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Jan 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

A Canaanite Woman – 01/21/2024



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to our RefleXion Community.  The Lord is with you!

I’m reading a bit of the Tao Te Ching, which was probably written about 2500 years ago, probably by a man named Lao Tzu who may have lived about the same time as Confucius. The Tao Te Ching is roughly translated, “The Way of Integrity.” It’s a slow read.   As I read this chapter by this ancient Chinese philosopher, something connected in me.  I’m sharing “The Uses of Not.” 


            Thirty spokes meet in the hub.

            Where the wheel isn’t is where it’s useful.

            Hallowed out, clay makes a pot.

            Where the pot’s not is where it’s useful.

            Cut doors and windows to make a room.

            Where the room isn’t, there’s room for you.

            So the profit in what is in the use of what isn’t.

We make a bowl, but it’s the hollowed-out space that’s useful.  We build a room, but it’s the space inside the room that we enjoy.  We are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and it’s the space inside the temple that’s the sanctuary of our souls.  The actual temple structure in the Bible was a place where God’s people could go to be in his presence, preparing them to become that holy presence on earth.  It played a crucial role in God’s plan to dwell with humanity.  If we identify as Holy-Spirit-filled Christians today, our role is the same.  We spend time in God’s presence and become his holy presence on earth.  Do you remember that Jesus said that he would destroy the temple (the earthly temple) made with hands and would build another, not made with hands.  He was speaking about the temple of his body.  And you’ve heard it said that we are his body. Paul says that we are the temple if God’s Spirit dwells in us. We are the spiritual temple consisting of the saints of all ages joined together by and in Christ. 

And, back to Lao Tzu’s idea.  More than being the temple, it is the space provided by the temple that matters.  How will we engage the Holy Spirit in His dwelling place in us? 

I wanted to read the entire passage from 1 Kings 8:22-53, when Solomon was dedicating the first temple: it’s beautiful, but long.  But I’ll share these verses:  Solomon asks in prayer:  Is it true that God will live upon the earth? The heavens and even the highest heaven are not big enough for You, so how will You live in the house I have raised? Please listen to the prayer and humble request of Your servant today, Eternal One my God, that Your gaze might fall upon this temple all night and day, that You might look upon the place about which You said, “My name will be there,” and hear the humble request of Your servant when he prays in the direction of this place.”   And then he prays:   Whenever a foreigner, a person who is not a part of Your community of Israel, comes from a distant land in honor of Your name (for everyone will hear about Your great reputation, mighty actions, and outstretched strength), when he prays in the direction of this temple; then You will hear in heaven where You dwell and grant the foreigner’s requests. (he is praying for us!)  This is so Your reputation will spread all throughout the earth and so all may live in awe and fear of You.” And let me make the last part of his prayer our prayer this morning.  Join me:

O Eternal One, there is no other God who compares to You in heaven or on earth. You have guarded Your covenant and revealed Your loyal love to those who serve You with all their being.   Let your gaze fall upon us night and day, that you may look upon us and say, “My name is there.”   We add our prayer, Lord Jesus, that you will fill the temple of our hearts today. Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.” Matthew 15:21-28

Intro: I begin my talk this morning with a confession

I’m stalling for time . . .
– because I’m not ready for where we’re going next week
• I am referring to the scariest and most confusing book in the Bible
• WARNING: I won’t be teaching it like anything you’ve heard about it in the past
– that’s all I have to say for now – except,
• I may chicken out and not start next week, but sometime later

Today’s story is challenging and difficult to understand

It turns everything we think we know about Jesus on its head
– it involves a foreigner in a different region of the map
• the setting for the life of Jesus is mostly in Israel
◦ he passes through Samaria, and briefly sets foot in Gadara
◦ but in this story he goes north – the one and only time
• it is most likely that Jesus wanted to get away from the crowds
◦ to be someplace where he and his crew could rest
He “went away from there and withdrew”
In Mark’s telling of this story, we read, “And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know” (7:24)
◦ the last think Jesus needed during this break was one of the locals coming to him with a consuming need
And behold – ta da! – the “behold” indicates a shift in the point of view
• away from the storyteller’s perspective, to those in story
◦ and then that becomes our point of view
• we see a woman coming to where Jesus is, and making a lot of noise
Listen to her loud, desperate cry:
“Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon”
◦ she demonstrates great respect for who Jesus is and his destiny (Lord and Son of David)
◦ “oppressed” softens the Greek word which means demonized or possessed

What happens next is totally out of character for Jesus

He has never denied anyone’s request for help or healing
– not even a Roman centurion who came to him (Mt. 8:5)
• the centurion was also a foreigner, stationed in Capernaum
◦ but when this woman came crying for Jesus’ attention and help,
he did not answer her a wordnot a word!
• Jesus went silent, unreachable, unresponsive
– we know what this is like! What we ask of God is not given instantly
• every prayer is immediately followed by silence
◦ we may eventually come to trust the silence
– even appreciate the break from all the noise in our head (once we’ve prayed it out)
◦ still we know God is at work – he doesn’t need to tell us
• however, the Lord’s silence here is the worst
◦ when Jesus has nothing to say to a person, it can mean they’re doomed–cf. Luke 23:8-9
◦ Jesus had nothing to say to this woman, because he had nothing for her

Although Jesus could calmly ignore her, the disciples could not
– it wasn’t because they were more caring than Jesus
• after all, they did not ask Jesus to grant her request, but to send her away
Helmut Thielicke, “They can’t take the woman’s misery. But that doesn’t make them one bit more merciful. . . . the disciples are not at all merciful when they give in to her cry for help. They just have weak nerves.”
• so, first Jesus is silent – but that’s not the worst of it
◦ when he speaks, it’s to the disciples – he gives them the explanation
◦ “I’m not here for her. She’s not on our list”
– the people of Israel were like lost sheep – when Jesus sent the disciples on their first mission, he told them:
Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter now town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mt. 10:5-6)
• there were insiders and outsiders
◦ Jesus had his eye out for his own people
When he saw the crowds he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Mt. 9:36)
• let’s pause here and take a breath

It is looking hopeless for this woman – but she’s sharp!
– she knows an opening when she sees it
• though Jesus was not talking to her, she jumped in
But she came and knelt before him
• she made it past the Lord’s bodyguards – got to HIM
◦ she shortens her pray to three words, “Lord, help me”
• I pray that, a lot!
◦ Peter’s prayer in the previous chapter is also just three words, “Lord, save me” (14:30)
◦ short prayers work as well as long prayers!

Since she’s now made it to Jesus, everything should be alright

However, this is the worst moment of all – Jesus rebuffed her
– I wanted to use a different word besides rebuff, which means:
“to reject someone or refuse a request in an abrupt or ungracious manner”
• and that is a perfect description of how Jesus treated her
• what I find most distressing is his analogies!
– the people of Israel belonged to a household;
• they were family; they were children; they were lost sheep
but weren’t this desperate woman and her daughter lost sheep too?
◦ No! They were dogs
◦ a dog might be a pet and eat table scraps, but it’s not family
– she is a dog – so the door inside is closed and locked to her
• she and her daughter will never evolve into “children”
Jesus came for Israel’s sheep, not Gentile dogs

The way I see this, Jesus was playing with her

I don’t mean he was toying with her or teasing her
– that would be a cruel way to deny her request,
• like a cat playing with a mouse before killing it
◦ if so, there would be no depth or meaning to the story
◦ he was not having fun at her expense
• I read something yesterday that speaks to this:
James Brownson, “You cannot violate the honor of another [person] and also love that person.”
◦ what I believe is that Jesus was guiding her to a deeper level of interaction,
◦ as if he were inviting her to play a game of chess
– I’m convinced Jesus determined to grant her request from the moment he first saw her
• then, did he want to test her? I don’t think so
◦ I think he knew already she would fight for what she wanted
• did he want to see how creative or clever she could be?
◦ again, I don’t think so
◦ and I don’t think he was trying to see how much faith she had

What was Jesus’ purpose in this quirky story?

First, he ignored her; next, he defined the parameter of his ministry;
– then he disqualified her from receiving her help
• Jesus made it difficult for her to get what she wanted
◦ in fact, he placed obstacles in her way
◦ now I ask you, Is it ever easy?
– how often do we see immediate answers to our prayers?
• do we ever feel ignored?
• do we ever feel that God is giving us the silent treatment?
• do we ever feel rejected?
◦ in the next chapter, Jesus will call Peter “Satan” — that would make me feel like a reject
• did Jesus ever make it easy for his disciples?
◦ prayer is not sending letters to Santa Claus
• a motto of the Benedictine order is ora et labora, “work is prayer”
◦ they also teach the reverse: prayer is work
◦ we learn from this story, that this is normal; prayer is work

What Jesus put her through would make anyone want to give up
– but not her! The lesson she learned is a lesson for everyone
• give prayer all you’ve got and don’t ever give up
◦ keep working at it
And [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart (Lk. 18:1)
• we can use God’s own words to wiggle our way into his presence
◦ “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs”

A few years ago, my cousin, Chuck Fromm, was playing doubles tennis with my dad. One of Chuck’s greatest interest was people. He always wanted to talk with, learn from, and bond with people he cared for or admired. During the match, Chuck was trying to continue a conversation with a man on the other side of the net. It wasn’t an involved conversation, merely light chatter. At one point Chuck missed a shot he should have had, and my dad–ever the intense competitor–growled at him,
“Get your head in the game, Fromm!”

• I think that is what we can take from this story
◦ we’ll do well in prayer if we get our head in the game Jesus wants us to play

Conclusion: Each time the woman spoke to Jesus, she called him Lord

Even in last round, when she uses his own analogy on him “Yes, Lord”
“I’m willing to be a dog, if I can eat up the scraps under your table”
She played his game, and she won!
“O woman, great is your faith” — Jesus never said this to one of his disciples
(he did tell them they had “little faith”)
“O woman, great is your faith”
And right then, the miracle occurred
The woman and her daughter became sheep,
They became family,
They became children,
and demon was gone!

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