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Sermon by Rev. Mark Covington, Pastor
First United Methodist Church
Quitman, Mississippi
April 22, 2012
(Second Sunday after Easter)

Topic: No Soup For You! (Matthew 15:21-28)

I like buffets. I sometimes go with friends to a Chinese Buffet on the coast. They must have 100 or so different items there. I eat about 10 of those items and three of them are deserts. Some of them don’t even look like they should be food. They look like bait. Our friends pass along the rows and rows of food getting a little of this and a little of that and make it look so good when they eat it.

But [to] me, if it looks different and smells different, I conclude that it cannot taste good and I leave it on the steam table.

Matthew 15:21-28 (NRSV)
21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.
22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”
23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”
26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

In Matthew, Chapter 14 is devoted to the arrest and execution of John the Baptist. Then in Chapter 15 we have the story of Jesus having a confrontation with a delegation from Jerusalem. This delegation was sent to question this man named Jesus as to why his followers did not wash their hands before they ate.

He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’

But you say that whoever tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God,’ then that person need not honor the father. So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the law of God.

You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said:

This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.”

Then he calls the crowds of people to him and he teaches them that it is not what goes into a person that corrupts them but what comes out of them that demonstrates corruption.

The disciples approach him and ask him for further explanation, which he gives.

Then they tell him that he has really hacked off the scribes and Pharisees over what he had said to them so he withdraws from that place and goes to a place in Philistia where there are two cities called Tyre and Sidon.

These two non-Jewish cities are not resort towns that he has gone to for some rest. In the Old Testament they are referred to as symbols of paganism and godlessness. In fact, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel all condemned them specifically. According to the Old Testament prophets these two places were poster children for God’s anger and judgement.

Maybe Jesus went there because he knew that the scribes and Pharisees would not follow him there. Or maybe he wanted to demonstrate to his disciples what he had just taught them about holiness and righteousness.

I never watched Seinfeld until it went into syndication. One of my favorite episodes was about a man who opens a soup restaurant when the Seinfeld gang goes and gets soup. The restauranteur is a tall German-looking man with a thick mustache. If you don’t do what he says while you are in line waiting your turn to get soup he would shout “No Soup For You!

A woman is following Jesus and the disciples crying out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.

How many times have we seen Jesus have mercy on someone and heal them instantly on the spot? We have watched as he healed a blind and dumb man.

We were there when the woman with a hemorrhage just touched the hem of his garment and was healed. He commended her for her great faith. Jesus healed the crippled man by the pool of Siloam.

Isn’t this just about the same situation? What does Jesus do?

He ignores her of course! [She is, after all, a Pagan.]

Yack, Yack, Yack. She follows along.

The disciples come to Jesus and ask that he send this annoying woman away.

He answers, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

To make that more plain, [He is saying] “I was not sent to Pagans but only to the Jews.”

She comes, kneels before him, and says, “Lord, help me.

He answers, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.

What is this! Jesus has just called this woman a dog! It was common for Jews to call non-Jews dogs. Dogs in that day were not cute little house pets with their groomed fur and painted nails. Most of the dogs of that day were wild animals that scavenged for food. And so Jesus just called this woman a wild scavenger.

She says, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.

Jesus answers her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

What just happened here? First he calls her a dog, then he grants her wish!

Let me tell you what happened.

  • First, Jesus held a mirror up so the disciples could see themselves in it.

    “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all,” the queen asks in the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She asks the mirror because the mirror can only tell the truth.

    Jesus wanted his disciples to see the truth. That truth is that Jesus was sent to everyone, Jew and Gentile, believer and non-believer, male and female, black and white.

    If we are following Christ, there are no dogs, only children of God.
      

  • Second, he had told them what he meant by purity and Godliness coming from inside and not the outside, but they had not understood. He said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.
      
    Perhaps he had perceived that they still did not fully understand and so he goes to this place so this woman can be used to teach them visually what he meant.

    This woman who lived in a pagan land, probably had practiced pagan religion, and was considered the worst of the worst, believed that Jesus could help her daughter. Though her outward appearance was dirty, her heart was pure.

    The state of her inner being, not the assumption of who she was, is what made Jesus grant her wish.

Who are the “dogs” of today?

This is still the most segregated hour in the United States. There are homeless and helpless that if we don’t even see we don’t have to pet.

Who are the “dogs” in your life?

Those that are unlike you, look different, act different, think different.

  • In Jesus’ world there are no “dogs,” only people who are hurting and hoping,
    JUST LIKE YOU.

  

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