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.

Red Letter Year: 4/24

Matthew 15:1-20

15 Some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem. They said, “Why do your disciples disobey the tradition of the elders? For they do not [ceremonially] wash their hands before they eat.”

Jesus answered them, “And why do you, through your traditions, break the command of God? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say the one who says to their father and mother, ‘Whatever of mine would have been given to you is a gift to God,’ does not have to honor his father. And so you void the word of God through your tradition. 7 Hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied well about you, when he said,

These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.Their worship is vanity, teaching human concepts as commands from God.’” 

10 Then Jesus called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into your mouth does not defile you; what comes out of your mouth defiles you.”

12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know the Pharisees heard what you said and were offended?”

13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted. 14 Leave them alone. They are blind guides. If a blind person guides another blind person, both will fall into a ditch.”

15 Then Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.”

16 “Do you still have no understanding? 17 Don’t you know that what goes in the mouth passes into the stomach and then is thrown out in the toilet. 18 But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, those defile a person. 19 Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, prostitutions, thefts, perjuries, and slanders. 20 These are what defile a person. Eating with unwashed hands does not defile a person.”



I have written before about how God hates religion. This passage is a prime example of why. The religious folk try to pick a fight with Jesus over a ceremonial ritual they have blown all out of proportion. Jesus responds with a more significant case study: these same religious folk were using God as an excuse for not caring for their parents – even though care for parents was required by God. They trade actual worship of God – expressed as care for those in need and those we have responsibility to – for false worship, vanity – keeping rules they themselves have made up to suit their own selfish interests. People in religious communities who are in positions of power are quite prone to this. As we saw yesterday, such expressions of power are always pretense, legitimate kingdom power never acts this way. Religion leaves people imprisoned and walking in a circle. Not moving anywhere, not engaging in real moral or personal development. Just playing a sad little, pointless game.

It’s interesting that the disciples try to play diplomat between Jesus and the religious folk. But Jesus wasn’t interested. “Leave them alone,” he says, they cannot be argued out of their folly. I agree. My point here is not to dissuade religious folk. But for many, that sad pointless game brings a lot of hurt. People hurt by being told they are “defiled” for various things they have or have not done. People hurt by being condemned for not eating the right food, for not completing the right rituals, for doing things related to careless, vague translations of what does defile a person. It’s also interesting that Peter asked for an explanation of the “parable.” There is no parable here. Jesus is direct and plain. But we still want to play at religion. I can’t for the life of me figure out why.