Sermon for Pentecost 11 – August 16th, 2020
+ Pentecost 11 – August 16th, 2020 +
Series A, Proper 15: Isaiah 56:1-2, 6-8; Romans 11; Matthew 15:21-28
Beautiful Savior Lutheran
“Every Dog Has Her Day”
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
She was desperate. She had no one to turn to. Her daughter was deeply oppressed by some sort of demon. No description of the symptoms, but the woman is at the end of her hope. Jesus is all she has left. She heard He was coming into her region, the district of Tyre and Sidon, the far north coast county named after the great grandson of Noah.
Problem is, she’s a Canaanite. Canaanites were Gentiles, idolaters, enemies of Israel and God. She knows a Canaanite woman has no business talking to a Jewish rabbi. Somehow, she knows Jesus can help. She’s heard the stories of his healing and miracles. So she comes with all boldness and confidence. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David…”
Strange words coming from the lips of a Canaanite. “Son of David” is Israelite talk. This is the language of the faithful expecting the promised Messiah. She has no right to address Jesus this way.
But isn’t that how it is for us too? That we – who have no right to claim any favor from God – He gives us the right to be called sons of God. That’s the promise of Holy Baptism. We were gentiles, idolaters, and enemies of God. But then God throws us into the water, washes us, and gives us a new identity. We’re transformed and given the faith of Abraham. Children of the promise. Heirs with Christ. We pray Our Father in all boldness and confidence as dear children ask their dear father.
And though she has no right to do so, the Canaanite woman prays the same way.
“Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”
We’re not told how the demon came to oppress her daughter and torment her house. But somehow, her house had become a beachhead for demons.
It’s a word of caution. Sin is more than a flesh wound; it’s deadly and specific: As Jesus warned the Pharisees and disciples earlier in chapter 15, we’re defiled by the evil thoughts, murder, hatred in our hearts, adultery, lust, desire, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander that come out of our sinful heart.
And what’s Jesus’ reaction to this Canaanite woman’s prayer? Silence. Perhaps that’s why the disciples ask him to do something. “Give her what she wants and send her away, Lord.” We’re not told why he’s silent. Jesus’ silence, however, is not his absence. Look what his silence reveals.
Jesus’ silence reveals his disciples’ embarrassment. Either they’re embarrassed for the woman’s sake and want her quickly sent away. She’s a bother, a nuisance, oh, and a Gentile. Or perhaps they’re embarrassed by Jesus for not acting the way they think the Messiah should act.
Jesus’ silence reveals something even deeper in the woman. She is persistent. So, Jesus breaks his silence: I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Still this Canaanite woman did not give up. Like Jacob she wrestles with God and will not let Jesus go without a blessing. She will not take Jesus’ silence for an answer. She comes closer. She falls at his feet. Touches her face to the dirt. She is humble. She worships Jesus as a lowly beggar before the great king. She speaks out of her brokenness. Lord, help me.
We pray the same way. Lord, I am a sinner. I am a beggar. Apart from you I have no good thing. Lord, help me.
Jesus answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” There’s no way to soften these words. It was no nicer to call someone a dog in the first century than it is today. It’s even more shocking that the woman agrees.
Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. Yes, Lord. I am a dog. Yes, Lord. I am a beggar. Yes, Lord; I am a sinner. She sees her own unworthiness. And yet she sees in Jesus something greater than her sin.
“Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table!” (Matthew 15:27). Yes, Lord, even Rahab, the Canaanite, the prostitute, the Gentile, turned to the Lord for mercy and found it. Isn’t that Canaanite, Rahab, your own great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother? Yes, Lord, dogs don’t deserve to sit at the table with Abraham’s sons. But wasn’t Naaman, the Syrian, cleansed with water and healed, so others would know that a prophet was living in Israel?
Yes, Lord. You’re right about me. I am a poor miserable, mangy, mutt of a sinner. And yet He cleanses you from all sin. Your Baptism is a divine flee bath, washing away all your sin.
This Canaanite woman catches Christ with his own word, and he is happy to be caught (Luther). She holds onto his words knowing that God’s business is feeding his people. She does not want the children’s bread. She wants food straight from the Master of the Table.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
Better to be a dog in the house of the Lord than to be a chew toy for demons.
The Canaanite woman was content to receive a crumb. One crumb of God’s grace is more than enough for us. One crumb of Jesus’ mercy is more than enough to end the starvation of our sin and send the demons running. But it is not enough for Jesus.
Jesus gives more than a crumb to this Canaanite woman and to you. Jesus gives you himself. Jesus became the outsider and the dog for you. Jesus became sin and death for you. Jesus died for idolaters and blasphemers and sinners like us and that Canaanite woman. Jesus died in humility in order to raise you up and seat you at his table, not as dogs under the table or even as children, but as his beloved bride. Where we would settle for a crumb, Christ gives a feast. Jesus feeds you with the best food, the bread of life, his very own body. And the choicest wine: his blood shed for you.
“O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. By faith in Christ this woman is no longer a dog. She is a member of new Israel, Christ’s holy bride: spotless. Clean. Undefiled. Without blemish. Pure. Holy.
Jesus makes the same promise to you. You are no longer dogs or Gentiles. The stain of our idolatry is wiped clean by his blood. The defilement of our lusting, coveting, gossiping, sinful hearts is cleansed. Jesus died for you. In Jesus, you are spotless. Holy. Clean. Undefiled. Without blemish. Pure. Holy.
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen. The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.