From Crumbs to a Feast

Matthew 15:21-28

August 16th & 17th, 2008


                        We find them at the edge of our plates, they make it to the floor, and young children get them on their clothes.  What am I talking about, crumbs.  Now usually when one speaks of crumbs it is not a positive conversation.  To someone else we say “You’ve got crumbs on the side of your face, or look at around your plate there are crumbs everywhere.”  Yet, in our passage to say the woman says in so many words, even dogs get crumbs from their masters table.  Lord, even if all you have is crumbs to give to me, then send it my way.  Jesus responds to her persistent faith, by healing her daughter of something no one else could heal, and establishing a connection to her life.  While crumbs are good, a feast would be coming her way. 

            The woman of today’s text was really in a helpless situation.  Her daughter had a difficulty she literally could do nothing about, how frightening to encounter the demonic in ones own child.  Who knows maybe she had tried everything up to this point, but nothing worked.  She does something, that only desperate people, who recognize their helplessness will do.  She cries for help.  This is no meek cry, she does it loudly, and she does it over and over again.  She frustrates the disciples, to the point where they ask for Jesus to do something to send her away.  Now in this whole account Jesus is on the surface acting very unJesus like.     To her immediate cries Jesus doesn’t answer her, and only makes a comment after the disciples let them know what an annoyance she is.  While Jesus always hears, answers, and provides for our daily prayers, the response time from our perspective can seem a bit slow.  In Psalm 10 the writer writes “Why, O Lord to you stand far off?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble”.   Or this from Psalm 13  “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?    How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?”.  Whether she knew these Psalms or not, I do not know, but somehow if even from far away she also knew that Jesus was her only hope.  The end of Psalm 13 says “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.   So she is helpless, others around her are annoyed, and Jesus says not a word.  Three strikes against her.

            Next Jesus says “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”.  Now mind you in this whole process, one gets the sense that Jesus is looking at his disciples and thinking  “You watch what this woman does with her faith, you can learn from her, it’s a message also for modern day disciples.”   Doesn’t this sound “UnJesus like”, didn’t Jesus say “God so loved the world”.  What is this I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”.   You see even this phrase shows that Jesus wants those who were once part of the kingdom, the covenant to be his own.  In Romans 1 Paul writes “That he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, first for the Jews, and then for the Greeks.   While it sounds exclusionary, it was simply an order thing.  If you a child of yours is lost, you first do everything you can to find that child, before you seek to adopt another child.  However true this was, the woman could have walked away right here.  Yet what does she do, she simply says “Lord help me”.   Then Jesus calls her of all things a dog.  Listen to this, Jesus says “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”.  Back then a dog was an inferior lowly creatures.  You had no humane societies, no animal rights groups. While they should be fed, no one would say instead of or at the expense of the children in the household.  Yet, it still holds true, that in effect Jesus is calling this woman a dog.  Now here she could have walked away, said enough is enough, another person in whom I have misplaced my trust.  I’m reminded of Jesus in John 6 where he talks about being the bread of life, and many of those following simply couldn’t take is teachings anymore because what he was saying was hard.  Jesus turned to the twelve and said “You do not want to leave to, do you”.  Peter responded  “Lord to whom shall we go you have the words of eternal life”.  In other words, who else is out there that can promise everlasting life, and deliver on it?  Who else is out there, that will cleanse a heart stained by laziness, fleeing from God, and failing to care and help those around us like we should?  Who else delivers on promises.   Peter is almost saying,w e don’t understand everything, but the alternatives cannot deliver what only you can do.

            In what of the greatest comebacks of all time, the women doesn’t miss a beat and says “Yes, Lord, yet even the doegs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table”  You see she doesn’t try to correct Jesus, by saying what do you mean I’m helpless?  What do you mean I’m a dog?  Rather she looks to Jesus as the only one who can rescue her daughter from ultimate evil.  Even a morsel, a little of your goodness, is better than anything I can ever get from this corrupted world.  Yes, I may be one of the dogs and one of the helpless ones, but you know your word says that you even provide for the helpless ones.    Jesus with a wink says “O great is your faith? Be it done for you as you desire. 

            This past Tuesday, I got on a plane from Alaska.  I was tired, having been bumped from a plane the nigh before.   Our seating arrangement was three seats on one side, and one over here.  It was Lisa’s turn to sit with the kids, so I sat on the very back row next to a woman and her child.  Fully expecting to sleep, I asked if she was going home.  Her accent and her look told me she probably not born here, and so asked her where she was from.  It turns out that she was from Iraq, and with her four year old daughter had been in America for 4 months.  She was speaking against many things, the religious groups of the land, and she didn’t have a good experience with the U.S Army.  She made very clear that she didn’t like any sort of religious groups, and so I asked her what her religious affiliation was, fully expecting here to say she didn’t believe in anything.  Then she paused and looked at me and said, I was Christian, I had a bible in front of me, and gave her the thumbs up.  We then talked, but she said that, when she became a Christian she thought someone would kill her, but it didn’t happen.  She said it was an absolute miracle she was here, because she saw many bombings, her passport came through, and she cried many nights because of the “hell” she experienced.   She is here in this country seeking asylum.  She has no job, she was a lawyer, her family is back home, but her Savior Jesus has had mercy on her, brought her to faith in him and has gone beyond the crumbs to a new life.  She could have given up after she saw the first of many bombings in front of her, after she left her family, she could have been bitter toward God.  And yet, she was glowing with the miracle that she is in America, and that she is a Christian.  

            Jesus responds to our cries, and though we to have nothing to bring to the table, are undeserving of his mercy, your Jesus and my Jesus promises to not only gives us crumbs, but through this life into the next he will bestow on his people the whole loaf.  Amen.