Sermon: Reminiscere (Matthew 15:21-28)
Pastor Sean Willman
Good Shepherd Pleasant Prairie
Lent 2 (Reminiscere)
25 February 2018
No matter what you experience, know this: God wants good for you. No matter what terrible tragedy you face, God wants good for you. No matter what sins might haunt you: God wants good for you. No matter what: God wants good for you. And in faith you want the good that God has for you. You know in faith that as St. Paul says in Romans 8, “God works all things for the good of those who love him.” And so, you want good things things like health and renewed faith and security and comfort. And so, you pray for them. You ask God to give you that which you both need and desire. Because God has promised to give good things, and in faith you know this, and so go to the source. But sometimes God appears to say no, as he does to Canaanite woman in our text.
This Gentile woman comes to Jesus crying out that he would heal her daughter, who’s severely oppressed by a demon. She calls to him, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.” Who is this woman that she calls to Son of God in this way? She isn’t a Jew. She has no standing among Jesus or his disciples. She isn’t a prominent person in any way, but she cries out, none the less, because she has need of Jesus. And she has faith in him.
Now, don’t think Jesus doesn’t know this already. He does. He knows her faith. This isn’t some sort of test to find out what exactly she believes. He knows she believes that he’s the Messiah. But he responds by ignoring her. Why? Because he’s trying to draw her faith out of her. He responds this way, precisely because he knows she has faith. And so he pushes her to confess all the more. And she does, even after the disciples try to send her away. Even after Jesus says, “I was sent only to lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In spite of all appearances that she isn’t going to get the help that she needs she throws herself at Jesus’ feet, worshiping him and says, “Lord, help me.” But still no help. “And he answered, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’”
She doesn’t object to anything Jesus says or does. She knows she has nothing to show that should earn her Jesus’ help. She’s a Gentile dog. Abraham isn’t her father, she freely admits it. She’s a sinner. But she won’t let up. Her faith doesn’t depend upon any merit or worthiness within herself. It doesn’t depend upon social or political or religious standing. Her faith is only in the promises of God’s mercy for her and all people. And that true faith, her faith cries out and calls upon Jesus to fulfill his promises. This is true faith. Faith that clings to nothing except the mercies of God alone. Faith that doesn’t care about appearances, or circumstances or experiences or works, but only about Words and promises of God. This is why Jesus is silent at her request. This is why he calls her a dog. He desires that she would confess her true faith and that all would see it. He desires that her faith might be strengthened to hold on to his promises even in the midst of her suffering. And so she cries out for help because she knows that Jesus wants to help her. She knows that Jesus only wants good for her and for her daughter.
God has promised good for you. This is his promise for you and for all people. No matter what experiences you might have in your life, or how the devil attacks you, or how you’re tempted, or how terribly sinful you are, God has promised good for you. Faith doesn’t rely upon appearances and experiences. Faith doesn’t rely upon standing before God. You have none. You have nothing to show God that would earn you anything. No good works, nothing. Faith that is in these things, and therefore expects good because of works is no faith at all. But your faith isn’t in your good works. It is in the promises of God that in his Son Jesus he only desires good for you.
And finally, Jesus says, “’O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.” Jesus, finally worked a miracle for this woman and her daughter, and he calls her faith great. Her faith wasn’t great in terms of how much she believed, as though faith is an act that some people are better at than others. No, her faith was great because the object of her faith was Jesus alone and his promises for her. His promises for good. The trouble for us is that often we understand the good of God in only materialistic, self-centered ways. Meaning that if God has promised to work all things for my good that means I won’t ever have any earthly, temporal needs. I’ll have everything I want. Ans if we see anything contrary to that, we lose heart. But the good that God desires and therefore goes about working for you, is your salvation. That, is the eternal good that God works for all people. For everyone. He desires this good for every last person, even those we’d call horrible, evil people. He desires their salvation.
The good that God is working for you is your salvation. Even in the midst of your suffering. Even in the midst of your pain and sorrow. God is working those things for your salvation. For in those things he is drawing you to the salvation that he freely gives you in Jesus Christ. Even in the midst of your struggle against sin. In the midst of your children or grandchildren who fallen away from the faith causing you great heartache, God is working for your salvation. For in these times he gives you the chance to confess your faith and to live it out that it may be seen and that they might rejoice in good of God too.
Your faith is great. Because the object of your faith is Jesus and his atoning work for you, that covers all your sins and achieves your salvation. So don’t believe what you see and hear, that tell you that God doesn’t love you, or doesn’t care, or isn’t working for your good. Remember, that Canaanite woman believed only the word of God, not even what it appeared Jesus was saying and doing. She knew what God had promised and she clung to it. Even as Jacob clung to God as he wrestled with him, demanding him to give him a blessing, for that was what God had promised. God isn’t against your salvation, he is for it, working every last thing for this one good thing for you. And you believe it. Your faith is great. Your faith is in Jesus. Remember his promises, and call upon him to do the same. Amen.