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David W. Moore


Matthew 15:21-28

Just a Crumb

Pentecost 13A

Focus: Even a crumb from the table of the Lord is more powerful than the devil and all his ways.

Function: That the hearer would trust more firmly in the power of God to overcome all things of this world.

Structure: Text – Application

“…even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their Lord’s table.”

            When we read this story of the Canaanite woman it is very tough not to feel for her.  I think that anyone who has ever been a parent can easily identify with her.  No – I am not saying that we all have had children that were demon possessed.  That’s not the part that we are familiar with.  What we are familiar with as parents is the agony and anxiety that comes with the territory of raising a child. 

            Now in our world today we very rarely attribute anything to someone being demon possessed.  However, we are all acutely aware that – this side of heaven – life is tough.  And while most people are not possessed by a demon, we all struggle with what we like to call our inner demons.  There is no way around it – the devil will use any means at his disposal to make our lives miserable, whether it is disease (like cancer or Alzheimer’s), or addiction (like gambling or alcohol).  He will even use the suffering of our loved ones to get at us.  And nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to a child of ours.

            We love our children and would do anything to keep them safe and out of harms way.  But you know what?  Eventually our kids start to grow up and start experiencing the world on their own.  We want to protect them but a time comes when we can’t.  They, just like all of us, will someday have to face a fallen world in which temptation and brokenness abound.  Eventually they will make stupid decisions and place themselves in harms way, or all too often they will be subjected to the diseases of this world.  And as parents our hearts ache for them.

            This is the state that the Canaanite woman is in when we meet her in our text today.  We really know very little about her aside from the fact that: number one – she is not a Jew.  Two – her daughter is suffering greatly.  And three, and probably most importantly – she  cares so much about her daughter that she is willing to do just about anything to help her.  Would we do anything less?  I don’t think so.

            I remember when my twins were three years old and they had to have their tonsils removed.  As far as surgery goes it is fairly common and routine.  Yes – there is some pain but the result of not getting an ear infection every other month kind of makes it worth it.  But I tell you what.  That afternoon when my little boy, Sam, woke up from the surgery he was all groggy, dazed and confused.  He first looked at his little arm that was all wrapped up because of the IV that was in it.  And he then turned his attention to me with tears in his eyes and  with a voice trembling with fear asked, “Dad!!, what’s wrong with me?”

            At that moment, I would have given anything to trade places with him – to take away his hurt, his fear – and to give him comfort.  But I couldn’t.  It wasn’t in my power to do.  All I could do was hold him and tell him that he would be OK. 

            I am sure that most of you can think of a similar experience in your life where you felt absolutely helpless – whether with a child of your own or a spouse or another loved one.  And when this happens we can try all sorts of things.  We can try new doctors, new procedures, new medicines.  But I think eventually we end up doing what our Canaanite woman does – fall to our knees and cry out, “Lord, help me!”

            At this point there are a number of different things that we could discuss concerning the exchange between Jesus and the woman following her cry for help.  We could talk about Jesus testing the faith of the Canaanite woman, or we could talk about how these verses show that the Gospel of Christ is for all people – Jew and Gentile alike.  But what I would like to focus on is her response to his statement that what he has to offer is not for the likes of her.  She replies, “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their Lord’s table.”  What she is saying is, “I am not asking for much – just a crumb.  It may seem to all those around us like I am asking for something big, but for you – for you it is just a crumb, something very small.” 

            And Jesus answers, “Bingo!!  You get it.  You understand.  My power is so great that even granting your request of driving a demon from your daughter is but a crumb of what is possible.”  Then he goes on from there to prove his point.  Jesus uses just four simple words – “your request is granted.”  And the deed is done, the daughter is healed.  Jesus has overcome the demon that has had a hold of this child.

            It’s a miracle.  But it is a miracle that points us to something more than just the healing of one little girl.  You see we look at things like physical maladies, or addiction, and yes even death as the things that plague our lives – the things that are just begging to be overcome.  But these things in fact are not the real problem.  Instead they are just manifestations of the real problem in our lives.  Again, this side of heaven, life is tough.  We live in a sinful world, we are sinful beings and these facts show themselves in the ugliest of ways.  Whether it is a child possessed by a demon as we have in our text or whether it is you as a congregation having to watch as your Pastor is cut down by the ravages of cancer – either way the reality of sin is all around us.  

But our text tells us that Jesus has the power to overcome these manifestations of sin.  This still happens many times in our day and age, even though we may not recognize it.  Back in the hospital that day when I was holding my terrified son in my arms – I prayed, I prayed that God would take away his hurt and his fear.  And he did.  Sam’s pain subsided and after a few weeks he was completely healed and back to his old self.  Now most people would not call this a miracle – but I was sure glad for the presence of God and his healing power at that time.  At that moment God showed me but a crumb of his power.

            Yet, while diseases may be cured, demons driven out and addictions overcome, there is still one manifestation of sin in this world that eventually visits us all.  When I was a teenager, I had a friend, Mike, who had one of the coolest dads around.   Gordon, his dad, was one of those adults that teenagers didn’t mind being with.  We were all avid pool players and were even on a team together in one of the local leagues.  Gordon taught me how to really have fun with the game – win or lose.

            But one day Gordon ended up in the hospital – his cancer had returned and the outlook was bleak.  The doctors told the family that he had maybe three months to live.  Again, there wasn’t really anything that I could do, so I prayed, I prayed for comfort and for healing.  And after two weeks Gordon was feeling better and it looked as if the cancer was headed into remission.  In fact when I went to visit him in the hospital he was scheduled to go home in a couple of days.

            I had one of the neatest conversations that I have ever had in my life with Gordon that afternoon.  He told me, “Dave, I am going to fight this with everything I’ve got.  And that is what I have told my wife and Mike.  But what I haven’t told them is this – if God decides that it’s time for me to die then I’m OK with that.”  The next day things took a turn for the worse with Gordon and the following day he was dead.

            This is the reality that we live in – one that is seen here probably more than at most congregations.  One day all of us will be called home.  Our time here as sojourners on this earth is relatively short – eventually death will have its way with us.  And you know what?  This fact many times makes it difficult to sit back and listen to a preacher proclaim that the power of God has over come sin, death and the devil.  Just look around – there is still sin in this world, there is still death, and there is evidence of the devil and his ways all around us.

            But if all it takes is a crumb to destroy the symptoms of sin in this world, just imagine what it means to be given the whole loaf.  I said before that this miracle points us to more than just the healing of one little girl.  You see this miracle is just a glimpse, just a crumb of the full power of God.

            It is one thing to remove the symptoms – it is another thing entirely to remove the disease.  You all have heard the words of Jesus:

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. … For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

            Brothers and sisters you have the entire loaf.  On the last day you will see the completion of this great work that began in you at your baptism.  That first Good Friday, oh, so many years ago, the full power of God was revealed as his Son Jesus Christ hung on a cross.  His power does overcome sin, death and the devil.  You see on the last day Jesus will raise you up, you shall have eternal life, and you will stand before him forgiven, holy, pure and blameless.  He will wipe every tear from your eyes.  There will be no more mourning or crying or pain.  And there will be no more death.  The symptoms will be gone because the power of God has already destroyed the disease.       Amen.

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