The Rev. Paul J Cain
St. Matthew 15:21-28
Faith, Humility, & Salvation
Proper  (A), 14 August 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
For a Lay Reader
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, 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." But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." 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." Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.
Trusting in Faith
What is remarkable about this woman is her faith. Jesus commends it. She doesn’t talk about how great it is—she shows it in action.
The point is not that she has great faith. The point is that her faith is living and active. Faith is often misunderstood, especially on TV, like a large or small stack of “get out of jail” or “get out of trouble” cards.
God grants faith. He always answers the prayer, “Lord, increase my faith.” The question is not, “How great is your faith?” but “Do you have a Savior?” When you sit and sulk and worry and wonder if you have enough faith, ask yourself this question instead: “Do you have a Savior?” An answer of “Yes” is the voice of faith alive and at work.
This Canaanite woman had no reason to expect help from Jesus. She was not of Jewish descent. She did not live in Judah or Galilee. She was a Gentile. She was a descendant of the Canaanites, the ancient enemies of the Israelites.
In the face of all of this, she showed that she was trusting in faith.
"Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon." This teaches us many things about her. She is aware of who Jesus is, the Son of David, the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. She trusts in the one and only God. And she realizes that Jesus is willing and able to do something about her situation. He is no ordinary visitor to this district of Tyre and Sidon. Jesus is Lord over demons. She comes to Him in trusting faith. She asks of Him great things.
"Lord, help me." She again addresses Jesus as Lord. She persists. She does not give up so easily.
"Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Calling Jesus Lord a third time, she also recognizes Him as Master.
Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.
It is good for us to hear the invitation to trust the Lord God in faith. After all, that is what it means to have a God. (Large Catechism p. 386) A “god” is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need. Therefore, to have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart… If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one…The intention of this [First] Commandment, therefore, is to require true faith and confidence of the heart, which fly straight to the one true God and cling to Him alone. So says Dr. Luther.
When you pray, don’t just go through the motions, but actually believe that what you pray for in Jesus’ Name and according to the will of the Father will actually come to pass. That then is a prayer offered in trusting faith.
(Matthew 17:20) “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
It is not the size of faith that does the work. It is the Lord at work giving faith, increasing faith, and giving refuge and all good things. A mustard seed is quite tiny. It is all about Whom you have faith in, Jesus, Son of David, the Lord.
Humbling Ourselves Completely
Congregations boast about how many their sanctuary can seat. Pastors often compare church attendance numbers. Often, church regulars look down upon those who aren’t dressed in what they deem to be “proper attire.” Some give hideous looks of disapproval when a neighboring child cries or makes a noise during the service. And what is your reaction to someone who you haven’t seen here for weeks or months or years? Yes, it is hard to be humble when you are a Christian. I suppose there is something to the secular view that Christians are hypocrites.
Our lack of humility is sin. Thinking that we’re better than someone else because we do more or attend church more or whatever is sin. We are all sinners. Every one of us here and everyone of us not here. We’re not spiritually superior. We’re not Super-Christians. We’re just forgiven sinners.
We are forgiven for playing the numbers game, congregations or pastors. You are forgiven for looking down upon those who aren’t wearing “Sunday best.” All that really matters is wearing Christ’s white robe of righteousness. You are forgiven for giving that struggling young parent the “evil eye.” Encourage parents of young children. Help them out. Sit with them. Help baby-sit. Would you rather they not come because they’re having a rough time? Would you rather have quiet because no children ever attend? How did the father welcome back the prodigal? How could we do any less than greet them with a smile, a hug, and zero snide remarks. You have been forgiven much. Why can’t they be forgiven as well?
We see this Canaanite woman as a saint. Lutheran Christians see saints as opportunities to see God at work in their lives, someone for whom we thank God, and as examples to imitate.
Jesus said, "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."
This woman could have been offended by the truth, that she was a dog, not a descendant of Israel. But she didn’t get upset, slam her hymnal shut, and run out the door. She humbled herself. Completely. She knew that she was a poor, miserable sinner.
“We are all beggars,” Martin Luther said at the end of his life. We have no rights, no privileges, no entitlements as a sinner. The only thing we deserve is death and hell. Not a one of us is any better than any other. But God makes us sinners into saints, and you and I are declared holy in His sight only because of Jesus. We are all beggars, showing other beggars where to find bread. Let that attitude show the next time you’re tempted to look down upon someone else, a sinner in need of grace just like you.
God’s Salvation is for All People
When Jesus sent the Twelve out on their missionary journey back in chapter 10, he instructed them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Such language is echoed in our text today: He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
At Israel’s rejection of Jesus, we see that these injunctions are only temporary. The final word on the matter in Matthew’s Gospel account is, ” Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” But even before Matthew 28, we see our Lord’s confirmation that He is to be the Lord of Jews and Gentiles, over all nations. This is fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies that disciples will be drawn to Him from the ends of the earth, a preview of the multitudes of every tribe and race and language seen in the book of Revelation.
[Jesus] (He) answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." 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." Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.
It is not being a descendant of Abraham that saves. It is not citizenship in a particular nation. It is not skin color, or race, or color. But it is creed. What do you believe in? Who is your Savior? Believe on the Lord Jesus with all your heart, soul, and mind. Trust Him in Faith. Pray in faith. Humble yourself completely before the Holy God. And be comforted that God’s salvation is for all people, especially you. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.