I stand humbly before you in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Please God let this message this morning be Your Words and not mine in JESUS Name.
Growing up I used to watch a TV series called ‘Star Trek’. On this show about space travel there was an alien who served aboard the Starship Enterprise. He was from the planet Vulcan and his name was Mr. Spock. Spock used a salutation from his home planet and would hold up his hand with a space in the middle of his four fingers to the person he was greeting, and he would say “Live long and prosper.”
Mr. Spock was played by the actor Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy was the son of Orthodox Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine. And when this actor came up with the Vulcan salute it was based upon his memories of the Priestly blessing known as The Birkat Kohanim (the raising of the hands). An Aaronic blessing placing God’s name upon the people of Israel.
With the priestly blessing both hands are used to create the Hebrew character Shin, the first letter for His Holy Name “El Shaddai.” This name symbolizes God the almighty creator providing for your every need.
As stated in Numbers 6, verse 27 – “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
This blessing symbolizes God lifting you up in His arms as a proud Father raises His child in the air and as He lifts you up, He raises His smiling, glorious Face upon you as you are suspended in His eternal Joy.
Back to Mr. Spock with the salute, he would say “Live long and prosper” and in John 10:10, Jesus says “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” Jesus literally states that because of Him we may all “Live long and prosper.”
Who would’ve thought that a popular science fiction TV series would serve as a bridge from fictitious entertainment to the truth of Judaism and Jesus?
Speaking of truth, our Gospel is from the book of Mark, but Matthew 15 also records the same event. I will use both Gospels in this sermon. In both prior to Jesus meeting this woman we are told what defiles a person. And Jesus states that “…what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” We all have a heart condition. Let’s see what words reveal about the heart of a certain Gentile woman who seeks Jesus out.
She not only bravely approaches Jesus, a Jewish man but she throws herself at His feet and begs Him. Not just a Gentile Syrophoenician woman but a Canaanite. Canaanites are one of Israel’s oldest enemies. Are these the eyes of desperate faith that recognize, know and acknowledge Jesus? Will our heart and soul tell our eyes to recognize Jesus when we see Him?
This woman bypasses any ingrained prejudices or judgements and recognizes Jesus for who He is, and it appears that His word has found fertile soil in her heart. How could this woman know Jesus was there? How had she heard about Him? The good news traveled fast in the world back then. How fast do we spread the Gospel today? How fast can we make it travel with our technology? I’m sure this woman sought help from her people and their Gods but still her daughter was suffering. Ever put your faith in something that failed you? Ever felt let down by everyone around you? Felt desperate and alone? Deep in despair?
This woman’s daughter is severely oppressed by a demon. A fallen angel. A demon is terrorizing her little daughter. This mother is desperate. What would you do for your baby? Your precious little one? Imagine the questions this woman has. Why us? Why my daughter? Where can I find help? We can only imagine behind the scenes with her. The truth we have tells us this woman is a great example of what we should do.
A detail in Matthew states how she begs, she cries out to Jesus but He does not answer her. Not a peep. Wow. How do you see this? Is this a test? Does God test your faith? Does God seem uninterested in you? We think these things because we’re weak and foolish. What do we do when God doesn’t answer our prayers when we expect an answer? Are we patient with God’s timing in our lives? Are we patient with each other? Or do we take Him for granted? Do we then turn toward inner temptations such as anxiety, frustration, anger and despair instead of God, prayer and scripture? Things that build us up or things that break us down?
Or could it be that the delay gives the woman an opportunity? An OPPORTUNITY instead of an obstacle. A timely delay so that she will overcome? A moment for His grace to overwhelm her from the inside out? To exponentially transform her faith.
Do we fall down at God’s feet? Fall down in GRATITUDE for our very being and our life? Fall down in faith that He can do ALL things? Do we completely surrender ourselves to Him in prayer? Do we dwell on God? Do we meditate on Him? Do we read, reflect and rejoice on His word? Make time for God. Get away from all distractions and just focus on Him. Use the grace He put inside of us.
In Matthew’s Gospel, His disciples asked Him to send the woman away. This can sound very negative on the part of the disciples. Do you think the disciples were used to Jesus ignoring people or not granting their prayers? Do you think they understood the motives of Jesus? Do we? Are they seeing her as a Canaanite enemy? The Jews saw them as unclean dogs. Less than human. Are they giving in to racism and judgement? Do they think this is what Jesus is doing?
This woman not only finds Jesus but then finds her way to His feet and prostrates herself before Him. She is worshiping Him! She falls before Him at His feet, and she says, “Lord, help me.” A perfect prayer in desperation. She was desperate for God and now has found Him. She found God and refuses to let Him go! The disciples couldn’t send her away if they tried.
Jesus does not listen to His disciples. He does not turn her away. He answers her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” How’s that for an answer? Does Jesus ever answer the way we expect? Are your prayers answered the way you expect?
To me, the translated words don’t convey the proper meaning. I’m not saying the translation is wrong just that it doesn’t sit well with me. When He says, “It is not right,” for me it translates better as “It wouldn’t look good” or “It wouldn’t be ideal” as opposed to not right indicating that it would be wrong. Also, the term for dogs here was chosen to indicate a “house pet” or “a pup” as opposed to another term which could have been used for an “owner-less cur” or an “unclean stray.” So, for me this verse makes more sense translated to “It would not be ideal to cast our children’s bread to our little puppies.”
There are differences between a house pet and a stray dog. A house pet depends on us. Their Master is their Alpha pack leader. They love their Alpha. They rejoice in love. They stay close to you and cuddle with you. They want to keep you safe. They lay next to you, sometimes on you or even at your feet. The know love and they react to it. And grow to become an agent of it.
This woman answers Jesus from the heart, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” She wholeheartedly understands and accepts what He says. A broken-hearted mother recognizes Jesus. Her broken heart is crying out to His heart. She’s having a literal heart to heart with God. The heart of God. She always had faith but didn’t know where it should be directed. She is feeling His Grace at work in her and reflecting and reacting to God’s love. She feels it, she knows it. She is grateful for even a crumb of the Bread of Life! Is a crumb enough for you? Do we pray for just a crumb?
I feel that Jesus uses this woman to set an example for His disciples and for us. We are slaves to sin. That is our world but not God’s plan. His plan was for us to dwell with Him in Eden. He allowed us to back burner that plan. So now that tree in the middle of the garden becomes a wooden cross. Where a broken-hearted Mother watched her son die. A broken-hearted Father gave His son to die for you and I. God gave ALL His love to and for us. How do we respond, reflect and react to that?
This Canaanite woman gets it. A loving master will not only care for and feed His dogs, but He will allow them His crumbs as well because He loves them. Here is a show of faith in all its lowly, humble and amazingly beautiful and perfect splendor.
Jesus praises her faith! In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus answers her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.”
How often does Jesus say “Oh?” He says it more than a dozen times and most of the time it is referring to His disappointment in someone’s lack of faith. Here is great faith being openly praised by the Master Himself! Humbly accepting and understanding the Love and Grace of Jesus. Trusting God and seeing opportunities instead of obstacles. Her pain and heartache didn’t blindfold her heart and soul to the Son of God.
A small scrap of God’s Grace answers a prayer. A crumb of Christ’s love casts out a demon. A tiny speck alters the entire reality of a desperate family. A mere morsel from the Bread of Life can free a mother’s faith and lift her and her daughter up before the face of God. A portion of an appetizer reserves a seat for the great banquet at God’s table. And this smidgeon of sentiment secures a spot for a soul in eternity. Because of a crumb her life now had abundance. She will live long and prosper.
Still in Gentile territory, Jesus is called to lay His Hands upon a deaf man with a speech impediment. Jesus could heal him with just a word or even just a thought. Heal him as He healed the woman’s daughter but again, Jesus is doing this as an example to his disciples, to us and He is considering the man himself. I believe He is easing the man into the miracle as opposed to an instant miracle. He touches the man’s ears. I’m assuming upon contact the man feels something happening and is beginning to hear some soft, subtle noises. To distract the man from this shocking process He places spit on the man’s tongue. Again, I’m assuming the man’s tongue is dry so that he would feel a difference. Minor distractions to ease this man into the shock of this miraculous healing. This man becomes a living, walking, clearly talking and now hearing miracle.
Isaiah 49:16 states the Holy Words of God, “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” And His point is that His people may forget about Him, but He will never ignore or forget us! He is as aware of us as a loving mother nursing her precious infant. The ULTIMATE PERFECT PARENT! And He promises to NEVER forget us. Our names are written on His Hands just above the scars from the nails. He created us with His Hands. He lifts us up in His Hands. His Name on our Hands and our names are on His Hands. We are His and He is ours! How perfect and beautiful and amazing is that? Put your troubles, put your everything in God’s Hands and His grace and peace will fill our hearts and souls to abundance!