Monday, March 9, 2009
Sunday, March 8, 2009 Lent II Matthew 15:21-28
And having come out from there, Jesus withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon. And look a Canaanite woman having come out from that territory cried out saying, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is badly demon-possessed!" But He didn't answer her a word. And having come forward His disciples kept asking Him, saying, "Dismiss her, because she cries out after us!" And He, answering, said "I was not sent on a mission if not to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she, having come, worshiped Him, saying, "Lord help me!" But He, answering said, "It is not good to take the bread of the children and to throw it to the dogs." But she said, "Yes Lord, for even the dogs eat from the crumbs which keep falling from the table of their masters." Then answering, Jesus said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it happen to you as you desire;" and healed was her daughter from that hour!
Back in Jr. High, I remember hearing of a band called *Nazareth*. Thinking they might have wholesome, Christian lyrics (being named after Jesus' hometown, after all), I listened to a song of theirs on the radio called *Hair of the Dog*. This song had no edifying words to share, and in fact, used an offensive word referring to a female dog. Surely, that is something the man from Nazareth would never do...Then we come to today's Gospel. I can just hear a girl from my Jr. High class saying with attitude, *No He di'int!*. But yes, Jesus did. He called this woman a dog, right to her face!
Now there are some commentators who will try to soft soap Jesus' intentions here, claiming that He was only calling her a household dog, a beloved pet which was almost like one of the family. Even if Jesus is calling her a *nice dog*, He's still calling her a dog here. But what's more astounding is that she doesn't take offense to His comment. In fact, she does the most surprising thing...she actually agrees with it! She accepts that she is but a dog, in hopes of receiving only crumbs a dog would get.
What's all the more astonishing is that Jesus seems to have no good track record toward her. First she cries out for mercy, and He doesn't even seem to have the courtesy to answer. Then He makes it clear, perhaps within her hearing, that he has not come for the likes of her, but only for Israelites. Then comes the comment about her being numbered among the dogs. In most everyone's book, this would clearly be strike three. It sure seems like a clear, unadulterated *No* is Jesus' final answer.
But after being shot down 3 times, she keeps on hoping, continues begging, and persistantly agrees with Jesus once again. But this time she appears to catch Jesus in His Own words. He says she's the children's dog, fine. She will play the part humbly, and is willing to receive the meager crumbs that fall from their table, as spill prone children are apt to cause. But Jesus just loves to be caught in His Own Words. He's all about God's Word, after all. He just loves it when we call Him on His promises.
And that's just when, what appears as pure *no* becomes Jesus' pure *yes* to her. She exhibits great faith, persistent clinging to Jesus as the promised Son of David, as her Lord, as her God whom she worships. She who had little hope of even hearing about Israel's Messiah, much less actually believing in Him, gets this seemingly chance encounter with the Christ, and she makes the most of the opportunity. She cries out for mercy for her daughter, and Jesus healed her that very hour!
So what is there for you, already a member of spiritual Israel, as a formerly lost sheep whom the Good Shepherd has already found? If this foreign woman from a pagan nation could keep on trusting Jesus for His mercy, how much more for you! You know your Lord & Savior from His word, and have been trusting on His promises already. His holy gospel called you to faith long ago by the power of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus' gospel keeps on promising you forgiveness, salvation & eternal life in Him.
This story gives you great hope indeed. When you pray for the Lord's mercy on your predicament, be it financial, relational, physical or spiritual, don't be dismayed as you wait on His answer. He may appear to say n, by not yet providing an answer. But be patient. Persist in prayer for mercy knowing that you can trust on God's promises. Rely on your baptism which made you God's Own child, and keep coming to the Lord's Table to be fed as children, not with crumbs, but with Christ's body & blood
For what appears to be Jesus' *no* may soon become for you His joyous *yes*! Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; behind a frowning countenance He hides a smiling face!
Hymns for today from LSB:
#613 To Thee Omniscient Lord of All
#615 When in the Hour of Deepest Need
#734 I Trust, O Christ, Your Holy Name