August 17, 2008 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church - Mechanicsburg, PA
Jesus said: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” The woman answered: “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
But these aren’t the reasons that Jesus has in mind. They aren’t the foundational premise for what He says. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” What Jesus says is true, because “the children’s bread” is not meant for the dogs. The pets have no rightful claim to it. They may live with the family, but they have no place at the table. That’s the point of His statement to the Canaanite woman.
Essentially, what Jesus says to her is: “I’m not meant for you. I’m not your Lord, your Deliverer, or your Messiah.” Isn’t that why the incident happens? St. Matthew faithfully describes the scene. Jesus is politely addressed and positively identified by the woman: “O Lord, Son of David.” She makes a fairly reasonable request: “Have mercy on me.” She asks for something that is in Jesus’ area of expertise: “My daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” And Jesus’ response is . . . silence. “But He did not answer her a word.” Silence . . . because Jesus is not her Lord. Silence . . . because Jesus is not meant for her.
Jesus is very clear about His mission, even in the Gentile region of
That is “the Lord, the Son of David” who is promised, the prophecies that Jesus fulfils. But to whom is He sent? “I have only been sent to the lost sheep of the house of
But note what the woman says in reply. She believes the truth of the matter. She does not try to pass herself off as an Israelite, neither does she claim that Jesus is unfair. Rather, she accepts what Jesus says: “Yes, Lord.” It isn’t right for me to have “the children’s bread.” But the woman also mentions something else that has been and still is just as true: “But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” And no one begrudges the puppies who do.
To this acceptance of the truth, Jesus replies: “O woman, great is your faith!” She is commended for believing the truth of what He says, for believing the truth of what that Torah, Psalter, and Prophets declared, for believing the truth about who He is. “Her daughter was healed instantly” as the crumbs fell from the Divine Master during His work of redeeming
But for you, there are no crumbs to be had. Because the truth of who Jesus Christ is and what He does and what He says puts you into a different category than the Canaanite woman. Having the same faith in Jesus as she had makes you no dogs, but places you at the table as children. For what Christ was meant to do would also incorporate the nations into “the house of
That is what the prophecy given through Isaiah declared. There would be an expansion of the household: “The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, who minister to Him, to love the Name of the Lord, and to be His servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast My covenant—those I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” This is what the Lord God declares will happen as He “reveals His deliverance and His salvation” through the promised Christ.
There is a change in status to occur. People who were excluded from the presence of the Lord God and His covenant are being brought in. You, who once were not part of His people are made recipients of the Messiah’s work of redemption. Jesus is “sent only to the lost sheep of the house of
This is what today’s Psalm predicted and the Epistle Reading explained. The Israelite Psalmist writes: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine on us, that Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations.” And the Lord God answers the Psalmist’s prayer as He sends the Eleven and their successors out “to make disciples of all nations,” as they take up the task that Christ began, “baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
As you are called and gathered by the Holy Spirit, you are made part of “the house of
And yet, you are made the Lord God’s children. For that is His gracious will for you. And in doing so, He does not feed you leftovers, but places the Bread of Life in front of you to eat. He doesn’t treat you as unloved stepchildren, but gives you His Name as your own. He doesn’t leave you out in the courtyard or the foyer, but welcomes you into His “house of prayer” with all the rights and privileges of full membership.
None of this is just. But in matters of redemption, the Lord God goes beyond what is fair: His sense of equity is much different than ours. The Lord God’s salvation is a matter of mercy. It is the answer to the Psalmist’s prayer: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine on us, that Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations.” Grace and blessing: that is what the Lord God shows to you who are now given a place at the table.
The incident with the Canaanite woman is an incomplete foreshadowing of what was going to happen just over a year later. Soon, the disciples who wanted Jesus to “send her away” would themselves be sent to deliver the good things of salvation to people just like her. But you are not given incomplete shadows of salvation, you actually receive what the Lord God promised. You have been gathered, you have been born again into the Eternal Father’s household. And each day, in His graciousness, the Lord God gives you what your sin-oppressed souls need: forgiveness, life, and salvation.
What was promised to
T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.