Thanksgiving_Dinner

Pentecost 11 2017, Proper 15
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
August 20, 2017
Psalm 67:1-7, Isaiah 56:6-8, Romans 11:1-2, 13-15, 28-32, Matthew 15:21-28

Sermons online:
Text:                            pastorjud.org
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

Big family feasts are wonderful with all the great food prepared and set out on the table.  When you gather with the family for Thanksgiving dinner, where do you get to sit?  Do you get to sit at the big people’s table?  Or do you have to sit at the little people’s table; you know that card table set up off to the side where you get to eat next to your cousins’ three little ones and there is no wine?  What would you think if you arrived at dinner and they told you that you don’t even get to sit at the little people’s table, but you need to sit under the table and you could have whatever crumbs fall on the floor?  That would be worse than being at the little people’s table.  Now there is someone who is pretty excited to sit under the table at Thanksgiving dinner; especially beneath the chair of anyone under the age of 4 or so.  Who is that?  Who is excited about staying under the table waiting for the crumbs to fall?  Daisy, the family’s little wirehaired terrier.  The dog is kept busy cleaning up the crumbs and scraps that fall to the floor throughout the feast.  And that is a good place for the dog to be.  I hear that some dogs think they probably deserve it, but they do not get a seat at the table.  The dog’s place is under the table.  So, if you were told you need to sit under the table, how insulting would that be?  That would be treating you like a dog.

After verbally sparring with the Pharisees and Scribes who came from Jerusalem, Jesus retreats for a bit to the area of Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean coast northwest of the Sea of Galilee.  This is Gentile territory; not many Jews around.  Maybe Jesus will have a break from the crowds for a time.  Then a Canaanite woman approaches Jesus.  The Canaanite’s are the arch-enemies of the Jews and have been for centuries.  The Israelites were supposed to kill all of the Canaanites because of their horrible pagan worship practices which included child sacrifice.  But the Israelites did not follow through and the despised Canaanites are still around.  And now one of them comes to Jesus.

Jesus has just discussed with the Jewish leaders and His disciples about being clean and unclean and how it isn’t what goes in your mouth that makes you unclean, but what comes out of the mouth makes you unclean because that proceeds from the heart.  Matthew 15:17-20 (ESV) 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” [1]

They were just talking about clean and unclean and now this unclean Canaanite woman approaches Jesus, Matthew 15:22 (ESV) 22 … “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”[2]

How strange.  This pagan, arch-enemy of the Jews calls Jesus, “Lord, Son of David.”  The pious Jewish religious leaders from Jerusalem attack Jesus; this Canaanite woman calls Him by a royal title.  She speaks like a disciple and calls Jesus, “Lord.”  She speaks like a believing Israelite and calls Jesus, “Son of David.”  The Pharisees say Jesus is working with Beelzebub, the Canaanite god Baal, in order to cast out demons.  This Canaanite woman knows Jesus has authority over demons all on His own.

And Jesus ignores her.

But the woman does not give up.  She knows who Jesus is.  She keeps on crying out after Jesus and the disciples.  She persists to the point of being so annoying the disciples just want Jesus to give her what she wants so she will go away.

But Jesus says to her Matthew 15:24 (ESV)  24 … “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”[3]

How strange.  This does not sound like the Jesus we want to hear from.  First He ignores the woman, and then He tells her to go away because she is not Jewish.

But the woman persists.  She knows who Jesus is.  She comes and kneels before Jesus and begs, “Lord, help me.”

Jesus rebuffs her again, Matthew 15:26 (ESV) 26 … “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”[4]

The woman agrees with Jesus.  She is not worthy.  It would not be right to throw the children’s bread to the dogs.  But when the children eat the bread the dogs get to eat also.

Ouch!  Jesus calls this woman a dog.  He has come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel and this woman is a Canaanite.  She is not worthy to receive anything from Jesus.

And the woman agrees.  The woman agrees with Jesus.  She is not worthy.  It would not be right to throw the children’s bread to the dogs.  But when the children eat the bread the dogs get to eat also.  The dogs get the crumbs that fall on the floor.  She does not deserve a place at the table, but she is happy to take a place under the table with the dogs waiting for a crumb.

Matthew 15:27 (ESV) 27 … “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”[5]  That is how the ESV translates it.  “Yet even the dogs,” as if the woman is disagreeing with Jesus, but that isn’t what the word means.  This is a little three letter word in Greek, gar.  It means “because” or “for”.  Nowhere else is it translated as “yet” or “but”.  A better translation is, “Yes, Lord, because even the dogs eat from the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

This Canaanite woman does not want a seat at the table.  She only wants to eat the crumbs.  Because she knows who Jesus is.  She knows how amazing and incredible and powerful Jesus is and so she knows that crumbs will be more than enough.  She knows that Jesus is God in flesh and just a crumb from His table is more than she can ever imagine.

She does not try to assert her rights.  She does not make demands on Jesus.  She approaches Jesus empty-handed, knowing that she is owed nothing, and she asks for help.  Matthew 5:3 (ESV) 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.[6]

What an amazing picture of us and God.  We too, for the most part, are not children of Israel.  My people come from Northern Europe.  As far as I know we are not descendants of Abraham and Sarah.  We are not God’s chosen people and yet we can come to Jesus with nothing to offer and eat the leftovers of the banquet which are in such abundance it is more than we could ever need.  Jesus supplies in abundance as we see with the leftovers at the feeding of the 5,000.  And, even more incredibly, not only do we eat the leftovers, but Jesus then grafts us into tree of Israel.  In baptism you are adopted as a child of God and a son of Abraham and his promise.  You become the new Israel, a wild olive branch grafted into the cultivated olive tree.  You are the new Israel, but don’t forget the old Israel.  Remember, Romans 11:18 (ESV) 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.[7]

What amazing grace.  You, a Gentile sinner, are grafted into Israel.  You, a sinner, comes to Jesus on your knees and are forgiven all their sins.  And not with just a little forgiveness, but with forgiveness in great abundance.  You are forgiven all your sins through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Not because of how great you are, but because of how great Jesus is.

Jesus commends the Canaanite woman and heals her daughter.  Matthew 15:28 (ESV) 28 …Jesus answer[s] her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. [8]

This woman who should be an enemy of the Jews.  This woman who is an outsider with no standing.  This woman who has no right to come to Jesus.  This woman trusts Jesus because she knows who Jesus is.

She trusts not because of who she is, but because of who Jesus is.  Our default mode is to try to find goodness and merit in ourselves, but all the goodness and merit we need is with Jesus.  You know who Jesus is and you know that even a crumb from Jesus’ table is a banquet beyond all imagination.  And Jesus doesn’t feed you with crumbs; He feeds you with His very body and blood.

Amen.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[7]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[8]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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