This past Lord’s Day, my pastor (Mitch Chase) celebrated his birthday with a full day of preaching and teaching. In the
morning service, Mitch preached from Matthew 15:21-28. In his sermon, he
helpfully and rightly pointed out that Jesus’ seemingly harsh and even racist
words—in calling the Canaanite woman and her daughter “dogs”—were adapted to
the expectations of His hearers. These words would have provided a background,
so that His subsequent commendation of this Gentile woman's faith would have been an even more stark
challenge to His hearers.
Reflecting more on this passage, I’m also struck by the
humility of the Canaanite woman. When Jesus answered her plea by basically calling
her a dog and directly implying that she was unworthy of His help, she did not
react as we might imagine she would. She might have responded, “You can’t talk
to me that way!” She might have said, “Who are you calling ‘dog’ you wandering
Jew?” She might have stormed off in a huff, feeling offended.
Instead, she did not argue. If the Lord decided to call her a “dog”
on this occasion—for whatever reason—she was ready to accept it. She simply
renews her request for her daughter. If the Lord declares her unworthy for “bread,”
she is willing to accept “crumbs.”
The Lord answered her request and commended her faith. This
passage—along with others, such as the parable of the Pharisee and the publican—present a
crucial truth concerning faith. It is faith alone that justifies. But the faith
that justifies is more than mere mental assent to a set of propositions. Faith
is rather a casting of oneself wholly upon the Lord, despairing of one’s own
attempts at righteousness. True faith exalts Christ above all. True faith comes
only through humiliation. The Canaanite woman began her address to Jesus with a
plea for mercy. “Mercy” implies that she already considered herself guilty,
under just judgment. Her interaction with Christ showed that she was not giving
lip-service to humility, but that she was truly humiliated before Him.
Please ask yourself, dear reader, if you have ever come to the place of the Canaanite woman. Have you ever seen yourself as guilty and in
need of mercy? Have you ever cried out to Christ for salvation? If not, I pray
that today would be the day that you truly place your faith in Him.
Labels: Bible study, evangelism