11th Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 15) LSB #’s 861, 848, 832
Text – Matthew 15:27
She said, “Yes, Lord, for even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
How many of you had crumbs for breakfast this morning? If you didn’t, what about dinner last night, or lunch yesterday afternoon? When you go to a restaurant you’re not likely to find crumbs on the menu unless they happen to serve ‘crumb cake’ for dessert. A lot of people don’t even like leftovers, let alone just the crumbs.
What is it that makes us that way? Why are we so unappreciative of small things? That may seem to be a ridiculous question. It’d be very difficult to survive on a diet that was all crumbs, yet a lot of us did grow up being taught to eat everything on our plate.
Did it really matter if a few peas or carrots did not make it into your stomach by the end of every meal? It’s not like it was a matter of life or death. Neither you nor I were going to starve if we did not clean off our plate. So what is the underlying principle, or lesson, that is being taught by the words, “You need to eat everything on your plate”?
It’s the same point the Canaanite woman makes when she says, “Yes, Lord, for even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Are you humble enough to eat crumbs? That’s an excellent illustration of faith in Jesus, & we can know without a doubt that it’s true because Jesus tells us, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”
The woman was humble enough to be satisfied with crumbs. Now, Jesus & the woman are not talking about literal crumbs like you’d find in the bottom of an empty cake pan. They are talking about being satisfied with getting the leftovers, with being last instead of being first.
Do you agree with Jesus? It seems like an easy question to answer if you follow Him, but listen carefully. I’m not asking if you believe in Jesus. The question is, “Do you agree with Him?” You heard it just minutes ago in the Gospel reading. A Canaanite woman whose daughter is suffering from demon possession comes to Jesus & asks for help:
…“Have mercy on me… Lord, help me!” …“And He answered & said, ‘To take the children’s bread & to throw [it] to the dogs is not good.’” (Matthew 15:22 & 26) Effectively, Jesus is calling this woman a dog. And the woman agrees with Him, that she should not receive the bread meant for the children. She is humble & will be content with the crumbs.
Why is she like that & why are so many Americans not? The answer can only be that the woman knows full well the depths of her depravity. Do you truly grasp how intertwined your heart is with the Great Deceiver? Do you realize the evil that you yourself have done? Can you describe to someone who is searching for hope what you have found in Jesus Christ?
Would you like to be content with just the crumbs of life? The Gospel reading describes a woman who appears to relish her Jesus given identity of dog. Do you agree with His description? Do you want to be like this Canaanite woman, an outcast among the followers of Christ? “His disciples came & begged Him, saying, ‘Send her away…’”
Her daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession. We don’t even know what that is, because it’s so beyond anything you or I have experienced. For this mother, all of life had narrowed down to zero options. She has absolutely no control over what going on in her life & with her daughter. It is a mother who is powerless to stop their suffering.
It is this suffering that enabled her humility to be genuine. It is this suffering that empowered her to beg. It is this suffering that turned her to Christ in great faith, & there in that most narrow of places, with nowhere else to turn, there stands Jesus. This suffering & helpless mother is an excellent illustration of faith in Jesus.
Do you admire her faith? What would you be willing to endure in order to have faith
like hers? That’s a frightening question to consider, because all of us are a long way from being content with crumbs for breakfast, lunch or dinner. And we are even farther away from begging for them out in public. Have you considered that your faith in Jesus might not be all that? Maybe you don’t love Jesus as much as you thought!
It is good to be confident that Jesus loves you, but it is not good, right or salutary to be confident in your love for Jesus. There are two ways in which we can deal with our sin. One is to deny its power. I’m okay, Pastor. I don’t need your help. Who are you to be pointing out my sins? The other way to deal with our sin is to confess its power & to admit our helplessness.
So Matthew doesn’t just plop this event down in the middle of the Gospel with no context. In chapter 14 Jesus fed the 5000. The disciples were feeling nervous as the huge crowd was forming. What would all of them eat? They were in the middle of nowhere with only 12 disciples to serve them. Jesus, send them away!
Do you remember what Jesus told them? “You give them something to eat!” And shortly after the Canaanite woman is satisfied with crumbs, Jesus feeds another 4000 who had been with Him for three days & had nothing to eat. You see, Jesus is the Bread of life! No matter how impossible or narrow the way forward Jesus can feed you so that you live.
“This encounter between Jesus & the Canaanite woman is situated in every way on the edge. It’s on the boundary between the old & the new, between male & female, between Jew & Gentile, between friend & enemy, between the holy & the demonic.” And you too have experienced many of those edges, or points of friction, in your life.
What is it that makes Americans so unappreciative of small things? The international students that Jan & I interact with are so much more appreciative of simple gestures & small acts of kindness. I think one of the reasons is that living in a foreign country means you are in control of very few aspects of your life. Living with the illusion that we are in control seems to give us a hard edge & we lose our ability to appreciate the simple & the small blessings of God.
We don’t care much for crumbs. We don’t want them left on the table or on our lap after a meal. We don’t like them on the floor or on the furniture in the living room, & we certainly don’t want them in the bedsheets. Crumbs are the messy residue of meals & snacks. Yet, in the text from the Gospel of Matthew, we see the power of even the crumbs from Jesus’ ministry.
This suffering woman recognizes Jesus for what He is – the Bread of Life – & seeing the divinity of Jesus, she knows that she needs merely a crumb of His love & provision. God’s Son commends the woman’s faith (given to her by the Holy Spirit) & heals her daughter.
The Gospels often point out the importance of the smallest things – of a mustard seed, of a single candle, of the last two mites, of a crumb. It is the power of Messiah to turn the smallest & most insignificant element, like a baby born in a cattle stall in Bethlehem, into the instrument of salvation. If we only have the crumbs of Jesus we have everything we need, forever.
Like He did with the Canaanite woman, Jesus draws His brothers & sisters to Himself for strength, for healing, for peace & for hope. He is literally the source or the Bread of life. Whatever your struggles are, whatever wall you find yourself up against, know that even the crumbs of Jesus’ love can remove your sin & shame to make you whole again. Amen.
Lord, whose love through humble service bore the weight of human need, who upon the cross, forsaken, offered mercy’s perfect deed, we, Your servants, bring the worship not of voice alone, but heart, consecrating to Your purpose every gift that You impart. Called by worship to Your service, forth in Your dear name we go, to the child, the youth, the aged, love in living deeds to show; hope & health, goodwill & comfort, counsel, aid & peace we give, that Your servants, Lord, in freedom may Your mercy know & live. Amen. LSB 848:1, 4.
 Thomas Long, Matthew (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press), p. 175.
 Hilgendorf, T.R. Portals of Prayer, Concordia Publishing House, Vol. 80, #436, 9-30-2017.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet