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Journey Through Matthew: Hope For the Hopeless

Journey Through Matthew  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Even though life may leave us in a hopeless state, with Jesus hope can be restored and hope is possible for us all.

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Introduction

Good morning and welcome back.
If you would, start turning in your Bibles to .
We are going to be picking up where we left off last Sunday.
And if you will recall, Jesus had just taught the Pharisees and his own disciples a very valuable lesson about worship and how we had better be careful about allowing our traditions to interfere with a real and true relationship with God.
First, Jesus rebukes the Jews for their hypocrisy and entire devotement to tradition as opposed to being devoted solely to God.
Then he turns his attention to his disciples for their inability to understand his teaching.
In fact toward the end of our passage from last Sunday night Matthew records this . . .
Matthew 15:16 NIV - Anglicised
16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.
Matthew 15;
And once Jesus has their attention he goes on to explain to them . . .
Matthew 15:17–19 NIV - Anglicised
17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
Matthew 15:
Which brings us up to our passage for this morning.
And I have heard this passage presented in many different ways by many different people trying to explain why Jesus acted the way he acted.
And while most of the explanations have been theologically correct, the problem I have with them is they tend to leave out what I think the core of the message to us today is.
Because once we get into this and start looking at the scripture, on the surface it can really seem as if Jesus is being cruel and mean.
And every explanation I have ever heard has been try and cold and all Jesus did was do her a favor because she had faith in him.
Theologians try to explain away the cruel words spoken and they miss the love, the mercy, and the grace that Jesus shows, not only to this woman but to everyone he ever encountered.
Now, Jesus was straightforward and to the point when he had to be but he also did everything out of love and compassion for the people around him.
So, as we go through this, we really need to keep that in mind.
Again, I am going to be in , picking up in verse 21.
Matthew writes . . .

Scripture Focus

Matthew 15:21–28 NIV - Anglicised
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” 23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” 25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Story In Context

Now, we find Jesus and the disciples on the move again!
And the Scripture tells us that . . .
Matthew 15:21 NIV - Anglicised
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And the indication we have about the use of the word “withdrew” is that Jesus is again looking for a place where he could get just a little bit of peace and quiet.
If you’ve been keeping up, for the last month Jesus has been looking for peace and quiet and the only time he was able to find any was right before he had to save the disciples from the storm.
And one of the main reasons Jesus is trying to find this place of quiet and place he can have some time of renewal is that his time of suffering is drawing very, very near.
He knows what is getting ready to happen and he is trying to prepare himself.
But like everywhere else Jesus has went there has always been people who have followed him desperate for him to touch them in some way.
And in this situation . . .
Matthew 15:22 NIV - Anglicised
22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”
Matthew 15:
Now, here is where all of the different theological aspects come into play.
This woman is a Canaanite, meaning she was a Gentile. She was not a Jew.
However, she was very familiar with the Jewish religion because she refers to Jesus as Lord Son of David, which is the same as calling him “Savior” or “Messiah.”
So even though she is not Jewish, she has faith in the God of the Jews and more importantly in Jesus, their Messiah.
The one that many of his own people wouldn’t put their faith in.
And she comes begging for mercy recognizing that her daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.
And now we would expect Jesus to address her and to take care of her need.
However . . .
Matthew 15:23 NIV - Anglicised
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
Matthew 15:23
He did not say a word.
And your theologians will tell you that Jesus didn’t talk to her because it would have been improper.
I don’t buy it.
After all Jesus had just went through this big long spill about cleanliness and righteousness, tradition and true worship.
And like I said, from a traditional and theological standpoint, they are correct, but Jesus didn’t care about about their traditions.
What I think is going on here is Jesus is testing them all.
He is testing the faith of this woman and he is also testing whether or not his disciples had learned anything.
And unfortunately, the disciples failed the test.
Instead of helping her or even asking Jesus if he was going to help her, they instead came to him and urged him “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
Lot’s of compassion there.
They hadn’t learned a thing.
Here was a woman who was crying out for help and instead of having the least bit of compassion on her, even if they were not able to help her, instead they act as if they don’t want to be bothered with her.
She is annoying them and they want Jesus to send her away.
So, they fail their test, now to the woman, and Jesus is actually more extensive with her than with his disciples.
First . . .
Matthew
Matthew 15:24 NIV - Anglicised
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
Which theologically is completely true and completely in order. He was sent to save God’s chosen people, not the Gentiles.
However, this was according to the Jewish tradition, Jewish Law, and Jesus knew that his sacrifice would be for all humanity.
There is no question about it.
And he brings it up, because this woman is familiar with Judaism and he’s wanting to see how serious she is.
Actually he is wanting her to see how serious she is and he is going to yet again teach the disciples a valuable lesson here.
And instead of going away . . .
Matthew 15:25 NIV - Anglicised
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
So, she takes a prostrate position before him, a submissive position, yielding herself fully to him.
But the test is not over.
Jesus then replies . . .
Matthew 15:26 NIV - Anglicised
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
Matthew
And people often get very hung up here.
And to be honest it has been something that has always taken me sort of by surprise, because on the surface it sounds as if Jesus is doing the same things the Jews do.
Call her a dog.
And they get that from Jewish tradition, because the Jews did think of the Gentiles as beneath them and especially women. Their value to the Jews was that of a dog.
And they get that from Jewish tradition, because the Jews did think of the Gentiles as beneath them and especially women. Their value to the Jews was that of a dog.
But that is not exactly what Jesus is saying.
And really that is now how she was taking it either.
What he is doing is drawing an analogy saying you wouldn’t feed your food to your animals and let your children go hungry.
Meaning that it is not proper for him to work miracles for her and leave his own people without.
Which again, as this woman knows is absolutely 100% theologically correct.
And the test is, will she walk away or will she keep trying.
Now, one would think she would just go away at this point but nope
She has probably the best comeback ever.
She did not back down one bit.
She was on a mission and she was going to get in touch with the Messiah one way or another.
Her response . . . .
Matthew 15:27 NIV - Anglicised
27 “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Matthew 15:27
Jesus, you don’t have to come to my house.
You don’t have to lay your hands on my daughter.
You are the Messiah, it is only a matter of your approval.
It’s sort of the same concept of those just wanting to touch the hem of His garment.
What she was asking took nothing more than the Son of God speaking it.
It didn’t take away from his mission one bit.
So, Jesus responds again . . .
Matthew 15:28 NIV - Anglicised
28 Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
Matthew 15:28
Now, some will say that Jesus didn’t want to do it but she persuaded him to.
No, Jesus did what Jesus wanted to do.
If the devil couldn’t persuade him how could this woman?
And again, if Jesus was really only concerned about the Jews, he would have never done it.
No, it was a test and she passed.
And she passed because she had faith.
Not because of persuasion and not because of works.
But because she had faith in Jesus Christ and Jesus’ ability to do anything.

What It Means

So, this whole passage is one giant lesson.
To the disciples this is a lesson in compassion, faith, and again tradition.
If the disciples would have had their way, this Canaanite woman would have been sent away and who knows what might have happened with her daughter.
And even after Jesus had already taught them this lesson once, they still didn’t get it.
They were still holding on to those old Jewish traditions and still worried about what other people would be thinking about them.
We are supposed to be a people of compassion.
When somebody needs help, we are supposed to help them if we can.
But far to often we don’t.
And the second lesson is a lesson in faith.
We know the Scripture . . .
Luke 17:6 NIV - Anglicised
6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
And...
Matthew 17:20 NIV - Anglicised
20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
We have heard it 1000 times, but really do we believe it?
This morning we not only read about faith but we saw what faith demonstrated looks like.
We saw what happens when you have faith and you pursue Jesus.
Because I think lots of time we put faith in the wrong things.
We put a lot of faith in ourselves and in other people.
But the reality is, our faith needs to be firmly rooted in God and God alone.
And the final lesson is about hope.
This woman had no hope.
She was socially on the bottom of the society.
She was a Gentile Woman living in a Jewish land.
No one in society cared what happened to her.
No one but Jesus.
And the lesson is, it doesn’t matter how hopeless life may seem, with Jesus there is always hope.
If you can place your faith in Jesus Christ, you can have hope.
And that is probably the greatest lesson in all of this, the lesson of hope.

Altar Call

And maybe you are here this morning and you feel like this woman.
You have lost all hope.
Your friends have abandoned you.
Maybe even your own family.
You feel alone and hopeless.
The fact that you are here means that there is still hope.
Not hope in people, but the hope that is found in Jesus.
And it doesn’t matter what other people think.
The only one that matters is God.
Will you try Him this morning?
Maybe you are here and you are like the disciples, even though you’ve been taught, you are still stuck in the traditions.
Still having a hard time releasing things to God.
Still wanting to dismiss people you don’t like or make you feel uncomfortable, or are not like you.
And you are ready to change.
Why don’t you come and allow the Holy Spirit to do that work this morning?
What’s holding you back?
Maybe you are here and the Lord has put something else on your heart, some other reason.
This altar is for everyone.
Why don’t you come and be obedient to the Lord this morning?
The altar is here, will you use it today?
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