The Gospel According To Jesus - Week Three: "Let It Be Done For You As You Wish"

Today we are continuing a sermon series that will take us through September as we explore the Gospel lectionary texts from Matthew.  

This sermon series will take us through some of the key teachings and lessons from the life of Jesus as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel—to hear the Good News directly from Jesus himself. 

Many people in our current culture claim to speak for Jesus, yet when you hold up what they are saying next to the actual words of Jesus, it doesn't add up.  

This is why it's important to go directly to the source and read Jesus's stories and teachings.  If we are going to call ourselves Jesus-followers, it makes sense to know what he wanted us to do to follow him more fully.  

Today we will be reading a story where it’s hard to believe that Jesus said what he said—to a poor, suffering woman, no less.  She asks him for help, and he responds with a dismissive insult. 

As we're going to learn, Jesus acted appropriately to her according to traditions of 1st-century Judaism. But then he threw the tradition out the window in the face of real faith.  

Ultimately, we will also learn just how incredible the Good News of Jesus is when it casts a wide net, unencumbered by traditions that exclude rather than include.

How do we know that some traditions need to be released?  

When they inhibit human flourishing and the shalom of God. When they keep people from healing. Or when they just don't make any damn sense. 

Story of people turning around and facing the back when they recited the Apostle's Creed

What are some ways that faith communities limit the scope of the Gospel because of tradition?  There are a lot of them, in case you were wondering.  


Matthew 15:21-28

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 

Background on what is happening—Where was Jesus traveling? 

He traveled up the coast to Tyre and Sidon, which were Philistine cities in what is now modern-day Lebanon.  Show Map
22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

The Scripture calls her a Canaanite woman, but this is a blanket term.  More precisely, she was Syrophoneician and most likely a descendant of the people who were the ancient enemies of the Israelites.  

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

The boundaries were very clear—Matthew’s audience got this. Jesus is answering appropriately according to Jewish tradition. 

25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

The Syrophonecian woman—hints of Elijah—she crosses boundaries

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

It’s hard to let Jesus off the hook here, but still, according to Jewish tradition at the time, it was an appropriate response.

27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Let’s shift the focus for a moment—the woman is desperate. She responds interestingly--using Jesus' words here to say something clever and pointed.  

There could be a play on words here—Greco-Roman “dogs” also referred to those who "doggedly" pursued the truth.  

28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Her persistence and her courage to stand fast in her faith won out.  Jesus sends her on her way with this word: Ephphatha - "be opened."  

This woman challenged the norms, the traditions, and even the perceived mission of Jesus' ministry… and was included in the Good News.  

Our question that we might have at the end of this story is what was Jesus doing? 

Did he have his mind changed about his traditions in the face of a woman who crossed boundaries and who showed the kind of faith that stunned him and made him throw those traditions out the window?

Or had he been teaching his followers all along that some traditions aren't worth holding on to if they keep people from experiencing the grace and mercy of God?

The cool thing about this story is that it doesn't matter.  We can interpret it however we like because the end result is the same.  The Good News that Jesus came to proclaim was big enough for everyone.  It was Good News because it was Good News for all. 

How Do We Live Into This?

1. Remember, the Good News is Good News for us—as we are. 
2. Remove whatever tradition/belief gets in the way of the Good News
3. Re-form our faith to be more in line with the Syrophonecian woman’s 



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