesus is, she also knows who she is. She knows that Jesus has come to be Israel’s Messiah. She knows that she’s not a part of that promise—in fact, she is a Canaanite. She is one of Israel’s ancient enemies! Yet, because this woman knows who she is, the second way she displays her great faith is by humbling herself and asking for Jesus mercy anyway. So, my second reflection question for you is, do you have a humble faith like this Canaanite woman? Do you know who you are in relation to Jesus—a poor, miserable sinner who deserves nothing good from him? Do you recognize your unworthiness before Jesus? Do you have a humble faith like this Canaanite woman?
4. The final way in which this woman displays her great faith is seen in verse 27. Jesus has just responded to her plea for mercy by saying, It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. [But the woman said,] Yes, Lord, for even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table (Matt. 15:26-27). The final way in which this woman demonstrates her great faith is that she trusts in Jesus’ abundance. She knows that she deserves nothing from Jesus, but this woman also knows that when Jesus feeds his children—as he has just done in the feeding of the 5,000 and as he will do again in a few short verses in the feeding of the 4,000—when Jesus feeds his children, there is more than enough left over for her. When the master feeds his children, there is an abundance of crumbs left over to feed the dogs. So, my final question for you is, do you have a trusting faith like this Canaanite woman? Do you trust in Jesus’ abundance to provide for you in all times—both in the good times and the hard times? Do you have a trusting faith like this Canaanite woman?
5. I don’t know about you, but when I reflect on these questions, my answer is: “Well, sometimes…kind of…maybe.” But if I’m being honest, and I suspect you’re in the same boat as me, if we’re being honest, the answer is “no” more often than not. It makes me think, “Where does this Canaanite woman’s great faith come from? And, how do I get that kind of great faith?” Well, to be honest, this text doesn’t tell us where her faith comes from. But, if we take a hint from this text and look a few pages back in Matthew’s gospel, we’ll find the answer. Keep in mind, Matthew has told us at the beginning of our text that this takes place in the region of Tyre and Sidon. The only other place that Tyre and Sidon is mentioned in Matthew’s gospel is in chapter 11. And a few verses after these cities are mentioned, in Matthew 11:25, as you might remember from our Gospel Reading a number of weeks ago, Jesus said, I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children. Where does this Canaanite woman’s great faith come from? It’s been given to her by the Father. And, my friends, that’s where all faith comes from. Faith is a gift which comes from the Father.
6. Your faith is a gift which comes from the Father through his Word and Spirit which teaches you to know Jesus more deeply. Faith comes from the Father through the Law, which shows you who you are—a poor, miserable sinner in need of God’s grace. And this law causes you to humble yourself before God. And faith also comes from the Father through the Gospel, which teaches you and me to trust in the abundance of Jesus who provides for all of our needs of both body and soul. So, my friends, it’s good that we evaluate our faith, but we must never forget that faith is a gift which comes to us from the Father, through the Spirit, because of the abundant love that our God has for us in Jesus Christ, our Savior.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.