Why Are You So Offended? Perhaps You Shouldn't Be

Text: Matthew 15:21-28

In the name of Jesus. Amen.


What a jerk! Yes, what a jerk to call a woman a dog! Can you imagine? And in you aren’t, you should be offended right now! Jesus just called that Canaanite woman a yippy and annoying dog.  


What a bigot! What a sexist! What a misogynist! If you are not triggered yet, you should be right now – Jesus just called her a dog!  


My friends, this story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman has offended many throughout the ages, especially in our generation. The way that the disciples and Jesus treated the Canaanite woman is considered not only rude but also incredibly offensive to the modern feminist movement. In fact, many liberal theologians are greatly offended by the reading from the Gospel of Matthew.  They believe that this passage shows Jesus as a misinformed sexist and harsh misogynist. In fact, these liberal theologians will go so far as to say that the woman’s persistence served to create a teachable moment for a male chauvinistic Jesus. They teach that the Canaanite’s persistence actually helped open the eyes of a racist Jesus to the fact that His mission was not only for the Jews but also for a greater audience.


And so, according to liberal theologians, Jesus had to learn from the Canaanite woman so that He could not be a racists and a sexist. Jesus had to learn that the Gospel was for Canaanites and women too. Jesus had to learn to be accepting of all people different from Him – that there were no boundaries.  


What this means, according to liberal theologians, is that today’s Gospel reading from Matthew is more about the Canaanite Woman teaching Jesus than Jesus teaching the woman. Liberal theologians would have you read today’s Gospel lesson with the Canaanite woman being the hero and Jesus being the villain.  The theme is: don’t be like the prejudiced and racist Jesus but be like the all-inclusive and loving Canaanite woman.  


Now, perhaps these liberal theologians might have a point. Perhaps we should be offended by the words of Jesus. Maybe we should get triggered and upset and worked up. Maybe we should work ourselves up into a frenzy. But there is only one problem with everything that we have talked about thus far. And that is this – the Canaanite woman was not offended or insulted by being called a dog in the first place. When Jesus called her a dog, she responded, 


“Truth, Lord, I am a dog, but even though I am a dog, I should get scraps from the master’s table.” 


In other words, the Canaanite woman does not shout back, 


“You are a misogynist and a sexist Jesus! How dare you call me a dog!”


The Canaanite woman does not use the opportunity to victimize herself. She accepts the fact that she is a nobody; she accepts that she is a dog underneath the table. She accepts the fact that she is a beggar. There were no phrases like: ‘yeah but’ or ‘that sounds intolerant Jesus’ or ‘gee that is not a loving thing to say.’  Rather, she accepts the classification. She is not offended in the least but agrees with the term. When Jesus called her a dog, she immediately responds by saying, “Yes, Verily, Truth.”  


Dear friends, we will always be offended by Jesus when we come before Him with our own agendas, ideologies, and expectations, just like the liberal theologians do.  And when we are offended?  Well, the only option is to turn against Jesus and make Him into the bad guy like liberal theologians do.  But some of us are not comfortable making Jesus into the bad guy, so we start playing that stupid game called, ‘Jesus didn’t mean what He said in the Bible but meant something else.’   And that ‘something else?’ Well, it is typically what we want Jesus to say to prop ourselves up with comfort. 


But today it is hard to twist the words of the Canaanite woman. It is tough to try and get offended when she was not offended to begin with.  And so, we are left with her clear words of agreement. 


Now, with that said, what are we to make of her agreeing with Jesus that she is a dog? Well, Jesus says that she has great faith. Consider our Gospel reading again: she admits that she is a dog and then barks out with faith, demanding that as a dog that she has a right to crumbs that fall on the floor.  You see, her faith is great for two simple reasons. She accepts the title of dog; she is not offended by the title. She accepts it, and then, secondly, she barks for crumbs of grace. 


Dear friends, today, at the beginning of our Divine Service, we did not admit to being a dog but admitted to being poor miserable sinners who deserve temporal and eternal punishment from God Almighty. That is right; we agreed with what God says about us in His Holy Word – the Bible. We agreed that we are sinners. We admitted to the truth that we have failed. We confessed that God would be completely justified in sending a lightning bolt to smite us for our disobedience. Like the Canaanite woman, we accepted the truth about ourselves that we do not deserve a seat at the table but are a dog at the Master’s feet. We did not debate, correct, or blame God for calling us sinners in thought, word, and deed. 


And so, beware of people who are not willing to be called a sinner or to be a sinner. They are not advocating Christianity; they do not have great faith. 


Beware of people who loathe and detest the confession of sins – those who say that they are not poor, not miserable, and not a sinner. They are not advocating Christianity; they do not have great faith. 


Beware of people who use a lot of words to rationalize away why they are not a dog or a sinner. They are not advocating Christianity; they do not have great faith.


Beware of those who believe Jesus is doin’ a new thing in the twenty-first-century as if Christ needs to be re-educated to be politically correct – as if He is somehow wrong. They are not advocating Christianity; they do not have great faith. 


And be especially aware of claiming yourself to be free of sin. Believing that you are without sin is only fooling yourself. A claim like that is na├»ve nonsense.  


But instead, dear Baptized Saints, agree to the truth and the term ‘sinner’ – like that Canaanite woman – and then cry out to the Lord with boldness. Confidently beat your chest, saying, “I am a poor miserable sinner,” and then boldly cry out even more, “Lord, be gracious and merciful to me, for the sake of Jesus,” for this is great faith.   


Dear Baptized Saints, the Canaanite woman is a picture of the Christian Church. She is a picture of the Church living by faith – always admitting that we are dogs, always crying out to Jesus, always trusting in Jesus, and always relying on Jesus. She is a picture of you and me coming to this sanctuary each and every Sunday confessing that we are nothing more than dogs, yet we still rise up with great faith and come before this altar to receive sips of wine and crumbs of bread from the Master’s Table.


Baptized Saints, hear this loud and clear! Great faith is not pretending that you are sinless, powerful, and strong – a super Apostle. Great faith is not having confidence in your abilities or accomplishments. But instead, great faith consists in agreeing with Jesus about your sinful condition. Great faith is when you find no comfort in yourself and your abilities but cling to the grace and Word of Jesus alone. Great faith says,


“I am a great sinner, but I have an even greater Savior.”


Great faith is confessing sin and then grabbing Christ by His ankles – never letting go – because even the smallest of His bread crumbs of grace is bigger than all of your sins. 


But never forget, as we saw with the Canaanite woman, it was impossible for Jesus to turn away from her. And so it is the same for you. Yes, Jesus opposes the proud, but when you cry out for grace, you do not merely have a share in the crumbs and morsels of the Lord under the table, but you are given a seat with Christ at His table. Yes, even though you confessed you were a sinner today, at the beginning of the service, you have a seat at the Lord’s Table where you receive His true body and blood. 


Hear this today!  It is impossible for the fount of divine mercy to remain shut to poor miserable sinners clinging to Jesus by faith because Jesus did not come for the super-elite, the religious superstars, or the cream of the crop but came for dogs, sinners, and ragamuffins - like you and especially like me. 


We confess boldly our sins, and we believe even more boldly in the Gospel that is spoken in our ears, pour on our heads, and laid in our tongues.   


In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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