Let us pray: Dear Savior, sometimes things occur in our lives that are directly sent by You and are meant to test our faith. Other times bad things happen which You had nothing do to with, but the result is the same: our faith is sorely tested. Instead of spending precious time trying to figure the who, what and why of such instances, focus us instead on how we can use all such times to grow stronger in our reliance upon You. For then real blessing will always result. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO IS IN CONTROL OF ALL THINGS!
TEXT: Matthew 15: 21-28
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
The Middle East today is a mess. You have countless factions vying for power against each other fueled by centuries of hate and mistrust. People are dying. Misery is commonplace. But now you can begin to comprehend some of the friction that was active during Christ’s time, 2000 years ago. Against that backdrop you can begin to understand why the disciples were so cold towards this poor woman in need, causing them to tell Jesus: “Send her away, for she keeps crying after us.”
The time frame is the 2nd half of the final year of Jesus’ earthly ministry. So, He’d already done countless miracles and the buzz over Him was at its zenith. Christ has just made a swing through northern Galilee, Jewish country, and now: “Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.” Tyre and Sidon were old Phoenician cities, Canaanite country. They had blood feuds with the Jews that went back 1500 years. They didn’t get along. They basically ignored each other because the iron fist of Roman held their animosity in check. As I said earlier, even today nothing has changed in that portion of the world. For without the love of Christ in your heart, hate will always live on.
“A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” The fact that this woman broke custom with all her ancestors and sought out a Jew for help is amazing! It reveals just how helpless and hopeless she had become. And the reason for all this was: the demon possession of her daughter. Note well that the Bible speaks of demon possession as a fact. The daughter is not bi-polar and just needed modern medication to make her better, as the modern critics of Scripture would have you believe. No, demon possession is real. I’ve read a fair amount on it. I’ve known at least one person who I believe was possessed. People don’t like to talk about it today for fear of being branded a crack-pot, but demons are real and they really can take over people. We see various instances in the Bible where Jesus has cured demon possession. That’s because He’s the Lord of all things. Evil can never triumph in the face of true Godly power. No doubt, since it’s towards the end of Jesus’ ministry, this woman had heard some of those stories, too. So, at wit’s end and full of love toward her suffering daughter, she comes with her pride in her pocket and asks this Jewish Rabbi for help.
But what happens next? Does Jesus rush to help her? No. “Jesus did not answer her a word.” But apparently she kept on bugging him to such an extent that the disciples want to cast her away and urge Him to do so. Finally, Jesus says this to her: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” What are we to make of this cryptic answer? On the surface, Israel stood for the Jewish background peoples. She wasn’t a Jew, therefore it seems she was out of luck, or beyond His blessing, as it were. “The woman came and knelt before him. ‘Lord, help me!’ she said.” She wasn’t about to take “No” for an answer. “He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.'” What a put-down! In those days dogs were not fluffy pets but wild animals. Food was hard to come by. No one in their right mind would feed a dog and let their children starve. Since Jesus possessed the bread of life, what He’s saying here is: “I’m not going to share that bread with you.”
However, this woman knew the Jewish Bible, our Old Testament. She knew that there was a greater meaning to that word “Israel.” She knew, as St. Paul makes so clear throughout Romans, that Israel really stands for all the believers in the Messiah, believers in God’s promises, wherever they are to be found no matter their ethnic background. And so, she turns Christ’s answer around: “Yes it is, Lord. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” She compares herself to a dog and also speaks of Jesus as her master in this sentence. In other words, she is totally humble before Him. Like a dog, she completely trusts in Him to do what is best for her and her daughter.
“Then Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment.”
Today is September 7th, 2014. What can we learn from this story, 2000 years after the fact? What kernels of truth does it have for us as we begin another year of Sunday School in our midst? Well, first it reminds us that Jesus has power over all things, including demons, and so like this woman, we need to seek His help when troubles come upon us. Second, God’s gracious help is for everyone who is humble before the Lord, puts their pride aside, and admits that they cannot control everything in life. Third, faith relationships are much thicker, longer lasting, and more vital than mere emotional/ethnic relationships. That’s why the “fellowship principle” taught in Scripture about valuing each other’s understanding and reliance on Christ is never to be cast aside. Fourth, when you know God’s truth, specifically the promises of God and are standing upon them, you can bug God to your hearts content and refuse to accept “No” for an answer. This because God has to honor His promises. And five, faith never, ever disappoints. It didn’t here and it won’t for you.
We live in tumultuous times. Evil seems to have taken hold of many lost souls around the world and is running amok. But God, our God, Who gave up His life on a cross to save our souls has triumphed over evil. The devil thought that by killing Christ he had won. Nothing could be further from the truth. He lost. Big time. Christ arose from the dead. He conquered Satan’s power everlastingly. And He gives His victory to you, me, this woman and her daughter through faith. This is our hope and help in times of trial. And like her, we’re totally content to eat the crumbs of grace that fall from His table. For those crumbs are His undeserved love, His grace, which is the food of immortality.
Faith alone knows that when things are darkest, the Master never disappoints. And so right here we see: FROM TRIAL COMES TRIUMPH. Amen