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THE PHARISEES AND THE WOMAN
A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, May 7, 2006
“Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is
All of us who are Christians have had the experience of making new discoveries as we read the Bible. A verse of Scripture that we have read many times suddenly leaps out of the page at us, and all at once seems to be the most important thing we have ever read. I have found this true of the text this morning. I was struggling with another passage about this same event in Mark’s gospel, when I suddenly realized it would be better to preach it next Sunday morning on Mother’s Day.
Then I came back to this verse, which records the same events, and I saw in the passage in Matthew that it had another good message in it, one that I pray will prepare you for the Mother’s Day sermon next Sunday morning. I read of the events in this story, consulted with my mentors and teachers, Dr. Gill, Matthew Henry, and Spurgeon. And then I read the Bible verses of the passage once again. And out of my reading, prayer and meditation over these verses in Matthew and Mark, a thought struck me. The conclusion I came to was that the fifteenth chapter of Matthew contains information about two types of people who are confronted by Christ. There are only two kinds of people in the world in God’s sight. I would go so far as to say that everyone here this morning fits into one of these two categories. Right up to the beginning of this account of the Syrophenician woman, just before you read her story, Christ has been rebuking the Pharisees. They were the legalists of that day. And they came to Jesus to argue with Him. Jesus gave them a very hard sermon and sent them away unsatisfied and lost to the truth He was preaching. They got nothing out of what He said. That’s my first point.
I. First, those who approach Jesus the wrong way
do not find salvation in Him.
The Pharisees came to Him in that way, at the beginning of Matthew 15. But they got nothing but rebukes from Him, and did not find salvation at all. They were picking at Him, looking for faults, asking impertinent questions and receiving only a stern answer from our Lord. I wonder if that isn’t your case this morning. I wonder if you may not have some fault to find, perhaps some argument with Christ hidden in the recesses of your mind. Notice in this chapter that people like you (if you are like the Pharisees) have not found salvation in Christ. People like the Pharisees were always left alone and lost by Jesus. He ended their argument with Him, and then, as it says in the account of the woman given in Mark 7:24,
“He arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon…and would have no man know of it: but he could not be hid”
Perhaps your inward disagreement with Christ is quite hidden from most people, even your family. It may be that they look at you and see a fine, outstanding person, getting along well in life, dressed nicely, in church every Sunday. But they do not see inside your heart, do they? If they were able to see within you, as God does, don’t you think they would see in your heart what Jesus saw in the Pharisees - evil thoughts, covetousness, pride, lust, foolishness? (cf. Mark 7:22). And don’t you think that these “lusts for other things” are what make a barrier between you and Jesus? Isn’t that why you have not come to Him and trusted Him? Isn’t there a great deal of truth in that? Isn’t it true that you really have an argument against Christ deep in your heart? Could it be that Christ wants you to break out of your religious habits and prejudices, but you do not want to listen to Him?
Do you want to fall at His feet and make Him the master of your life? Or do you put off coming to Him, as the Pharisees did? If that is true of you, your situation is much the same as our deacon Dr. Cagan, before he was converted. He said, “I was still fighting against Jesus. I didn’t want to come to Him. I was too proud. But I knew that the evangelist was preaching the truth from the Bible.” Dr. Cagan went through two years of inner struggle because he was much like the Pharisees. He was arguing with Christ, not willing to submit to Him and trust Him. There are people like that here this morning. Are you one of them? If you are, you will not find salvation. That is the wrong way to approach Jesus.
II. Second, those who approach Jesus the right way
do find salvation in Him.
The woman spoken of in our text was far different from the Pharisees. She did not rebel against Jesus. She
“cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David” (Matthew 15:22).
At first He did not answer her. But she was determined. This shows that only those who are strongly determined find Him. She continued to cry after Him. She reminds us of Jacob, who said to the preincarnate Christ,
“I will not let thee go, except thou bless me” (Genesis 32:26).
That’s what this woman did in our text. Like Jacob did, she persisted strongly until Christ saved her. Have you done that? Have you said to Christ, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me”?
Jesus gave her a rough answer to test her. He said,
“It is not meet [proper] to take the children’s bread, and cast it to dogs” (Matthew 15:26).
She gave the right answer. She didn't rebel and say, “I’m not a dog.” “Dog” was the word the Jews commonly used to describe a Gentile woman like her. Jesus used the word in a common, everyday manner. Yet she did not rebel. She said,
“Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (Matthew 15:27).
I wonder if your problem may not be that you have too high an opinion of yourself. That was what was wrong with the Pharisees, you know. They thought they were good enough, their own way. Could that be your reason for stumbling instead of coming to Christ? Could it be that you are not willing to admit that you are really and truly nothing more than a sinful “dog” in the sight of God? In one of his great sermons, Dr. Lloyd-Jones asked, “Are you a success? Are you quite pleased and satisfied with yourself? Is all well in your soul? Do you never fall, never sin? Does not your own heart condemn you? How much more, then, a holy God!...Can you cleanse your [own] soul and purify your [own] spirit? Can you, with all your striving and efforts, merit for yourself that spotless robe of righteousness? Without it you are doomed to eternal death and misery. It is no use trying not to think about it and forget it. ‘The day’ is drawing ever nearer, ‘the night is already far spent.’ Are you ready? Oh! realize the desperate position in which you are placed and [run] to Jesus Christ” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Evangelistic Sermons at Aberavon, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001, pp. 248-249).
Christ will not save those who are conceited and self-satisfied. He will only save those who are humble and aware of their sin. As Joseph Hart put it in one of his hymns,
Not the righteous, not the righteous,
Sinners Jesus came to call.
(“Come, Ye Sinners” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).
Only when you become aware that you are desperately lost, only then will you come to Christ. You will never know Him if you are not willing to come to Him as this woman did. That is the only way to be saved by Him. Our deacon, Dr. Cagan, experienced this when he yielded to Christ one night in an evangelistic meeting. And, just like Dr. Cagan, the Syrophenician woman came to Jesus.
“Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me” (Matthew 15:25).
“Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt” (Matthew 15:28).
You may think that your own faith is too small, not as great as hers. That may be true - but remember that it is not the amount of faith you have that saves you! Oh, no! It is Christ who saves sinners. It is Christ who died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sin. It is Christ who has risen and is seated at God’s right hand in Heaven. If you come to Him, even with wavering faith, even with very small faith, He will save you. Your faith may be weak, but Christ is powerful. Forget about the amount of faith you have, and simply come to Him. All who come will be received by Him.
“And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”
In your desperate position, face to face with God and His law, come to Jesus Christ and He will wash your sins away with His Blood and clothe you in His own alien righteousness. Yes, an alien righteousness - not your own righteousness but His! He will clothe you in His own righteousness and save you from the wrath of God. Yield to Christ. Come to Christ. Believe on Christ, remembering that He said,
“Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
Will you come and throw yourself on Jesus unconditionally this morning? If you do He will save you. If you don’t, you are already condemned and living under the condemnation of God at this very moment. Simply come to Christ and the condemnation is removed, your sins forgiven, and you will have eternal life in Christ Jesus. Your sins will be pardoned and cleansed by Him, and His alien righteousness will be imputed to you. "Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne" ("The Solid Rock" by Edward Mote, 1797-1874).
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).
Will you perish eternally in Hell like the proud Pharisees, or will you come humbly to Jesus and be saved by Him?
(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."
Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan:
Matthew 15:1-9; Matthew 15:21-28.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“For All My Sin” (by Norman Clayton, 1943).
THE OUTLINE OF
THE PHARISEES AND THE WOMAN
“Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is
I. Those who approach Jesus the wrong way do not find salvation
II. Those who approach Jesus the right way do find salvation