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Study Notes:

Matthew 15:21-39

The Generosity of Jesus

Summary:  Outsiders are brought in and blessed as they persistently seek Jesus.

One of the hard things about school, no matter what grade you’re in, is coming into something new.  Even if you go back to the same school or co-op, you have a new class, which means a new teacher, or new students if you’re the one behind the desk.  Maybe you’re going to play a sport, or be part of a club or activity – there will be new people there too.  The anxiety multiplies if you’re new to the school – if you’re moving into Middle School, or High School, or even college.  And probably the most difficult of all is moving to a new city.

Why is all of this so hard?  Because we’re thrust into a new environment and we have to sort out – who are all these people, and where do I fit in?  What are the groups, and am I on the inside or the outside? 

Now, the bad news is: that feeling continues as you grow up – there’s the anxiety of starting a new job, or moving to a new city, or both.  And what about those of you who have moved to a new country?  You don’t have to live very long on this earth to know that there are all sorts of groups and that being an outsider can be uncomfortable.

Well, one of the great things about Jesus is: He’s always inviting outsiders in.  He’s the friendly face that says, ‘Hey, come sit with Me.’

That’s the big point I want you to see this morning, we’ll see people in need, who overcome obstacles to get to Jesus, and when they do, we’ll see that He is compassionate and meets their needs. 

When we’re done with it all, I’m going to ask if you’ve been brought into relationship with Jesus – are you an insider or an outsider when it comes to these things – and if you’re on the outside, I’m going to encourage you to come into a relationship with Jesus.  I’m also going to encourage all of us to consider what we have received from Jesus, and what we might be able to share with others as a result.

We pick up where we left off last time, in Matthew 15 as Jesus and His disciples head off on another trip.

Matthew 15:21 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”

23 But He answered her not a word.

And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”

24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

OK, right now Jesus does not seem like the smiling face at the lunch table saying, ‘Come sit with Me,’ does He?  In fact, He sounds more like that popular kid who knows he or she can get away with being a jerk to everyone else.  So, what’s going on?

Jesus is making a real point, but He’s also testing her faith and He’s going to use the results of that test to teach us all about persistence and humility.  The real point He’s making is that He has come, first and foremost, to reach the Jews.  And to understand why, you need to understand the flow of all of human history – that from the beginning of time God had promised to send a Savior for humanity and He promised to do it through the nation of Israel – not because they were special, but just because He needed somewhere to start.

So, Jesus was born a Jew, He was the fulfillment of countless prophecies given to the Jewish people.  His primary focus in ministry and teaching was to show them God was fulfilling His promises to them.  But, you also need to know that the plan was always to reach other nations through what God was doing in Israel.  Israel was the starting point, and salvation would spread to all the rest of us from there.

So now this woman comes and she’s not a Jew.  She is from Canaan – the bitter historical enemies of Israel, and she asks Jesus to do something for her daughter.  She believes He can help, and she knows she needs it.

But Jesus resists, because He is testing her faith.  He doesn’t respond quickly, but instead of giving up, she proves how much she believes by persistently staying and seeking an answer.  She doesn’t have any other options – there’s no where else to go, by staying and persisting she’s proving she believes only He can help her and she’s showing how much she needs that help.  Look with me at

25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”

She is absolutely desperate for Him.  She needs His help.  No one else will do.

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

Again, the point is: He needs to start with Israel, to fulfill the promises and prophecies God had given them over time.  They are the children and He is the bread.  But here is where things get good, she says she knows that, and she can understand that, but…

27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

She says I know who You are and what You’re doing, and that’s why I want Your scraps. 

If you’ve read much about Jesus’ life you know people would try to touch just the hem of His robe as He walked through a crowd- because they believed who He was, how much power He had and that much of a touch would bring healing.  This woman believed a crumb from Him was enough to give her what she needed.  ‘I’m not asking to sit at your table’ she says, ‘just let me catch the crumbs that fall to the floor and it will be enough.’

28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Matt reminded us last week about God calling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac – to see, how far will you go?  Jesus played out this woman’s request to see how far she would go, what she truly believed, and like Abraham she passed the test.  Jesus commends her GREAT faith and it’s the only time when faith is positively qualified in Matthew. In fact, at other points, Peter and the disciples will be described as having little faith.  But this woman, from outside of Israel, is said to have GREAT faith and her story is preserved for all of history as an instruction for us all.

What can we learn from all of this?

Well, notice the desperation and persistence we see modeled here.  She knew she had a need and didn’t let go of Jesus until He fixed it.

This is the same Jesus who said in the Sermon on the Mount back in

Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened for you.

Friends, Christians, are you willing to persistently come to Jesus?  Don’t knock once and go away saying, “Well, He must not be home.”  Time and time again in Scripture God speaks positively of those who are persistent in seeking Him and sometimes He tests us, asking, do you really want this, or is it just a passing thing? 

This woman was convinced: it was Jesus or nothing.  She didn’t have a plan B. 

Do you pray and keep praying for your righteous cause, or are you easily defeated?  Do you expect things to come without effort, as though there were no spiritual war raging around us?  Are you convinced of the things you’re asking God for, convinced He must do it?

Notice too, she is willing to humble herself.  She is willing to be seen as the dog in the analogy Jesus uses, as long as she is a dog under His table. 

Let me ask: does pride get in your way of coming to God?  Do you say, if I can’t sit at the table, I’m not interested?  Do you think too much of yourself in the sight of God? 

Back in Chapter 8 we saw a Roman centurion, an accomplished military officer, a man of rank and recognition, ask Jesus to heal his servant.  But he told Jesus, I’m not worthy to have You come into my house to see him, just say the word and I know my servant will be healed.  That led Jesus to commend his faith, in fact Jesus marveled at it. 

There are three things the centurion and this woman had in common:

1. neither of them were Jews, they had no direct claim on Jesus, but they believed He was the answer to their problems, so they came to Him;

2. they both showed great faith in what He could do, He was the answer they needed;

3. they both humbled themselves publicly as they approached Jesus.

And in the process these two outsiders had their stories preserved in Scripture forever as an example to the rest of us.  Friends, people who humble themselves before God tend to have a much better relationship with Him.  Are you willing to humble yourself today?  Especially if you’re an outsider, do you have a need that only Jesus can meet?  If so, will you humble yourself as you come to Him?  Are you willing to seem vulnerable or desperate in the eyes of other human beings as long as you receive what you so desperately need from God?

As we continue through the chapter, we see she was just the first of many desperate people who persistently sought Jesus, the first of many outsiders who were brought in by His compassion and mercy on this trip.

Matthew 15:29 Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. 31 So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

Take note of that last phrase “they glorified the God of Israel.” Who were “they?” Well, most likely, based on the geography of where He was – up on the Northern end of the Sea of Galilee, these are more people like the Canaanite woman, people from neighboring countries who heard about this miracle working Jew and came to seek help, outsiders who were received by the Jewish Messiah and brought in and as a result, “they glorified the God of Israel.”

Notice what they are willing to endure though to find Him and find relief.  You have to see the details of the Scriptures.  It says in verse 29 that Jesus and went up on the mountain and sat down there.  And then it says the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others were brought to Him. 

Now, I can point out the somewhat obvious to you?  This place wasn’t ADA compliant.  They didn’t have wheelchair ramps; there was no elevator, no motorized carts.  But the people came, or they were brought.  Desperate people were persistent in seeking help.

Even today, people are willing to go through all sorts of effort to find healing for their bodies.  We often feel physical health is the greatest of blessings and pain or illness is the hardest of trials to bear. 

Think of a time when you or someone you know was physically ill or injured – think of all the doctor’s appointments, the time off work, the therapies, the conversations with friends and family about the facts and feelings of what you’re going through. 

And now consider:  Our souls are far more diseased than our bodies and the problems we have are far deeper, more complicated, and harder to cure than any injury to our flesh.

Have you ever spent an equivalent amount of time seeking spiritual healing, or working toward recovery of something in your soul?  Are you willing to? 

We believe that God could instantly heal any injury or illness in our bodies.  We see that in Scripture and perhaps we’ve even seen or experienced miraculous healings in own lives.  And, we believe that He can heal the wounds and drive out the illnesses of our souls instantly.  We see that in Scripture too, we see lives, like Saul’s instantly transformed.  And we see or hear of it happening today too, people instantly delivered from addictions.  They have amazing testimonies and we all want that.

But God doesn’t always work instantly.  And I want to ask: are you OK with that?  First, and foremost, will you seek Him no matter the obstacles – will go up onto the mountain to find Him, even if it’s hard?  Will you persist?  Will you ask and keep asking?  How badly do you want to be healed and delivered from the things that are consuming your soul?

Are you really willing to endure?  Will you go through the difficulties of traveling to Jesus for the healing you need?  Will you go and keep going if He says you need multiple visits, not just a single surgery?  God can open your eyes and help you see Him.  He can help with your unbelief – he can clean your heavy dirty soul.  There is nothing God cannot help you with, especially if you are desperate and persistent.

And the good news, it’s not all up to us.  Jesus also initiates.  He sees our needs and does things we’ve never even asked for.

Matthew 15:32 Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”

This should sound familiar, because we just saw something similar happen in the last chapter. But there’s an important distinction here: now most of the crowd are outsiders.  These are not Jewish people, but they’re benefitting from Jesus – the woman begged for the scraps that fall from Jesus’ table, and now He’s going to stuff them with bread.

33 Then His disciples said to Him, “Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?”

34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”

And they said, “Seven, and a few little fish.”

Now, you might ask – why don’t the disciples say anything about the feeding of the 5000 they had recently seen?  We don’t have a clear answer, but there are a few things to think about.  First, remember that after that feeding, people asked Him to do it again the next day and in John 6 we learn that Jesus rebuked them for not understanding who He was and what He was doing.  So, the disciples might not think it’s an option. 

Also, we noted how big a deal that miracle was – over 5000 people experienced a tangible, physical, miracle at the same time.  They may have thought it was a one-time deal.  Or, they may have thought it was something He could do in Israel, for the Jews, but not in another country for other people.  But, once again, Jesus is showing that He intends to bring outsiders in.  The things He is starting with the Jews are for the sake of ALL people.

35 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. 36 And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude. 37 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left. 38 Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And He sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala.

Some people try to make something out of the numbers here, but it’s not necessary.  There were twelve baskets left over after feeding the 5000, and now there are seven baskets left over here.  But the words for basket are actually different in the Greek – they’re different kinds of baskets, these are like large hampers.  Paul was let down over the city wall in Damascus in one of these – so although there are fewer of them, there actually could have been more fish leftover.  The point is: they all left full.  Jesus saw their need and He satisfied them completely.  No one was left eyeballing the last slice of pizza.  They needed to-go bags.  And, take special notice of this: no one regretted the fact that they came.

So, let’s review what we’ve seen this morning and think about what it means.

We’ve seen people in need come to Jesus and demonstrate persistence – in the face of initial rejection, in the face of difficult circumstances.  And yet, we’ve seen them ultimately accepted by Jesus who met their needs even though they were outsiders – it’s potent proof that the gospel is universally available to anyone who will accept it.

Does that include you?  Absolutely.  I’m not a Jew.  I’m an outsider who was brought in by God.  I’m like the Canaanite woman who received a crumb from His table.  What about you?  Do you understand you need Jesus to do something for you that only He can do?  Do you know there are things broken in your life that only He can fix?  Will today be the day that you ask Him to do it?  You see, at some point we all need to come to Jesus and ask, beg, that He do for us what only He can do.  He lived a perfect life, but was ultimately crucified on a Roman cross as a sacrifice for our sins – He bore the suffering that we deserve for all the wrong we do, and all the not good enough we attempt.  But God accepted that sacrifice and raised Him back to life so that now He sits at God’s right hand interceding for us, praying for us, constantly.

But what He has done doesn’t apply to everyone automatically.  You have to come to Him, confess your need, like the woman we’ve seen this morning, and ask Him to do what you’re convinced only He can do.  Ask Him to forgive you for all you’ve done wrong, to make things right as only He can and don’t stop asking until you’re sure it’s been done.  There are no special words, no magic formula, He sees and knows the truth in your heart.  Just humble yourself, and ask.  If you do, let me or Matt or one of the pastors know, or tell them at the welcome table, we have a Bible for you and we’d love to hear more and help you in any way we can.

And for those of us who already know Jesus, what about us?  Well, the point about persistence and desperation still applies, doesn’t it?  The answers you’re seeking through prayer don’t always come quickly.  Are you willing to wait, to keep coming, are you completely convinced that only God can do what you’re asking and are you willing to keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking, until His answer is clear?

And, are we willing to welcome outsiders in?  Is this a place where anybody can come and learn more about Jesus?  I hope so.  You’re welcome to invite anyone you want to come here with us.  And I hope you will.  In fact, if you’re here this morning as a guest and you don’t believe all this, or you’re not sure what you believe, you’re welcome to be here and you’re welcome to keep coming back, and there’s expiration to that invitation.  It’s not a 30-day trial.  But, you’re going to hear things that might make you uncomfortable, things you might not agree with. When that happens I just want you to ask: are they true?  And where are we getting this from?  Is it our opinion, or is a message from God?

And finally, let me make one more pointed application for Christians.  We talk a lot around here about receiving and reflecting – that we receive things from God and then do our best to reflect them to others.  So, in light of what we have seen this morning, and in light of Jesus bringing you in, would you be willing to say, “I’ll go first.” 

When you go to work or school or practice, or wherever you go; will you start to say to yourself, “I’ll go first.”  I’ll smile first.  I’ll say hello first. Not because you’re outgoing, not because you’re friendly, but will you do it as an act of worship for Jesus – to allow Him to reach others through you – to spread encouragement through you?  There are lots of people on the outside in this world, will you be a representative of Christ who brings outsiders in?  Will you let Him make a difference in your life, for the sake of the outsiders, today?

Let’s pray

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