Red Letter Year: 4/25

Matthew 15:21-39

21 Jesus left there and went away into the area of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from there came out shouting and begging, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David, my daughter is badly demonized.”

23 But he did not answer her, not a word. His disciples came and urged him, “Tell her to go away. She keeps shouting at us.”

24 Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

25 But she came and worshiped him, saying, “Lord, help me!”

26 He answered, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

27 But she said, “Yes, Lord, for even the dogs will eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith. As you wish.” Her daughter was healed that same hour.

29 Leaving there, Jesus went around by the Sea of Galilee, went up a mountain, and sat down there. 30 Many groups came and brought with them people who were lame, blind, maimed, mute, and many others. They laid them at Jesus’ feet, and he healed them. 31 The crowd was amazed seeing the mute speaking, the maimed healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd. They have stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, they may faint along the way.”

33 The disciples said to him, “Where would we get enough bread out here in the middle of nowhere to satisfy such a huge crowd?”

34 Jesus said to them, “How much bread do you have?”

They replied, “Seven, and a few small fish.”

35 Jesus told the crowd to relax on the ground. 36 He took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to the disciples, who gave to the crowd.

37 They all ate and were filled, and they picked up seven large baskets of leftovers. 38 Four thousand men were fed that day, plus women and children. 39 Then Jesus dismissed the crowd, got into a boat, and went to the region of Magadan.


We have a lot of funny ideas about what the word “faith” means. Sometimes we think it relates to a set of ideas, doctrines, beliefs – certain statements that we can choose to agree are true. Making such a choice is having faith in this sense. Other times we think it relates to some quality in us whereby we acquire the things we need or want in life. Faith healers and television preachers often encourage people to have “more faith,” to work up enough psychological moxie to gain the upper hand in life’s struggles.

Neither of these have anything to do with what is going on in this passage. This Canaanite woman (amazing that some survived the ancient genocide) does not have a set of beliefs or care anything for such. She is not interested in positive thinking or talk herself into a miracle. She has a daughter who is being tormented by evil spiritual forces. The only thing she knows is that she is in over her head and that this guy Jesus can – and will – help. She begs in a loud voice and keeps on shouting her plea. The disciples quickly grow tired of her expression of faith and make their own plea to Jesus – get rid of her. Jesus plays along and says the awful things his disciples are thinking, but the woman is used to racial slurs and is undaunted. She knows Jesus can help. Even a crumb from him will be enough. She has no pride. No shame. No pretension. Just a desperate case and a guy named Jesus. This is what Jesus calls great faith.