August 14, 2011
TEXT: Matt 15:21-28/Romans 11:28-32/Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To all at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, loved by called and called as saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh;

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.”


An 11th century Middle East medical doctor made this observation about the woman’s cry in his commentary on this text.  She did not say, “Have mercy on my daughter” but “Have mercy on me.”  
 

August 14, 2011
TEXT: MATT 15:21-28/ROMANS 11:28-32/ISAIAH 56:1, 6-8
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To all at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, loved by called and called as saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh;

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.”


An 11th century Middle East medical doctor made this observation about the woman’s cry in his commentary on this text.  She did not say, “Have mercy on my daughter” but “Have mercy on me.”  

His thousand-year old comment noted that her ongoing cry reflects the presence of pain that children cannot understand.  It is the pain of a father who sees his toddler in intensive care after a serious accident.  It is the pain of a mother who sees her daughter poked with needles and severely sickened by chemotherapy.  It is the pain of parents who see their children burdened with disappointment or affected by choices that are spiritually harmful.  It is God-given pain because of God-given parental love.  It is pain that our own parents feel or have felt

Our text directs our thoughts to the agony and pain that a father or mother would have if Satan bodily invades one of their children?  Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; 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 through the years was in the grasp of the evil one.  “Have mercy on me, O Lord.”  But he did not answer her a word.  The sound of silence and the tension it conveys can be quite deafening.  When someone shuts us out – the suffering it causes is real.  This caregiver was at the end of her rope – yet he did not answer her a word.  

The tense of the verb indicates that she was continuing to yell out this cry of a beggar.  In response Jesus continued to be silent.  The disciples were not dismayed by the silence because in that culture self-respecting rabbis generally didn’t speak to women in public - and she was a foreigner.  But they were dismayed by her loud persistence!  Therefore, his disciples…begged him (also in an ongoing way)…”Send her away for she is crying out after us.”  Only Jesus is silent amid an antiphonal cacophony of noise;

     Have mercy on me, O Lord
     Send her away for she is crying out after us
     Have mercy on me
     Send her away


Finally He answers!  “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  Jesus is testing the woman and teaching His disciples.  He is exposing deep prejudices in His disciples and ultimately making them jealous the way Paul writes to the Romans.  He is also expressing God’s will that the mission of the Messiah be first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

This is what St. Paul proclaimed in our epistle.  He spoke of Israel’s rejection of Christ as being the reconciliation of the world.  He also spoke of the fact that God would 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 the whole world.  

By a gift of God’s grace this woman accepted in faith what Jesus said about His messianic mission.  She took Him at His word.  She simply kneels before Him in the stark simplicity of worship and begs, “Lord, help me.”  And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  With this the disciples and the culture would also have agreed.

How can we understand this?  Is it a hardhearted answer - an unloving response?  On a worldly level of animal illustration perhaps a dog is better than a sheep.  After all, what animal is less intelligent and more helpless than a sheep – certainly not a dog?  But Jesus is using a cultural reference to Gentiles that the disciples prejudice would have agreed with.  

Was it a bigoted, prejudicial, answer on the part of Jesus?  Not for this Gentile woman!  For her it was the right answer!  From the word of Christ that seems to fall most heavily against her she finds evidence that God’s grace is also for her!  “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” If the order of salvation is first for the Jews – that is fine with me – “Lord help me.”   

The word translated “it’s 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 a small house dog or lap dog, not the larger street dogs that are not let in.  From Jesus’ reply this woman understands herself as being in His house of healing and help in whatever way God orders.  That is sufficient for her!  She makes no demands!  She demonstrates extreme confidence in Jesus for help against Satan.

This is what Jesus intends and most deeply desires for her, for his disciples, for you, for me, for the human race.  She passes the test with flying colors.  “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 the girl!  What parental relief there would be!  What rejoicing of heart this mother would have for her restored child!  The Lord who would crush Satan’s head on Calvary, here peeled back his grip on the daughter of this woman.  As He did so He voiced an even greater miracle of healing.

“O woman, great is your faith!”   It was great faith because its sole object was Jesus Christ!   It was great faith because it simply begged for Jesus’ help against Satan in whatever manner He would bestow it!  It was great faith because it believed in advance what St. Paul wrote to the Romans, God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.  

On this day God’s mercy for all extended to a Gentile in a Gentile land.  It is suggestive of Gospel healing that would reach to the ends of the earth - also to you according to Christ’s mandate – “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

In speaking of His mission to the lost sheep of Israel, Jesus was not being calloused and uncaring!  Just the opposite!  By not being turned aside from the order of God’s salvation Jesus was showing the deepest love for this woman and for all Gentiles.  And by His effusive praise of the faith of this humble, begging Gentile woman Jesus laid open the prejudice of His listening disciples and their opinion of her as a dog.  

Going after the lost sheep of Israel cost Jesus His life!  In that very action, however, He gave us our life!  He gave His body and His blood on the cross and what fell to the world from that tree was not crumbs but heavenly food!

As we are reminded by our text of parental pain we would not be off-target in considering the pain of the one Father with perfect love – God the Father!  At the baptism of His Son, God the Father proclaimed – “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased!”  Paradoxically His good pleasure with Jesus was because His Son was willing to be severely oppressed by Satan for us!  When that demonic oppression was most severe God the Father did not seek to relieve Jesus.    

Rather than “Lord save me” spoken to Jesus the Father’s cry was “My Son, save them.”  Rather than “Son of David have mercy on me” the Father’s will was Son of David have mercy on you.  Together with all the sin that the tempter brought into this world, the Father bound His own Son on the altar of the cross.  And unlike Father Abraham whose hand was raised to slay His bound son Isaac and then was stayed, God the Father did not restrain His hand.  He struck with full divine wrath against His beloved Son, Jesus.  God the Father offered up for sacrifice the holy Lamb of God – offering His Son as the very Bread of Life for the world!  

Dear Christians, dear partners in the Gospel at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, dear students and guests with us today, dear hearers from any land or country or region - this is ground for unshakable hope!  God is “for you” in Christ Jesus.  

This is solid reason for steadfast faith in every distress – even when everything seems against you – especially when everything seems against you!  It is no small thing that God declares “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12).  He intends His house to be a joyful house of prayer for all peoples to cry out and to be heard, “Lord help me,” “Lord have mercy.”

God help us to know who we are like this woman knew who she was.  God has consigned all to disobedience that He many have mercy on all.  He desires you to worship Him as this woman did – taking Satan seriously.  He desires you to worship Him with great faith – faith whose sole object is Jesus Christ - one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  He desires you to trust Him for saving and healing help even when He appears to be silent.

Even in the hour of deepest need – even when death stands at the door – Christ will be acting for your ultimate and eternal healing!  That’s why He comes to this house of pray today – “for you” – with a place at His table – “for you” – now and forever.  Amen. 

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