Faith That Isn't Supposed to Be There (Matthew 15)

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Service Notes

Second Sunday in Lent + March 17, 2019
  • Order of Service: Divine Service 3
  • Hymns: LSB #420, 615, 618, 770

Sermon Text

As I begin our sermon this morning, I want to read two different sections of Scripture. One we just read. One we haven't read today. God told the Israelites through Moses, "When My angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out."[1] Our Gospel reading says, "Behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out."[2] This Gospel reading isn't supposed to happen! She isn't supposed to be there! But Jesus tells her, "O woman, great is your faith!"[3]

Today's Gospel reading is filled with people who aren't supposed to be there. First, Jesus isn't where He is supposed to be. He is in the region of Tyre and Sidon. When you read the Old Testament, you know this is not the place for Jesus. Tyre and Sidon were decidedly Canaanite cities. After all, Jezebel was the daughter of the King of Sidon.[4] If that doesn't tell you what kind of place this is, I'm not sure what will.

This is the last place the disciples probably thought Jesus would minister. They probably questioned why they were there. Tyre and Sidon weren't on the way to anywhere except Asia Minor and the Great Sea. The disciples left that area to the Apostle Paul. They had no business in Tyre and Sidon. No good could come out of this side trip to the coast.

But Jesus knew better. There was someone in this God-forsaken region who should be there with something she shouldn't have. While they were walking, this Canaanite woman starts crying out after them.[5] Very much like the blind beggar of Jericho.[6] Very similar message. But a message she should never have been able to say.

Her ancestry was supposed to have been wiped out when Israel conquered the Promised Land.[7] But they had failed to fulfill that commandment.[8] They became complacent with what God had given them. Had they fulfilled God's commandment this interaction wouldn't have happened. But there wouldn't have been the teaching moment either.

The Canaanite woman had a humble request for Jesus. Your faithful request of Him: "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon."[9] Once again, our Lenten theme is present. Jesus is the Son of David. Our Wednesday evenings are chock full of seeing this play out among David's physical sons. The Canaanite woman had the faith to believe in Jesus and His ability to deliver her daughter from her affliction. This affliction has severely affected the family. She probably wasn't much different from the son brought to Jesus' disciples, which they could not cast out: "Whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. … It has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him."[10] The concerned mother simply and humbly wanted her daughter delivered from this oppression. Because demonic possession always seeks destruction.

But the mother's faith doesn't stop there. When Jesus rebukes her for the fact that she's not supposed to be there, she still replies with unwavering faith. "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."[11] Jesus came into the flesh, as the Son of David, so that He could bring back God's lost children.[12] He is the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine behind to find the one who wandered off.[13] He comes to the Canaanite woman as one of the greatly lost. Lost not because of her own sin. Hers is ancestral just as ours. But hers is updated after the Flood: "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brothers."[14] Therefore Jesus rebukes her, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."[15]

But her faith is undeterred by Jesus' rebuke: "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."[16] She is willing to endure whatever rejection she must so that her daughter is not rejected. Even if it is a restatement of Canaan's curse upon herself. Because he believes that the rejection is not forever. Even with Canaan's curse, Canaan was still part of the household. Servants who can still hear the great mercy of the one, true Master over all.[17]

Jesus is the one Master who cares for everyone. That's what makes Him so wonderful. He comes to the region of Tyre and Sidon to reach out to the outcasts. Those considered unworthy of being shown God's mercy. Because they weren't supposed to be there. But who is considered worthy? Who gets to decide? Who chooses the proper criteria? Jesus. The Son of David who shows mercy on the outcast and the outsider. Mercy on those who need it and who recognize their need.

We'll come together at this table soon to partake of Jesus' mercy in His body and blood. What makes you worthy? Faith in the Son of David's mercy. Mercy given to the unworthy. But only the unworthy who believe that they are unworthy.[18] Having faith like the Canaanite woman. Faith that clings tenaciously to God's promises. Accepting even the smallest crumb from His table. Because even the smallest crumb still contains all His mercy. This acceptance is the Canaanite woman's great faith.[19] Therefore the merciful Son of David shows her mercy.

Her daughter is healed instantly.[20] Mercy came from the request. Mercy is only shown for faith. And faith is available to everyone who hears God's Word.[21] The Holy Spirit descends through the Word, opening hearts even in the most unexpected of people and places. Jesus shows mercy when and where He desires to show mercy.[22] He especially shows mercy upon those who believe because they will receive it with thanksgiving. The Canaanite woman's great faith receives Jesus' mercy and even teaches the disciples what it means to be worthy, even thought they weren't supposed to be there. Amen.


  1. Exodus 23:23
  2. Matthew 15:22
  3. Matthew 15:28
  4. 1 Kings 16:31
  5. Matthew 15:22
  6. Luke 18:31-43
  7. Exodus 23:23
  8. Judges 1:28
  9. Matthew 15:22
  10. Mark 9:18, 22
  11. Matthew 15:24
  12. Luke 19:10
  13. John 10:11; Luke 15:3-7
  14. Genesis 9:25
  15. Matthew 15:26
  16. Matthew 15:27
  17. Ephesians 6:9
  18. Luke 17:10
  19. Matthew 15:28
  20. Matthew 15:28
  21. Romans 10:17
  22. Exodus 33:19; Romans 9:15