Matthew 15:21-28 “A Crumby Faith” July 30 Sermon by Rev. Allan Bash
I get the title for this sermon, “A Crumby Faith,” because of this woman’s response to Jesus that, “even the children get to eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” Actually the woman’s faith was great and Jesus even acknowledges that.
But before we get to that part of the story, we have some questions (which is always a healthy way to approach scripture).
- what was Jesus doing in this gentile area of Tyre and Sidon?
- where was this woman’s husband?
- why did Jesus seem to ignore this woman’s cry for help?
- how much courage and hope does it take for a person to move beyond prejudice?
This woman was not Jewish. She probably did not attend synagogue. Her knowledge of Jesus was only hearsay, rumor, second hand information. Jews had learned a long time ago to “stay with their own kind.” That was the problem with the Jews in Samaria. They had intermarried with the Assyrians and that was a no-no.
But at the chance of not being rejected by this Jewish healer, this woman ventures out to save her child. What would we risk if we had nothing to lose? Of course that’s the problem. We have a lot to lose, so we risk very little. But suppose things were different. What would we risk for the sake of our children? We live in a bombed out city with little food or water and someone offers us a boat ride across the sea to a land of promise. How much courage, what kind of desperate hope for our child would it take for us to climb into that overcrowded boat? Or in the midst of poverty and drug wars someone offers us to ride in an 18 wheeler to some promised land. How much courage, what kind of desperate hope for our child would it take for us to climb into that overcrowded truck.
Of course this woman didn’t have to get into a boat or a truck, she just had to leave her home, her neighbors, the secure walls of her city, and venture out to meet someone who had
different ideas about life.
It takes courage and desperate hope to do what this woman did. But that’s not us. Which is why some of my friends have called Jesus a male chauvinist pig in this passage. Others have criticized the woman for not having the courage to tell this Jewish man how women should be treated and that Jesus was getting it all wrong.
Then she sees them, a small group of Jewish men moving down this dusty gentile road, and she follows.
Soon she calls out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David. My daughter is ill.
(The story does not say that Jesus did not “hear” her. It says Jesus did not “answer” her.)
We’ve been there. Busy with something, we hear our name called and we don’t answer – we wait.
I’m right in the middle of a chapter
I’m busy on the computer
This is the best part of the movie
Maybe it wasn’t that important and I can finish what I’m doing.
Maybe if I ignore the call the problem will take care of itself.
We don’t know what was going on. The disciples could have said, “give her what she wants and send her away for she is bothering us.” What the disciples eventually say is, “send her away. She keeps yelling, ‘have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David. My daughter is ill.’”
There are times when we hold out to hear that one voice.
I have done lots of Christmas Eve services and most of the compliments were nice. But one time my parents came to visit at Christmas time and after the service I heard my father say to my mother, “Now that was a really good Christmas Eve service.” From then on that was what my Christmas Eve services were like. That was the voice I was waiting to hear.
And she heard the voice she wanted to hear. Jesus stopped and speaking partly to the disciples and partly to the woman, he says, “I have only been sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It is not right to take food from the children and give it to the dogs.” Now before we go further, it is important to understand Jesus stories, parables, and sayings as part of the wisdom of the middle east. The way of the sufi is one way to see this.
A sufi master was asked, “If I repent will God forgive me?” The sufi replied, “No. But if God forgives you, you will repent.”
Another saying I like is: “The people of this world do not look at themselves, therefore they blame others.”
Jesus is not putting this woman off. He is waiting for her comeback. Now what will she say?
“Yes, Lord. You are right! But even the dogs get to eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.”
Wow! Jesus is so impressed with her faith that he sends her home to a healthy child.
I hope we will pay attention to the crumbs that fall our way. I hope also that we will become the crumbs for another person’s faith journey.