21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 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.” 23 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.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” 28 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 (ESV)
“Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” These are the words of the Canaanite woman, the words of a great faith having been born of hearing, born of eating crumbs that had fallen from her master’s table, crumbs of the gospel that had spilled from the mouths of not so tight lipped children feasting on forgiveness. And they had offered her hope as she heard of miracles and mercy, healing and grace, because when children eat, dogs gather at their feet.
I think it is a picture we can all relate too. We’ve all seen it. Children even going so far as feed their beloved pets from their plate. The dogs know where they have their best chances for the tastiest morsels, and behave as if they are starved and haven’t been fed in days. It hardly matters what it is, it is often snatched mid-air before it even gets a chance to fall on the ground.
This woman had fed on crumbs, and it had born faith. She knew that such a Lord as this Jesus who was tender and merciful to so many would not fail to hear her plea. She had started to hear the gospel years ago as pilgrims returned from their journeys. First it was about a strange prophet at the riverside preaching as with fire, and talking about one whose sandal he was unworthy to untie, a Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But he was gone now, and this Jesus seemed to take his place. These Jewish folk had been passing through on their way to Jerusalem. She heard them on their way back home, about this Jesus who in the midst of the desert was healing the sick and the lame, and had fed so many of his children, five thousand with five loaves and two fish. She couldn’t help but over hear them talk as they were buying bread for their journey home, as they stopped to purchase wine while waiting for the boats of Tyre and Sidon. The left overs of that feast filled twelve baskets and spilled all over the ancient kingdom of David.
She had heard stories of him and his kingdom. She had heard of how his God had defeated all the Baal’s so many years ago. How even as her Canaanite ancestors worshiped the Baals, the same gods that punished her daughter with this demon after they attended the fertility fest. How even as they worshiped these Baals everyone knew that Israel’s God was the true God to be feared. She had heard of how the Ancient prophets like Elijah and Elisha had shown mercy to foreigners like Namaan. But she never felt that she could trust this God, or live up to his standards, she never felt she could be more than a dog in his eyes. She had watched as the Pharisees travelled through, so proud of themselves for keeping the law as they looked down their nose at everyone around them, wearing their fine clothing too costly for a peasant. They had a way of making everyone around them feel unwelcome and inferior. So many of the other Jews she knew could never themselves afford to live up to their ideals. But they always showed deference to them, respected them for their strong faith, their great faith, their ability to live out the law. Meanwhile her daughter suffered a demon, and none of them would lift a finger to help, wouldn’t even petition their God on behalf of her. She was a lost cause, too poor to even be bothered by the proselytism that turned so many of her countrymen into the same children of hell if not worse than these arrogant Pharisees born into it.
“Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their Master’s table.” And now her master, HER Lord! He praises her. He praises her, a sinner, a dog, a gentile who had spent her life worshiping other gods, debasing herself in the midst of frenzied fertility rites. This woman whom the Pharisees despised, her faith is declared great, because she would rather have mercy than sacrifice, because in hearing the gospel, she ate the crumbs of the feast the children spilled. She came to faith, came to believe in grace, and came to know that she wasn’t the dog in the eyes of the lord she felt herself to be for her sins, but she herself was a beloved child of God. So it is that Jesus sets his table for you, his gospel, the New Testament he consummated with his death on the cross given for you in flesh and blood, forgiveness in the bread and wine, here for you to eat and chew on all week, that even from your lips, cleansed as with coals from heavenly altars, healed and made whole, from those lips the crumbs of the gospel would fall. That family and friends, children and coworkers, and those who feel themselves dogs in the eyes of the Lord would know the mercy of God on sinners in the death and resurrection of Christ, and join the rest of his children even here at this feast of forgiveness.