SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT – MARCH 1, 2015
TEXT: MATTHEW 15:21-28; 1 THESS. 4:1-7; GEN. 32:22-32
MEASURED DOWN IN GREAT NEED!
MEASURED UP BY CHRIST IN GREAT FAITH!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day…Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me”…And there he blessed him. Truth be known – the whole experience was a blessing for Jacob and for us! Jesus - wrestled with a Canaanite woman who also was alone. She was an outsider to Israel. The demon possession kept her daughter from feeling the pain she was enduring – from being with her. Notice the me in this woman’s prayer. “Lord help me” she pleaded. “Lord, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”  Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”  No greater blessing than faith. Truth be known - her spiritual wrestling with Jesus was a blessing for her and for us!


In the name of Jesus, dear friends:  God does not wrestle in this manner with His enemies! He wrestles with the ones He loves. Wrestling with Jacob – physically and spiritually – wrestling with this woman – verbally, emotionally, spiritually – He is teaching them – He is teaching His disciples – He is teaching you at the deepest level of faith.


God wrestles with the ones He loves. How goes your wrestling with God in prayer?  It is so natural to get sidetracked – so easy to be wearied and sluggish in the use of God’s gift of prayer. How goes your wrestling with God in prayer for the church in this crumbling, criticizing culture - for control of your body in holiness and honor and not in the passion of lust - for the gift of marriage in the future - for deeper love for your spouse in the present?  How goes your wrestling with God in prayer for faith that doubts your doubts and never doubts God’s promises – for specific family and friends in their great need - for God’s blessings for yourself - your pastor – your fellow members – your fellow students – even your enemies.  God wrestles with you - the ones He loves!

SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT – MARCH 1, 2015
TEXT: MATTHEW 15:21-28; 1 THESS. 4:1-7; GEN. 32:22-32
MEASURED DOWN IN GREAT NEED!
MEASURED UP BY CHRIST IN GREAT FAITH!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day…Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me”…And there he blessed him. Truth be known – the whole experience was a blessing for Jacob and for us! Jesus - wrestled with a Canaanite woman who also was alone. She was an outsider to Israel. The demon possession kept her daughter from feeling the pain she was enduring – from being with her. Notice the me in this woman’s prayer. “Lord help me” she pleaded. “Lord, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”  Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”  No greater blessing than faith. Truth be known - her spiritual wrestling with Jesus was a blessing for her and for us!


In the name of Jesus, dear friends:  God does not wrestle in this manner with His enemies! He wrestles with the ones He loves. Wrestling with Jacob – physically and spiritually – wrestling with this woman – verbally, emotionally, spiritually – He is teaching them – He is teaching His disciples – He is teaching you at the deepest level of faith.


God wrestles with the ones He loves. How goes your wrestling with God in prayer?  It is so natural to get sidetracked – so easy to be wearied and sluggish in the use of God’s gift of prayer. How goes your wrestling with God in prayer for the church in this crumbling, criticizing culture - for control of your body in holiness and honor and not in the passion of lust - for the gift of marriage in the future - for deeper love for your spouse in the present?  How goes your wrestling with God in prayer for faith that doubts your doubts and never doubts God’s promises – for specific family and friends in their great need - for God’s blessings for yourself - your pastor – your fellow members – your fellow students – even your enemies.  God wrestles with you - the ones He loves!


His steadfast love for this Canaanite woman was from of old. “Have mercy on me, O Lord…my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon. The child she had carried in her womb, the child she had nursed and taught and loved, was in the grasp of the evil one. She has heard of Jesus (Mark 7:25) and she uses a Messianic title for Him. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.”  (Silence)   But he did not answer her a word. (Silence)


Silence - easily causes discomfort during a conversation. You know the pressure - to say something – anything - just to fill those hushed awkward seconds. When emotions are roused – when tensions are high - silence can be especially troubling. In this tense exchange between the woman and Jesus - insensitivity and disappointment seem to radiate in all directions. The Greek indicates that she persisted – repeatedly yelling - Have mercy on me! Have mercy on me! Jesus also persisted in silence as if she did not merit His attention! He did not answer her a word.


Her ongoing cries for mercy seem to unnerve the disciples. His disciples came and begged him saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”  Their begging is also ongoing. One gets the sense of competing voices rising toward a crescendo! Have mercy! Send her away! Have mercy! Send her away!  Finally He breaks His silence! I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  Is this a calloused “NO” from Jesus to this mother’s desperate cries?  It seems as if she doesn’t measure up on some scale of worthiness. However, there is more at work here than first falls on the ears. Jesus’ love for the Gentiles as well as the Jews showed itself in obeying God’s will. And God willed that the Messiah go first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.


St. Paul spoke of Israel’s rejection of Christ as being the reconciliation of the world (Romans 11). He also spoke of the fact that God could graft them in again if they did not continue in unbelief. When Jesus said to the woman, I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, He was setting forth the order of God’s salvation that would reach also to her and to you!


By the gift of God’s grace, by the miracle of faith, this woman accepted what Jesus said about His messianic mission. Despite the appearance that she doesn’t measure up to receive His help, she believes He will help. She bowed down in worship before Him with the cry of suffering. She pleaded for healing and wholeness for her tormented daughter, “Lord, help me.” 


And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  In a prejudice of that day, “dogs” stood for God’s enemies – for the Gentiles. By His response Jesus is teaching His disciples about their prejudices. It truly seems as if she doesn’t measure up to receiving Jesus’ help. How could His answer contain any love?  “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 


For her – His love abounds in that answer! From His word that seems to fall against her she finds clear and comforting evidence that God’s grace is for her in Christ. She measures herself down and sees clearly that His help is also for her. The word translated “it is not right” has connotations that mean, “it is not good form” or “it is not well-ordered.”  The word translated “dogs” is the word for small house dogs - not strays or street dogs. From His answer she understands herself to be in His house of healing in whatever order God determines.


“Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”  What a stunning answer! She has this relentless assurance that Jesus will help her – and she is right! Despite her deep struggle and against all appearances she answers with confidence in His authority over Satan and His compassion for her. Dear Christians, this is what Jesus intends and most deeply desires! His healing of a Gentile in a Gentile country is a beautiful preview of the healing Gospel He would soon send to the ends of the earth. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  And so, Christ has broken Satan’s hold on you!


“O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”  And her daughter was healed instantly. Christ broke Satan’s hold on her child! The Lord who would crush Satan’s head on Calvary, already peeled back his grip on the daughter of this woman. He also identified an even greater miracle than this healing. O woman, your faith is huge! Her faith pleases Jesus so very much!  It was great faith because it measured itself down seeing its great need! It was great faith because it claimed absolutely no worthiness! It was great faith because its sole object of trust was Jesus Christ! Bowed down in worship she simply prayed, “Lord help me.”  She verbally wrestled with Jesus in relentless trust that He would bless her .What a marvelous gift of faith! “O woman, great is your faith!”


The need of Jacob was also great! In preparation for a potential violent reunion with Esau he had divided his family for safety. Then Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. This divine wrestler dislocated Jacob’s hip with a touch. But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  This was not human will or strength. This was God-given faith. God wrestles with those He loves. He tests and disciplines those He loves – His children. In tribulation He cultivates them to see their extreme poverty. He measures us down to see our great need to measure us up by His great grace. Faith clings to Jesus as God’s good Word who forgives us rebels against all appearances. Faithful to His promises God sends Jacob off limping with a blessing!  


The Hebrew word for the wrestling that was done with Jacob is a vigorous word – with overtones of rolling in the dust even to the point of stirring up a cloud of dust. On Calvary Jesus wrestled vigorously for us in the dust of our death. His wrestling for us kicked up the cloud of God’s damning wrath against our load of sin. The result of the divine power released against the Second Adam was not a limp, but His corpse, lowered limp in death from the cross and placed in a tomb. O wondrous love! O steadfast love and mercy that have been from of old! Going after the lost sheep of Israel cost Jesus His life, but it gives you your life! He is Israel (God’s wrestler) reduced to one.


From Him – in her great need the Canaanite woman first faced silence – then words that seemed against her – then she received His full blessing. In Gethsemane Jesus faced silence of His own – silence that was against Him. It indicated that God’s wrath-filled cup would not pass from Him. He humbled Himself – measuring Himself down to our standing. He wrestled alone under our burden! The agony and bloody sweat of His wrestling were for our healing – to break Satan’s hold on us. Then on the cross came a deafening silence - the silence of God-forsakenness! All this He faced despite faith in the Father that was not just great – but perfect! O wondrous love! Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord, or declare His praise? 

 

Beloved, what falls to you from the tree of His cross is not crumbs, but heavenly food. Since the breaking of the day - the morning of the third day - He extends mercy to His children - mercy that is the very Bread of the Bread of life! In the ongoing outpouring of His love you may wrestle with God with relentless assurance that Jesus will help you. As you measure yourself down – the sins of your youth – the stubborn doubts and rebellious yearnings of your present – the assaults of the devil - the greatness of your guilt – your fears for the future - you may nonetheless wrestle with the relentless assurance that He measures you up! He measures you up by His undeserved favor – by His steadfast love – by His healing forgiveness – by His pardon for all your guilt! His cleansing blood flows from His chalice to your lips today with healing, forgiving, strengthening love and power. He sees that of yourself you have no strength! That’s why He intercedes for you in keeping with the Father’s will! That’s why, by His mighty power, He defends you from all adversities and evil.

 

Dear Christian, you have faced hours of need and been tried by fear and struggle and more will come. There are times when you have felt all alone and more will come. Satan is not done tempting you and He will not be still in the hour of the deepest need of death. It is no laughing matter when He accuses you with your failings and great need. It is no laughing matter when your conscience tells you that you have no right to pray. But in Christ, that is always, always a lie - Satan’s lie! Jesus’ word on the matter is far different! Whatever you ask the Father in my name, He will give it to you (John 16:23). That is, whatever you ask the Father in keeping with my person and my redeeming work and my steadfast forgiving love for you - and my will for you – He will give it to you. So keep asking – keep seeking – keep knocking – keep wrestling in relentless assurance of my love.


Beloved, your faith pleases Jesus so very much! That’s why the final petition He invites you to pray each day and that He prays with you is Deliver us from evil – or – Deliver us from the evil one! What does this mean?  We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally , when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.


In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a