Reminiscere, The Second Sunday in Lent: Diligent in Faith

Jesus and the Canaanite Woman
Jesus heals the demon-possessed daughter of a Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28). From a book by Veit Dietrich summarizing the entire Bible (1562).

Lessons: Genesis 32:22-30, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7, Matthew 15:21-28
Hymns: LSB 779, 615, 422, 575, 724, 438

Listen to the entire service here (the sermon alone is above).

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      It seems some people are naturally quite hard working. Others, not so much. The hard-working types are quite diligent in completing the jobs they set out to do. And for those who may appear to be on the lazy side, even they can be motived to work very hard at certain tasks.

      Teenagers are often labeled as being notoriously lazy. Yet, they usually accomplish a lot during their teen years. Some things require plenty of coaxing. Yet, for the things that interest them, they have no trouble spending hours working on a task. For some, it may be something productive, like homework. But for others, they may spend hours trying to advance to the next level in a video game.

      Consider, for a moment, the things you like to do. I am sure you are quite diligent in fulfilling those tasks. If you like to fish, quilt, garden, build things—you name—if you like it, then you will be diligent in those tasks. I doubt you’d even consider it work. And when things don’t go well, you press on until you succeed. Because it interests you so much, giving up is hardly an option.

      If you hold membership in an organization or a club, it is because you like what that group stands for. If it is geared toward a hobby, you support it because you share an interest with the other members. If it is a charitable organization, you are a member because you want to help better the community and you support their cause.

      Now, when things don’t go well in these groups, you probably keep your membership and remain active, because overall you support what they are doing. If certain members of the group rub you the wrong way, usually you will learn to tolerate them—or win them over by your love. You don’t let the occasional bad apple ruin your interests or your desire to be of service in the community.

      It’s this same type of diligence and fervor that we ought to have as members of our Church. After all, look at why God establishes churches—to forgive sinners and grant them eternal life. As forgiven children of God, we Christians are a light to this dark world and do good to those around us through our various vocations.

      Yet, for many, when things aren’t perfect in the Church, the temp-

tation rises to jump ship or stop going. If we give in to this temptation, we place ourselves in danger of forgoing the forgiveness Jesus earned on the cross, for we are separating ourselves from His saving Word.

      This is why Jesus appears to be so dramatic in today’s Gospel when dealing with the Canaanite woman. Jesus is using this foreign woman to serve as a marvelous example of diligent faith—even when things looked terrible for her from the surface. Whenever people feel they have been wronged by the Church—whether by a member, pastor, or board—they should seriously consider today’s Gospel and follow the example of the Syro-Phoencian woman.

      So let’s consider her diligence in faith. Jesus is with His disciples. They are traveling northwest of the Sea of Galilee toward Phoenicia, along the Mediterranean Sea. A Canaanite woman approaches them. Now if you recall, the Canaanites are a people group who practiced idolatry. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land 1400 years earlier, they were supposed to eliminate the Canaanites. In doing so, they would eliminate the temptation to practice their idolatry. But the Israelites did not follow God’s Word and let some of these people live.

      Now a descendant of these Canaanites comes up to Jesus saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord! My daughter is oppressed by a demon.”

      With such a humble and sincere request, how could anyone ignore her? Yet, that is what Jesus appears to do. He says nothing to her. On top of that, the disciples get tired of her and say to Jesus, “Get rid of her, for she’s bothering us!”

      You’d think Jesus would rebuke the disciples for their unloving words. But instead, Jesus seems to join them, saying, “I was not sent except for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

      How would you respond if you were treated in this way? If you are working at one of your interests or hobbies and things don’t go well, you will probably steadfastly carry on. If you are a member of an organization which you wholeheartedly support, you will probably forgive the individual and remain active.

      How much more, in the Church, should we remain diligent if we are met with such harsh words? After all, we should not lose sight of what we receive through the Word and Sacraments here in Church. In them, we receive forgiveness from Christ, eternal life, and salvation!  Did you notice how the woman responds? She doesn’t respond with disgust. She doesn’t try to get even. She doesn’t storm away because her needs weren’t immediately met.

      Instead, she serves as an example for all of us as she draws near to Jesus, worships Him, and says, “Lord, help me!” She doesn’t give up! She knows Jesus is the only One who can help, so she does not dare turn her back on Him—even when He doesn’t seem to care!

      Oh, how she serves as an example of diligent faith! She knows her need. Her daughter badly needs help. She knows Jesus can help. In faith, she insists that He helps her.

      There are two more things we can learn from her at this point. First, she teaches us a lesson on prayer. God teaches us to pray and promises to hear us. Sometimes it seems like our prayers go unanswered. Sometimes it seems like God is ignoring us. Sometimes it seems like we are wasting our time bringing things to God in prayer.

      But remember, God loves you and cherishes your prayers. He wants you to pray. He hears all your prayers. And He answers them all. He may not answer them according to your timetable and He may not answer them the way you like, but He still answers them. He grants what is best for you. So, keep on praying. Bring your needs before the Lord. Or, if you don’t know what to pray, pray the Lord’s Prayer. Or simply pray as the woman did, saying, “Lord, have mercy!”

      The second thing we can learn from this lady is that she does not let go of Jesus because of her pressing need. Similarly, we all have a pressing need. We have all inherited the sin of Adam. We have all committed sins in thought, word, and deed. We find it easy to place our trust in things that are not the true God. We find it easy to give in to lust (Epistle). We find it easy to take advantage of others for our own personal gain.

      Because of our sin, we have a need. We need our sins to be taken away. The Father sent His only begotten Son to do just that. Jesus came into this world to save us. He is our just God and Savior. Through Him we are justified. He forgives us by grace through faith. This faith is worked in us by God the Holy Spirit through the Word.

      Just as the woman had a need and refused to let go of her Savior, so also, we have a need and ought to refuse to let go of our Savior. Many will claim to still cling to their Savior even when they don’t attend Church. Many will feel that they have their reasons for not participating in the Divine Service. But instead of sinfully passing up the opportunity to gather in the presence of God and His gifts, we need to be here, receiving His grace and offering our thanks and praise.

      Now, in the case of the Canaanite woman, she has already shown us persistent faith and prayer. But the dramatic scene continues. This time Jesus responds with words that seem insulting. He says, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” In essence, Jesus calls her a dog. Of course, Jesus is not sinning. Instead, He is teaching us a lesson, using this woman as a model for faith.

      Again, many wouldn’t take this kind of treatment. They would take offense and run away. But this woman does not. She replies, “Yes, Lord, even dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

      So how do we respond when God calls us sinners? How do we react to the Law, which accuses us? We’re tempted to deny our sin, and we’re tempted to attack those who accuse. That’s what people often do in society. When Law Enforcement gets involved, the guilty one lashes back in disgust. I remember once when a friend got a speeding ticket. He was mad from getting caught. Rather than accept his wrongdoing, he wanted to blame law enforcement.

      When Jesus calls this woman a dog, she doesn’t get mad. She says, “Yes, Lord.” When God calls us sinners, we say, “Yes, Lord. But we will receive what you have to give us.”

      And God gives us far more than a few crumbs from His table. He gives His Son. The Father accused Jesus of all our sin in our place. Saying “Yes” to His Father, Jesus bore our sins on the cross. He shed His innocent Blood as the ransom payment for our sin. Jesus overcame sin, death, and the Devil through His death and resurrection.

      In Him, you are justified—that is, you are forgiven and declared righteous. In Him, the gates of Heaven are opened to you. Eternal life is yours. You receive the victory. God has added you to His family through Holy Baptism. And He feeds you more than crumbs—feeding you the very Body and true Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

      The Word and Sacraments are yours. They are how God works faith in you and gives you eternal life. Just as the Canaanite woman would not let go of her Savior, so we should follow her example. Never let go. Don’t let anything come between you and Christ’s Word of life, love, forgiveness, and salvation. For the Holy Spirit works diligent faith in you through Word and Sacrament—to life everlasting! Amen.    

     The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen