Going To The Dogs
GOING TO THE DOGS
As God’s people we have been commissioned by Christ to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
- And for the most part, I believe that most of us try to fulfill this commission…or at least we want too.
In this passage however, Jesus deals with an issue that has for many years hindered some from evangelizing certain people.
- So this morning I want to study this passage with you, but let me warn you, what Jesus teaches us here in this passage may step on some of our toes.
- And if it does, instead of us getting angry and resentful, I hope we will repent and change our hearts and our thinking.
Let’s look at the passage and let’s learn some very relevant lessons for us today.
As you look at this passage the first thing you notice is that Jesus goes to the “District of Tyre and Sidon.”
- And when he gets there a Canaanite woman (which means she is a Gentile) cries out to Jesus and says, “Have mercy on me, Oh Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon possessed.”
But look at what Jesus does in verse 23: She cries out to Jesus, “But He did not answer her a word.”
- Isn’t that interesting?
- Why didn’t He answered her?
- We will come back to that in just a bit.
For now, let’s go on. Verse 23: “But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came to Him and kept asking Him, saying, “Send her away, for she is shouting out after us.”
But Jesus ignores His disciples and He answers the woman: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But this Canaanite woman and mother is persistent and in verse 25 it says that “she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
And then in verse 26 Jesus responds to her and says, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
- Now, what does He mean here?
- This is a difficult verse!
- I mean here this woman is, she comes to Jesus and she begs for His help.
- The disciples want to send her away.
- And now it seems that even Jesus is against her.
- And that is so uncharacteristic of the way Jesus is.
- What do we make of this verse? Is He calling this woman a “dog”?
Well if you go over into Mark chapter 7:27 I think we can find some help in understanding what Jesus is saying here.
- In Mark 7:27, when this Canaanite woman begs Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter Jesus replies and says, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
- Notice the word “first”. That word speaks of “priority…of order…of something that must be done before something else is.”
And then notice the word “dogs.”
- In the Greek there are several words for dogs but this word literally speaks of a “puppy.”
- This is not a derogatory term.”
- And so when Jesus says, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs”, the question is, “when do you give the food to the puppies?
- Well you give food to the puppies after you have fed the children first!
So what Jesus is doing is He is expressing His priority and His first priority, His first order of business, His first responsibility as Messiah is to the Jews or to the, “Lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
- Many years before God promised the Jews that the Messiah would come to them.
- They have been prepared through Scripture.
- They have been prepared through the prophets.
- They are the ones that God has made the promises too.
Jesus is not being callous here. He is not calling this woman a “dog.”
- He is simply saying, “I was sent to the lost sheep of Israel”… first.
- “They are my first priority.”
- It is the same thing that Paul said when he said in Romans 1:16 that, “The gospel is the power of God for salvation, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
- So Jesus is simply saying that Israel’s claim comes first.
Now look at Matthew chapter 15: 26 again. “And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
“But she said, Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters table.”
- Basically what she is saying is that she “understands His priority.”
- She is not criticizing that priority; she’s not saying the Jews don’t deserve to be first.
- But, with a tremendous amount of humility and faith, this woman is simply asking Him for help as He fulfills His obligation to the Jews.
- She is saying, “Jesus, I know you must do what you must do with the Jews first, but can you help me now?”
And look at what Jesus says in verse 28: “Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.”
Now, what is there about this story that is so relevant for us today?
If you want to understand why Jesus made this trip, you have to go back to what Jesus has just taught prior to this.
- You see, Matthew regards this story as a natural sequence to what has just taken place.
- And if you go back up into verses 15 through 20, you see that Jesus has just taught the multitudes as well as His disciples, that it is not what is on the “outside of a man that defiles him.”
- It is what is on the inside…what is in his heart the defiles him.
- It is not the outside that matters to God; it is what is on the inside that matters.
This was a revolutionary concept for the Jews.
- For years they considered people to be defile because of the “outward” things.
- Your culture could defile you, and the color of your skin, and where you are from.
- And if you look in verse 15, Jesus’ disciples struggle with this new teaching.
- So, to get them to understand, Jesus takes His disciples to Phoenicia, to Tyre and Sidon….into Gentile country.
- And immediately this woman comes to Him and she cries for help.
- And Jesus helps!
How could He do that?
- This woman was a Gentile! A Canaanite! Gentiles were despised by the Jews.
- One Jewish rabbis said that the only reason Gentiles existed was to “stoke the fires of hell.”
- These Canaanites were as pagan as they could be…they were Baal worshipers.
- They were despised by the Jews
And not only that, she is a woman! (Women were considered to be property)
- And to make matters worse, her little girl is possessed by an evil spirit.
- You talk about someone who in the eyes of the Jews would be considered unclean and who they would wrinkle their nose at and sneer, she was.
And it is a good possibility that this woman was poor….she had probably spent most of her money trying to get help for her daughter.
- You couldn’t get much worse in their eyes than this lady was.
How could Jesus help this unclean, and unworthy woman?
- And apparently that’s what Jesus’ disciples were thinking.
- Remember when she cried for help and He didn’t answer her?
- Well it seems that He didn’t answer so that He could get His own disciples to see their own bias, bigoted spirit.
- Because when He doesn’t answer her, what are they doing?
“Send her away, for she is shouting out after us.”
- They never said this about a Jewish woman.
- It never bothered them when a Jewish woman might cry out to Jesus.
- But that’s the point, she is not Jewish.
- To them she’s not as worthy as a Jewish woman might be.
- You see, it is hard to appreciate how Jewish these disciples were. But Jesus helps her… And He tells her that her “faith is great.”
And what is His point?
- His point is, people are not unclean because of what is on the outside.
- People are not unclean because of who they are.
- And people are not unclean because of what country they live in.
- And people are not unclean because they speak a different language.
- And people are not unclean because of the color of their skin.
- And people are not unclean because your culture is different.
- It is not the outside of the cup that makes it unclean… And it is not what is on the outside of people that makes them unclean.
You see, what Jesus is teaching here is the width of God’s love.
- He is saying that God’s love has never been confined to a particular sect of people or to a particular cultural boundary.
- People are not unclean because what is outside.
And we say, “We know that!”
- Well we might “know that” but do we do that?
How many of us look at the black man with bias and prejudice because of the color of his skin and some decades old ideas that others have had and say, “He’s not worthy of the kingdom of God.”
- And brothers and sisters I have seen it.
- I have seen some of my brothers and sisters in Christ still refer to some of our black brothers and sisters in Christ with slang times as though they were a lower class than we are.
- And a Hispanic, do we look at them sometimes with no concern for their souls simply because they have a different colored skin and speak a different language?
And maybe it is not so much a person’s race but simply his appearance.
- Do we sometimes look at someone who has a pierced eyebrow our tongue and think they are not worthy of hearing the word of God?
- Do we reach out sometimes to the more affluent, the better dressed, the better educated thinking they are better candidates for the kingdom of God?
- And do we pull back from the poor, the unkempt, then educated thinking they are not worthy?
And our prejudices and biases can be based on such things as: He isn’t a cowboy… Or he is a cowboy… Or he is overweight… Or he smells bad… Or he looks funny… Or he has bad manners… Or he has a goatee… Or a tattoo… Or he drives a Harley or he wears an earring.
Do we sometimes think because we are white… and American… That we are God’s favorite and He only cares for us?
- I have heard in the past a native American Indian say that he wanted no part of Christianity because it was, “The white man’s religion!”
- Do some of us think that?
The Jews did. They thought they were God’s favorite and that God cared only for them.
Let me read a poem that was sent to me some time back:
Six humans trapped by happenstance in the black and bitter cold, each one possessed a stick of wood, or so the story is told. Their dying fire was in need of logs but the first man held his back, for of all the faces around the fire, he noticed that one was black. The next man looking across the way saw one that was not of his church and he wouldn’t give himself to give the fire his stick of birch. The third man sat in tattered clothes and gave his coat hitch. Why should he put his log to use to warm the idle rich? The rich man sat back and thought of the wealth he had in store and how to keep what he had earned from the lazy, shiftless poor. The black man’s face spoke revenge as the fire past from site for all he saw in his stick of wood was a chance to despite the white. The last man of this forlorn group did nothing except for gain, giving only to those who gave to him, was the way he played the game. Their logs held tight and death’s still grasp is proof of human sin. They didn’t die of cold without. They died from the cold within.
Here in these 8 versus of Matthew 15 you see Jesus reaching out to one not like Himself.
- This story urges the validity of missions to those formerly disdained.
- It shows that there is a time and place to show grace to people that you were once taught to hate.
- And so in this story we see the width of God’s love for different kinds of people.
We live in a city, and estate, and the nation with many different races and cultures.
- We have Hispanic, Anglo, black, Chinese, Indian, and many others.
- Every one of them in need of the saving power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- But I am afraid, that sometimes, because of what we see on the outside, we deny them Christ and consider them unworthy of his saving word.
Why do we do that? Is it because we haven’t dealt with our biases yet?
- Is it because we do see some people as dogs?
- Is because we think some people deserve the gospel more than others?
- Or that there are some people that we think God’s love can’t and shouldn’t reach?
Jesus is pleading with us here and saying, “What matters is not the outside… What matters is inside.”
- It might be that this week you and your “Canaanite” woman will meet. Don’t write her off. Jesus died for her to. She is not more important than others. But she is not any less important either.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023