resources are provided here to share my
experience of taking PC(USA) ordination
exams. I graduated from McCormick Theological
Seminary in 1999, and passed all exams
before I graduated. Please use them at
your discretion. Since then, the contents
or forms of exams might have been changed.
For more updates, please check with the
official web site of PC-USA.
The exams test your overall ability of whether
you can articulate differing ministry contexts based on
informed sources and resources. This means you need both
knowledge (from your reading of books) and a sharp sense
of what’s going on in ministry.
If I put what I am saying into a formula, it goes like
What do you know (objective
knowledge)? = K (know)
from the resources (theology, book of order, confessions,
How do you understand
in your own terms = U (understand)
What is important in a context
today and how do you apply (or adapt) what you
know to a specific context? = A
you need to cover both classic and contemporary literature
to obtain necessary knowledge of a certain subject.
Make it your own. A mere quoting from books (persons)
is not enough.
Application is important. How will you apply or change
what you know in response to a ministry context?
Organize your thoughts coherently and clearly
so that your readers might follow your point. As you might
know, your readers are very diverse in terms of their
age, ministry experiences, culture, and etc.
Write plainly with your thesis distinct.
Be familiar with the mood of the Reformed
Tradition. If you want to know a bit of it, read my article
on What is Reformed Tradition?
Plan ahead before taking an exam. Your course-taking
plan, self-study plan including old exam reviews, seeking
advice from former takers, is all-important.
This exam demands a lot in terms of covering
materials and the amount of time as well, and profundity
of its topics is awesome. I strongly recommend that you
take a relevant course for this exam.
Be familiar with confessional documents
found in the Book of Confessions. Make your own comparison
table by topics.
One important tactic is to use index of
the book of confession. If you want to know about redemption-related
confessional documents, you will find a similar word in
the index. This way you can save your time by finding
multiple references in various documents at one look.
This is an essential tool in your class exam. In fact,
in my exam I did it well.
When you apply what you found to a contemporary
ministry situation, the first task is to identify core
issues. As the Reformed Tradition hints, you need to approach
ministry issues with a balanced mind and heart. In other
words, see things deep inside of people and go beyond
a mere situation. I say this kind of approach is called
a balance-heartfelt approach. Move with your heart. Maintain
your sense of balance as always.
When you write answers on the questions
of application, think about connection between you answered
at previous questions and the application question. Clearly
point out what issues are there and be specific about
how you reply to that context with a REMINDER that you
have a PASTORAL SENSITIVITY.
Again, a balanced approach is important,
because, on the one hand, you need to give a clear connection
between your knowledge and application and on the other
hand you have to maintain a sense of pastoral attentiveness
to those involved in that situation. In this sense, your
answer needs not to be a black and white logic. Rather,
thinking you are a pastor, you should approach people
and issues with a balanced sense of mind and heart.
Reading many books is important but too
ambitious sometimes. I rather recommend that you need
to focus on one important book, reading word by word,
with your head and heart wide open. Read one time with
close attention to each sentence. Next time when you read
again, move your hand with a pen and a notepad ready.
Write down what you find delights from your rereading.
In other words, make summary notes on a separate notebook.
This summary is enormously helpful for your final wrapping
up before the exam. As often as possible, you can take
this note out, and you can further reflect on it. In this
way, you not only prepare for the exam very well but also
find pleasure of your spiritual growth.
revised edition, by Shirley C. Guthrie
by Jack Rogers
Seeking Understanding, by Daniel Migliore
Generally, a passing rate for this exam
is high compared to other exams. But this does not mean
you do not study hard. The message that I want to give
you is that you need to work hard. Do not expect any luck
without studying enough.
Good news is that this exam is an open book
test. You can put your own color tabs or make colors to
highlight certain things in your book.
The first rule is a necessity that you almost
memorize the first four chapters of the Book of Order,
where you will find the spirit of that book; for example,
the ends of the church, historic principles, and etc.
You have to grasp the basic rules or spirit of the Book
of Order. For example, our church is said to be connectional.
Why is ‘connection’ important? Also, our church
governing is performed with shared power. Why shared power
is important? How and where is the mentioning or spirit
of shared power represented in our book of order? Try
to connect what you read with actual practice of your
church ministry. Is there a similarity or discrepancy?
If you do not understand or confused about the actual
practice of your church or a larger church, struggle with
that issues, going back to the book of order, and find
a right person who you trust to talk about it.
The second rule is about your organization
of the book. Have a big picture first. That is how exactly
this exam asks for (of course, other exams are the same
but this specific exam is more like so). As I said before,
the first four chapters are fundamentally important in
showing basic principles in relation to your ongoing struggles
in the church, and the rest of the chapters are organized
one way or another to show the connection between the
first part (4 chapters) and the rest of the book. Now
you can map it by relating the first part and the later
part. Find an each relationship of it.
The third rule is about your approach. Again,
treat the involved persons in ministry with a pastoral
sensitivity. As you grasp later when you read our book
of order, the ultimate purpose of our book is not to judge
people but find a common ground with reconciliation in
mind. So never treat so harshly with the cases or people.
Again, a balance is a key.
The fourth rule is about your attention
to your questions. Give enough time to think about the
question. Read it three or four times. Scrutinize each
word on its relationship to the other words and the sentences.
For example, verbs such as explain, list, evaluate, and
etc., are important ways that it gives you a direction
to answering. Answer the questions directly, always with
clarity. Don't hit around the bush. Don’t try to
show your knowledge not related to answering the questions.
The fifth rule is about your familiarity
with index of the Book of Order. What is really important
is how quickly you search for a related topic from it
and quickly go to the section you are looking for. Scan
through this index as often as possible.
There is no specific book that I want to
recommend to you, because the Book of Order itself is
the best one. Read it carefully and summarize it on your
own with a reminder of a big picture.
If I really recommend one little booklet
though, “the great ends of the church” by
PC-USA will be helpful for your understanding of a big
picture of what is all about in our Presbyterian Church.
This exam is, I think, part of the Polity
plus theology exam. Principal things in the Form of Government
(especially first four chapters) of the Book of Order
have some overlapping intersections with the Directory
for Worship. Worship is fundamental part of what the church
is doing in the life of church. Also, this exam has a
resonant with the theology exam in a sense that theological
interpretation is involved in the discussion of worship
General rules for this exam is same as the
theology and the polity exam.
This exam is a closed book test except a
section on finding confessional heritage (using the book
of confession). So, you are asked to remember a big chunk
of discussions in the Directory for Worship. You have
to summarize all contents so that any situational, contextual
topics might be dealt without a serious problem. For example,
when you are asked to lead a special funeral worship service
in a situation where you feel so strange, can you respond
with confidence? Suppose any unusual situations and try
to give your own answers.
When exegetical books (bible) are declared
for the exam, consult with your professor or a pastor
or go to a library to gather information/materials (bibliography).
You can begin with reading an introduction of each book.
Have a big picture of that book. For instance, if the
book of Matthew is picked out for your exegesis work,
you can simply ask several questions like these:
1) Why was this book written? What is author
like? For whom was it written?
2) Certainly, you will like to know theological
issues or any community issues with which people of a
3) What is this book’s position out
of the whole bible? How is Matthew different from the
other gospels? And in what sense is it similar to one
4) How did reformers interpret this book?
Like Luther or Calvin. What is, if any, a general traditional
interpretation of this book?
When verses of that book are given for your
take-home exam, go home and find a quiet place to gather
your mind and energy. Take a deep breath and breathe it
out. Pray for a guidance and courage. PRAY FOR YOUR EXEGESIS.
I can tell you the difference between praying-exegesis
I failed first time in an exegesis exam.
By the time when I finished taking the first three in-class
exams, I felt good about what I have done. So I did not
pray for the exegesis paper because I believed my capacity.
I did well on the exegetical part but didn’t do
well on the application part. I did not take an exam so
seriously first time because I was not humble enough.
The second time when I started working on the exegesis
paper, I prayed and prayed. It made a real difference
for me. So what do you say? Praying with all your heart
does make a difference in your writing exegesis paper.
(Sample paper) : careful, this is not the
A. The Purposes of this Exegesis
B. Who wrote the Gospel of Matthew?
C. When, where, and for Whom did Matthew
write his gospel?
D. How is Matthew 15:21-28 related to the
surrounding Chapter and Book?
E. Are there Textual Critical problems in
F. How does Matthew 15:21-28 compare with
G. What are some significant literary features
of Matthew 15:21-28?
H. How does John Calvin interpret Matthew
I. Theological and Practical Implications
J. Personal Summary
K. Contemporary Use of the Text
i) Situation and Audience
ii) Sermon Outline
A. The Purposes of this Exegesis
Matthew 15:21-28, the story of the Canaanite
Woman (the Syrophoenician Woman in Mark 7:24-30) and Jesus,
has a parallel in Mark 7:24-30. But the content and features
of Matthew are quite different from the ones of Mark.
A close reading of Matthew 15:21-28 reveals that in addition
to its similarities to Mark's account, it contains features
that distinguish it from Mark, and has emphasis on the
theme of faith. So, my purposes of this exegesis are:
to find and discuss the nature of faith hidden in this
passage of Matthew 15:21-28, as compared with Mark; to
trace the theme's occurrence throughout Matthew's Gospel;
to find relevancy of my interpretation with John Calvin's;
and to apply my exegetical findings to a contemporary,
Reformed congregational situation, in a sermon outline
that focuses on the theme of faith.
B. Who wrote the Gospel of Matthew?
The ascription of this Gospel to the apostle
Matthew traces back "at least from Irenaeus (A.D.
185) and possibly from Papias, though it is not clear
whether the collection of Jesus' logia by Matthew that
Papias refers to is to be identified with our gospel of
Matthew" (Meier 1992: 622). But, there is no internal
evidence that the apostle Matthew wrote this gospel. A
majority of scholars views the author of Matthew as a
redactor of Mark's gospel and as a writer, after receiving
various oral and written traditions that were available
to him in his community. Until the last few decades, scholars
tended to favor the author of Matthew as a Jewish conservative
Christian. More recently, scholars see Matthew "as
a moderate Hellenistic-Jewish Christian who was liberated
from an earlier stringent Jewish Christianity which opposed
the gentile mission and upheld the Pharisaic view of the
law" (Meier 1992: 625).
C. When, Where, and For Whom did Matthew
write his Gospel?
A majority of scholars points to a date
of Matthew between 80 and 90 A.D. (Duling 1989: 1857).
Internal references within the gospel suggest this period;
its author knew about the destruction of Jerusalem in
70 A.D. (see 21:41; 22:7; 24:15-16) (Duling, 1857). This
was a time of pharisaic development and conflict between
formal Judaism and the newly thriving Christian communities.
The Gospel was written in Antioch, according
to the majority of scholars (Boring, 105). Internal evidence
of the Gospel suggests some "Greek-speaking urban
area where Jews and Christians were in intense interaction"
Matthew wrote this Gospel to his audience
of the newly emerging community that had to live with
or against Judaism and the gentiles. The main audience
was Jewish Christians who had to struggle with the existence
of the Gentiles, whether they had to accept them or not.
Thus, Matthew's gospel has its main sitz im leben (life-setting)
in "the crisis of a church in transition, seeking
to preserve what is viable in its Jewish past as it moves
into the uncharted waters of a predominantly gentile future
in the Greco-Roman world" (Meier 1992: 625). Matthew's
church had already broken with the synagogue by the time
the gospel was written. Internal references to this are
shown in "their" synagogue and "my"
church (16:18) (Meier 1992: 625).
D. How is Matthew 15:21-28 related to the
Surrounding Chapter and the Book?
The passage, 15:21-28, has "antithetical
continuity" with the previous passage, 15:1-20 (Patte,
220). Verses 15:1-20 are about the dialogue between Jesus
and the Pharisees (the theme was 'bread' and 'eating'),
while in 15:21-28 Jesus and the Canaanite woman also have
dialogues around bread and eating. Why is it antithetical?
It is because both passages deal with the aspect of faith.
That is to say, a Canaanite woman, a pagan, has "great"
faith (15:28) and the Pharisees, the Jewish religious
authorities, make void the word of God and are hypocrites
(15:6-7). The Pharisees are an example of "unbelief"
(13:58) and the Canaanite woman as an example of great
faith (Patte, 220).
Though Matthew's language has a Jewish
tone, ultimately the theme of Matthew is faith in which
Jews and gentiles together become the people of God. But
the setting of the Canaanite woman's story is still a
pre-Easter moment. So, this passage, 15:21-28 is a pre-sign
of full inclusion of the gentile in Christ after the Post-Easter
event (for example, 28:16-20, where all nations are the
target of mission). So, this event carried a symbolic
impact on the readers who listened to this gospel, because
even before the Easter, non-Jewish people could be part
of God's blessing, on condition that they come with faith.
This episode of the Canaanite woman contrasts
with several other places where the disciples do not show
faith. Jesus pointed out Peter’s “little faith”
because Peter had doubt while walking on the sea (14:31)
(Scott, 41). Jesus' disciples, who were terrified by the
windstorm, also heard from Jesus, "Why are you afraid,
you of little faith?" (8:23-27). In another place,
Jesus was rejected by his hometown people at Nazareth
(13:54-58), and he did not do many things because of their
"unbelief". In sum, the main problem of the
disciples in Matthew is that they have "little faith".
In contrast, a Canaanite woman shows great faith, even
if she is a pagan, a woman, and the mother of a demonic
daughter. This event stands out in terms of the dramatic
aspect of faith. After this event, Peter's confession
comes in chapter 16.
Finally, this episode has a parallel in
8:5-13, where a centurion asks for his servant's cure.
This episode is also about a gentile's faith (Schweizer,
E. Are there Textual critical problems in
In fact, there is no critical textual problem
in this passage. But one thing should be marked here.
In verse 26, "estin kalon" -"is good"-
is close to the original, though some think that "exestin"
-"is lawful"- is closer to the original because
of the influence of the parallel account in Mark 7:27.
The reason for favoring "estin kalon" is that
"exestin was introduced into some of the Western
witnesses in order to strengthen Jesus' reply (a heightening
from what is appropriate or fitting to what is lawful)"
Even though there are no critical textual
problems in this passage, one translation issue emerges
here because of 'dogs' 'kunarioij'. The issue is related
with the meaning of 'dogs'. Greek word, 'kunarion' is
a diminutive form (Hare, 176). So, some think this dog
is a housedog (pet). But this is not the case, for Jewish
people did not raise dogs in the house as Greeks did (Dufton,
417). By the way, the NIV translates verse 26 as 'to their
dogs' but the NRSV has 'to the dogs.' I think that the
NRSV is more appealing. As for Jewish people, dogs were
not raised in houses but wandered in the fields and mountain.
Dogs were a symbol of the dirty, unpleasant and savage
animals. In this way, the dogs became a Jewish word of
abuse for gentiles (Dufton, 417). Dogs are used to show
the bitterness of gentiles' situation. Gentiles are like
dogs. They are outside of God's mercy. Matthew dramatizes
even more by these dogs the impossibility of this woman's
destiny. One interesting point is that this woman responds
in such a way that she seems to refer to these dogs as
housedogs. No matter what Jesus says, for her, the urgent
things are her daughter's cure.
F. How does Matthew 15:21-28 compare with
Matthew's text is different from Mark 7:24-30
to a surprising degree. Matthew's text is "more Jewish
than its parallel" (note 24b: "I was sent only
to the lost sheep of the house of Israel") (Davies,
542). Jesus confines his mission to Israel only. Further,
Matthew's text is missing Mark's clause "let the
children be fed first". In Mark's text, it seems
that Jews are first saved and gentiles next. But in Matthew's
text, gentiles have no possibility at all. In sum, Matthew's
text is "more potentially offensive to non-Jews"
(Davies, 542). But on the other hand, Matthew (the author)
intensifies the desperateness of a pagan woman. In other
words, here the author manifests the hopelessness of a
Canaanite woman by emphasizing Jesus' mission to Israel
only. This is why Matthew's text differs from Mark's version.
The taste of strong Jewishness has been made in Matthew
15:21-28 by the author who wants to show the greatness
of faith of this woman (Senior, 132).
Matthew, furthermore, turned Mark's Syrophoenician
woman into a Canaanite. Most modern exegetes have thought
that "the change to 'Canaanite' was made because
of its Old Testament associations: one automatically thinks
of Israel's enemies" (Davies, 547). Through this
term, 'Canaanite,' readers evoke "deeply-engrained
fear of and revulsion towards Gentile ways" (Davies,
547). In this regard, Chrysostom commented well: "the
evangelist speaks against the woman, that he may show
forth her marvelous act, and celebrate her praise the
more. For when thou hearest of a Canaanitish woman, thou
shouldest call to mind those wicked nations, who overset
from their foundations the very laws of nature" (Davies,
In fact, the change to Canaanite woman
is "consistent with Matthew's addition of 'and Sidon'
in verse 21." Now we have a phrase, 'Tyre and Sidon'
which has "negative connotations in the biblical
tradition" (Davies, 547). Thus, 'Canaanite' and 'Tyre
and Sidon' work together to intensify "traditional
prejudices" (Davies, 547).
The other important difference is found
in the structure of Matthew and Mark. Matthew's text is
basically constructed with dialogues and Mark's text with
narrative. In Matthew's text, 'apokrinomai' (he answers)
appears four times (v.23, 24, 26, 28). Each time Jesus
responds to what has just been said (Davies, 549). During
these dialogues, this woman's language is also quite different
from Mark: 'have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David' (v.22),
'came and knelt before him' (v.25), 'Lord, help me' (v.25).
This language demonstrates this woman's desperation and
her faith in Jesus. In other words, Matthew's text focuses
on faith. Jesus finally praised her faith at the last
saying "O woman, great is your faith" (v.28).
In contrast, Mark's text is simply narrative, it does
not have such explicit faith language as Matthew. Mark's
text focuses more on the miracle of Jesus (Harrisville,
276). In fact, Jesus did not praise her faith in Mark.
He just said, "for this saying you may go your way"
(Mk 7:29). Mark's version focuses on healing itself.
G. What are some literary features of Matthew
As mentioned earlier, this passage is constructed
in dialogues between Jesus and a Canaanite woman, though
the disciples intervene one time. This passage is composed
of "four dyadic units": a) The woman's request
(v.22) and Jesus' response (v.23a); the disciples' request
(v.23b) and Jesus' response (24); the woman's request
(25) and Jesus' response (26); the woman's request (27)
and Jesus' response (28) (Davies 1997: 541). It is more
interesting to see the Greek word de (but) in Jesus' first
three responses, and finally he says tote (then). During
this dialogue, "dramatic tension is heightened and
Jesus' eventual acquiescence, introduced by 'tote,' made
all the more surprising" (Davies, 541).
Based on the above structure (four dyadic
units), let us look each at in detail. When a Canaanite
woman came out of Tyre and Sidon to urgently ask for help,
Jesus did not say anything. His first response was silence.
In fact, even before she came to Jesus, she had already
three strikes against her because she was a woman, the
mother of a demoniac and a pagan Canaanite (Meier 1986:
398). With great expectation of curing her daughter this
Canaanite woman came. But she got no immediate answer.
Virtually, she could get nothing from Jesus. But she kept
on asking for help. The second step of dialogue is the
intervening between Jesus and this woman by the disciples.
The disciples ask Jesus to send her away, because she
gets in the way and bothers them. Jesus also adds on this,
"I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel".
Again, this woman does not withdraw, but instead comes
to him and worships him. She repeats her urgent petition
with "heart-rending simplicity: Lord, help me."
(Meier 1986: 398). She is holding the last chance, the
last thread of hope. Since this is the third time, readers
expect to see a climax now. But it never happened. The
audience is very disappointed by this fact of the third
refusal: it is not fair to throw children's bread to the
dogs. This is an extreme case of insult to this woman.
This story seems to end in disaster. His third rebuff
is sheer insult. But surprisingly, this woman still sticks
to Jesus, and responds to Jesus with her persistent faith
and humor and wit as well. "Yes, Lord," she
says, "replying to him with politeness as well as
faith and humility" (Meier 1986: 399). Here is an
example of great faith, coming through three hills (three
hills will be explained later). At the fourth time, Jesus
then says to her: "O Woman, great is your faith!"
This woman broke the traditional rule of three. The third
time is usually the last. Number three is the last and
complete. But in this episode this woman goes through
it and gets the final answer from Jesus at the fourth
H. How does John Calvin interpret 15:21-28?
Calvin interprets this passage, 15:21-28,
as an example of great faith (Calvin, 264). He understands
Jesus as a tester and giver, while the Canaanite woman
as one who has a test. Calvin's interesting observation
is that silence is also a form of speaking. That is to
say, when Jesus said nothing in response to the woman's
request, Jesus "spoke within to the mind of the woman,
and so this secret inspiration was a substitute for the
outward preaching" (Calvin, 264). Jesus' silence
was not to "extinguish the woman's faith, but rather
to whet her zeal and inflame her ardour" (Calvin,
Even after hearing the second refusal,
this woman did not stop. She "admitted nothing that
was opposed to her hope. This is the sure test of faith"
(Calvin, 266). Again, Jesus gives a more difficult thing
- harsh words of comparing this woman with a dog, "thus
implying that she is unworthy of being a partaker of his
grace" (Calvin, 266). This woman again does not withdraw.
She accepts her status as a pagan. But she shows her faith
with humility. She just looks at Jesus, who gives her
hope and assurance. Calvin understood this episode as
"the early manifestation of the common mercy which
was at length offered indiscriminately to Jews and Gentiles
after his resurrection" (Calvin, 262).
I. Theological and Practical Implications
This story clearly shows us the nature
of faith. Faith points to hope and love. This woman does
not see hopelessness. She keeps on asking Jesus for what
she wants. What she wants is her daughter's liberation
from a demon. Her faith remains until her daughter lives
again as a normal person.
Especially when we live with multiple choices
and alternatives in our modern lives, we believe everything
should become available in a minute. Faith is understood
as an easy way to get out of trouble or to get rich without
paying attention to the process. As this episode tells,
this woman crosses three hills: the first hill is silence;
the second hill is prejudice or theology; the third hill
is annihilation (totally weeding out a person's faith).
This episode clearly shows a process. As time goes by,
the problem might be more serious. But one who has great
faith never fails. It looks like failure in the beginning,
in the middle, and even in the end. But that traditional
concept of the final is not an end. Faith points to Jesus,
not to conditions or us. One who has great faith does
not see possibility in his/her status but in Jesus our
This episode has good contrast with Peter's
"little faith" incident (14:31). When Peter
has faith, he could walk on the sea. But when he noticed
the wind, which means when he had doubt about Jesus, he
fell into the sea. The Canaanite woman does not see her
own hopeless condition alone. She sees Jesus as Lord and
calls upon him. She never leaves Jesus until she gets
an answer. In this sense, faith is struggling hope through
J. Personal Summary
This passage, 15:21-28 is a very moving
story and will be my story with which I should live with
others in my future ministry. This story gives me a clear
picture of faith. Faith is not just a mental acquiesce
or an easy word to say to the troubled person. It is more
than that. It is a struggling and a process. When we do
not see our hopelessness alone, we see Jesus as our Lord.
Faith should be persisted at until it gets an answer.
The worse things get, the more this woman sticks to Jesus.
Hopelessness can never win faith. There is no hopelessness
if we have faith in Christ. In the darkness of the valley,
faith radiates more. The Canaanite woman's story should
be our story today.
K. Contemporary Use of the Text
i) Situation and audience
I will preach this Matthew 15:21-28 for
a small, Presbyterian congregation that was founded few
years ago. There has been much fluctuation in the size
of memberships. This congregation strives to live with
faith. But when things are going well, it is easy to come
to church. Some members do not have strong faith in Christ.
Overall, the congregation is not very patient and somehow
wavers in faith. And recently, this congregation experienced
several illnesses. One member suffers from a very severe
disease. This person is almost desperate now because that
disease recurred. Several others also suffer from their
physical weaknesses. This congregation, though small,
has a lot of suffering incidents. In this situation, every
believer has a question about faith. I need to address
the nature of faith: a process and hope in Jesus our Lord.
ii) Sermon outline
God of our father and mother, we praise
your holy name. Through Jesus Christ you give us life
and hope. No matter how hard our lives turn to be, give
us faith with which we struggle to win finally. Fill us
with your spirit of empowerment and courage. Amen.
2. Sermon outline
1) Introduction: I will begin with some
common experiences of a human being. Anyone can meet with
difficult situations. I ask what faith is. Today's story
tells us of one woman's faith struggle. Jesus praised
her: O woman, great is your faith! What can we say to
this woman? Or what does this woman say to us?
2) Now I will retell the Canaanite woman
i) The first step is to highlight her triple
conditions as a woman, a pagan, and the mother of a daughter
who has a demon. Who is this woman? She is a sample of
the margin of marginality. In addition, I will mention
the name "Canaanite" woman. A Canaanite is an
enemy of Israel. She was a powerless woman, the hopeless
mother of a daughter, and an enemy of Israel. What else
can we put in her to make things worse?
ii) The second step is to focus on the dialogue
between Jesus and the Canaanite woman, including the dialogue
between Jesus and disciples. The first time Jesus does
not respond to her request at all. The second time Jesus
says: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."
It is very dark now and the situation is hopeless for
this woman. But still she sticks to Jesus and worships
him. She persists and says to Jesus: "Lord, help
me." But Jesus again refuses strongly to accept her
request by saying, "it is not right to give children's
food to the dogs". This woman is referred to as a
dog. This is so far the strongest refusal, putting direct
emotional damage on her. She should have given up at this
point. What did she do? She responds to Jesus with politeness
and humility, saying, "Yes, Lord, even the dogs eat
the crumbs that fall from their master's table."
She kept asking for help for her daughter. Then finally
Jesus declares that she has great faith.
3) I will summarize briefly what we learn
from this story. The power of this story comes from dramatically
accumulated tension as the dialogues go by. I will mention
here three hills that she crossed over. The first hill
is no response from Jesus. I remind the congregation that
sometimes we also meet with this situation. The second
hill is theology or prejudices. She was a pagan, who lives
outside Israel. She was rejected because of her being
a pagan. Sometimes we are also rejected by this kind of
theology or prejudices. But she crossed over this second
hill. She thought that now she could get an answer. But
again, Jesus refused harshly. This time her emotions seemed
to get hurt a lot. It was absolute hopelessness. She should
have given up now. But she crossed over this third time.
She accepted her being pagan but she never accepted hopelessness
because she believed in Jesus as Lord.
4) I will contrast this woman' s story with
Peter's incident on the sea when he walked on it and then
fell into it. Peter heard from Jesus: you of little faith.
Why is Peter said to have little faith? Peter could walk
on the sea while he kept looking at Jesus. But he fell
into the sea when he looked at the strong wind. In contrast,
in this Canaanite woman's story, even though she has triple
bad conditions, even when she heard all kinds of impossibility,
she just saw Jesus. She did not look at her environments
or any conditions. She had faith in Jesus. Persistent
faith radiates well in darkness. That is why Jesus praises
5) Now I will mention here: "Let us
put ourselves in this woman's position". When we
think there is no more hope in our situations, or when
you prayed a lot but you do not get any answer, or when
in the beginning things are going well and at last things
are turning bad, what would you do? Will you give up?
I challenge the congregation to have this woman's faith.
This faith points to endless time until we win. In this
sense, there is no time limit.
6) Another challenge is that we need to
endure to get an answer. As this woman's story shows,
faith needs a process and perseverance. Faith sometimes
requires us to cross over three hills or four hills. Sometimes
faith is not an easy word to say. It is sometimes painful
waiting, relentless hope in the midst of hopelessness.
I ask the congregation to place their absolute faith in
Jesus, no matter how difficult their situation might be.
Let us remember this Canaanite woman whenever we meet
with serious life questions.
7) Conclusion: I will reaffirm Jesus' grace
and power. Jesus is always ready for us. Sometimes we
are not ready to reach Jesus' grace. Jesus wants us to
persist. Let us have the faith of this Canaanite woman.
Now let us ask ourselves: What will this woman say to
8) Ending with prayer
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