September 11, 2011: 12th Sunday After Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, whenever we cry to You: “Lord, help me,”—whether it be out loud or in our hearts, always listen, always hear, and always grant our petition in the very best way possible. Lord, we don’t know the future, we aren’t all-knowing, but You are. So, take our requests to Your Father, reword and rework them as You see fit, and then truly our heart’s requests will be fulfilled. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR LOVING BROTHER WHO ALSO HAPPENS TO BE THE ETERNAL SON OF GOD!

TEXT: Matthew 15: 21-28

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Isn’t it amazing that many people reject the reality of a personal God, but almost everyone acknowledges that evil exists in the world? Ask them: “Where does evil come from?” and they’ll give you a shrug and respond: “It just is.” And yet, these same people scoff at the Christian truth that Satan and demons exist. Talk about the big lie!

Evil is real. Demonic possession is real. We confront it today is our lesson as a simple fact of human existence. I’ve preached on it at various times and know people who have seen it. I haven’t been exposed to it directly that I know of, but I have seen it indirectly and so have all of you. People don’t have to directly bow to Satan in order to be possessed. Instead, the devil and his allies often infuse hearts and minds with hatred thus controlling and inciting evil acts upon others. 9/11 was one such example. Those hijackers probably didn’t think they were doing Satan’s bidding, but evil is evil and only evil benefited from their actions. Or, as our Savior says: “By their fruits you will know them.”

I

I’ve always loved our lesson. It reveals the huge, loving heart of God in complete contrast to evil. It shows how Christ is willing to work with all people to lead them into His truth and ultimately to save their souls. It also gives us that lasting comfort that only the Triune God is all-powerful and evil is vanquished by Him alone. We know that occurred on Good Friday when He died for the sins, the collective evil, of the world. We know He publicly announced His victory with His physical resurrection on Easter. And in this lesson we are re-reminded that He engages in mini-victories even in the personal lives of hurting souls today.

Tyre and Sidon were ancient Phonecian port cities. They were not Christian and the OT faith was generally scorned by their inhabitants. But, Jesus goes there. Why? Because He knows this woman is hurting. He wants to uplift her and show the ignorant unbelievers where real strength and help reside. This mother’s greeting is very instructive. “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” Those are titles taken from the Hebrew Bible. They are code word for: the Messiah. Obviously, this woman has heard both about Jesus and is familiar with the ancient prophesies of the Savior. Yes, God’s Word has worked saving faith into her heart and now she is exercising it.—Foreign mission work went on in Christ’s day, too!

“Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.'” At first blush, Jesus appears quite heartless. He ignores her. He doesn’t run to her rescue. Doesn’t He care? Likewise, the disciples are embarrassed by it all and just want to get rid of the problem.

When He finally does answer her, you’d think she would run in the opposite direction. Taken at face value, He’s not Mr. Nice Guy. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” She’s not a Jew. She seems to be excluded here. But, she is undeterred. Faith is like that, isn’t it? Christian faith never takes “No” for an answer.—Not when a soul is hurting and needs salvation and clings to God’s promised help.

II

Then, the picture seems to get even bleaker. “He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.'” What a put-down! In that culture this was almost the ultimate insult. But, she comes back with an astonishing answer: “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

What’s going on here? It’s all about Christ, Who can read hearts, testing her faith, eliciting a confession of sins from her, and in the process leading her to a knowledge of what repentance really means so that ultimate strength and forgiveness may result. Every step of the way she continually humbles herself before the Lord. She never gets her back up. She never takes issue with Him. She never second-guesses Him. She is just accepting of the outcome because she knows by personal observation that Satan feeds on pride, while God exalts the totally humble. Is this a picture of you and me when we confess our sins each Sunday before the Lord? Is this same attitude prevalent in our hearts?

And then comes the clincher. “Jesus answered, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” Clinging to Christ in total faith and trust, even amid a life where our faith gets hammered—such belief ultimately comes out on top. No evil, no demon, no terrorist can stand against it. And why is that? You know why. It’s because the object of our faith is the eternal Son of God, Who gave His life for ours already and now in love hands out to us the fruits of His victory. Christian faith is great because Christ is great. And blessings, in this case a healed daughter, always result.

Whenever bad things happen in this life, almost everyone immediately responds by asking: “Where is God?” and then getting angry with Him. People did that on 9/11 and still do it today. But few, if any, of those folks thank God daily when things go smoothly. Fewer still are content with eating a few crumbs of goodness that fall from God’s table. We always want the whole dinner and think it rude when we don’t automatically receive it. But the amazing thing is this: when we actually do content ourselves with the crumbs, it is only then that we’ll truly appreciate the whole meal and it is only then that God reveals the profound nature of that meal to us.—That is, eternal forgiveness and heavenly peace can truly be ours forever simply by trusting in Jesus. Amid a world of demonic evil run roughshod, there and only there is your oasis of peace and rest. Amen