Sermon Outline On Matthew 15:21-28
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Stan and Jan Berenstain wrote a series of books about a bear family. One of the books described the adventures of one of the boys as he hid in a box. The book ends with the small bear running home shouting at the top of his lungs, “Mama, Mama! I went to town. Inside, Outside, Upside down!”
Today’s gospel lesson is about Insiders & Outsiders, and how Jesus turned religious tradition Upside down. Let me ask you a question. Who are the outsiders in your life? What defines them as outsiders? Is it the color of their skin? Is it the way they smell? Is it their home country? Is it the way they act? Is it their mental capacity or capability? Is it their religious convictions? Is it a scarf on their head? There are many things that make people outsiders. We have people that we treat as outsiders. Who are they? How are they related to us and to the church?
Our story begins with Jesus leaving that place. Where is that place? Jesus has been in the land of Gennesaret. Gennesaret is the Greek for Galilee. After meeting the disciples in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, they go to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Why would Jesus choose to go there? This is the only time in Jesus’ ministry that he leaves Jewish territory. He is now in a Gentile area. Why would he go there?
Jesus has just completed a debate with Pharisees over spiritual cleanliness. The Pharisees don’t accept Jesus’ view. His disciples don’t understand him. Jesus throws up his hands. He needs a break. He needs to get away. He choose Tyre & Sidon.
Jesus is disappointed in the actions & attitudes of those who had been given God’s grace. Jesus was disappointed in these insiders. For Jesus, the people of Israel were insiders.
A CANAANITE WOMAN FROM THAT VICINITY CAME TO HIM. Enter the outsider. Matthew calls her a Canaanite. Remember the Canaanites. Remember the land of Canaan. Remember the Promised Land. Canaan was the Promised Land. Joshua brought Israel into Canaan. They took the land from the Canaanites.
These pagan people were occupying the Promised Land. The Canaanites were Israel’s enemy. It is interesting that Matthew describes this woman as a Canaanite. This is the only time that word is used in the entire New Testament. The Canaanites are Old Testament people.
Matthew wants us to know this woman is an outsider. She is from this non-Jewish region. She is an ancestor of the Canaanites. She is not a follower of Yahweh. She is not a follower of Jesus.
A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me.” This is a strange story…Really strange.
This Canaanite woman calls Jesus LORD. She calls him SON OF DAVID. She is speaking of Jesus as Messiah.
To this point in Matthew’s gospel, the disciples have not called Jesus, Son of David. The woman begs for mercy. She has a very sick child. Her daughter needs the healing touch of Jesus. The woman recognizes Jesus’ power.
And what is Jesus’ response? How does he react to this request? He doesn’t. He does nothing. He says nothing. What an un-Jesus-like thing to do.!
Matthew must be mistaken. Surely Jesus wouldn’t just ignore her request. What has gotten into Jesus?
The disciples say, “Jesus please take care of this woman. She is a nuisance. Help her so we can get rid of her.”
And Jesus respond, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Jesus sees his mission as only to the “lost sheep of Israel.” To God’s chosen people. His mission is only to the insiders. She is an outsider, a Gentile. Surely this isn’t Jesus talking.
Did you hear what Jesus said next? He called the woman a dog. He tells her that his miracles are only for the chosen ones. The woman is persistent!
She points out that even the dogs get crumbs. She does not give up.
She knows that Jesus can help her. She continues to plead for help. Her perseverance works.
Jesus says, “Woman, you have great faith!” Her faith is demonstrated by her persistence. Jesus heals the daughter. The outsider receives mercy.
The outsider experiences the grace of God.
So who are the outsiders, and who are the insiders? On that day, Jews were insiders, and Gentiles were outsiders. Today we could say that those in the church are insiders, and those beyond the church are outsiders. But did you know that there are some people in the church who feel that they are outsiders? Did you know that there are some people in the church that don’t realize there are insiders and outsiders within the church.
We believe that baptism is the way God marks people as insiders. In our baptism, God is saying to the world that we are children of God. We are a part of the Christian family. Baptism marks us as insiders, at least in God’s eyes.
So who are the recipients of God’s grace, the Insiders or the Outsiders.
On that day Jesus begins by reserving his mercy for only the insiders. But before the day was over, the outsider received mercy. You see, God’s grace is available to all.
What must we do to earn God’s grace? Jesus tells us time and time again that we are not capable of earning God’s grace. God’s grace is a gift,
freely given to all of us. Grace is given to insiders & outsiders.
What must we do to earn eternal life? Must we give our tithe? Must we help our neighbor? Must we send food to the Africa? Must we attend church regularly? Must we read our Bible? Must we be hard workers? Must we be good? All these things we do not as a way of earning God’s grace, but in response to that grace.
It doesn’t matter whether we are an insider or outsider. We can’t earn God’s grace — God’s love. You don’t earn what is freely given to you.
This Canaanite woman did not earn the love of Jesus. She was a mortal enemy of Israel. She was not familiar with the Law. She did not follow their traditions. She was an OUTSIDER.
But God loved her too. Sometimes we do terrible things, BUT GOD LOVES US. Sometimes we must break Jesus’ heart, BUT JESUS LOVES US. Sometimes we stray from God, BUT GOD LOVES US. Whether we are outsiders or insiders, GOD LOVES US. Whether we are good or bad,
GOD LOVES US.
Matthew tells us a story about a Canaanite woman who asks Jesus for help. In the Jewish culture, she is an outsider. Jesus says some surprising things and does some surprising things. Before the story is over, Jesus demonstrates his love for her.
The world would have us believe that only the best receive God’s mercy, grace, & love. Jesus turned worldly thinking UPSIDE DOWN. God’s grace is for insiders. God’s grace is for outsiders. God’s grace surrounds us all. God’s grace is a gift to all.
Are we like the Jesus at the first of this story? Holding the outsiders at a distance from us. Not sharing with them the love of Jesus Christ. Are we like the Jesus at the end of this story? Including the outsiders, offering them a smile, and sharing with them the love that comes from Jesus.