Pentecost 10A—August 17, 2014
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Bossier City, LA
INI + AMEN.
(1. Oops!: Jesus ignores the woman.)
We’ve all got a picture or image or idea of how Jesus is supposed to be, how He’s supposed to act, what He’s supposed to do. He’s supposed to be a loving Lord, a tender and gentle Shepherd, a gracious God, a Prince of peace, or whatever else we like to think Jesus is. We try to fit Him in whatever box or label, but then there’s a text like our Gospel reading. Jesus can’t be put into our boxes. He does what He wants. Goes where He wants. He won’t be placed in our boxes and won’t be bridled by what we think He should do. “He went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.”
We don’t want to remove the contours of a text or cut edges off Jesus so that He fits nicely and squarely where WE want Him to. We don’t sand and form to make and force the square peg into the round hole. We let Jesus be who He is. He does what He wants anyway, and part of that, I guess, as we’ll see here in just a bit, is ignoring people.
You see: there was this woman, a Canaanite, and she had heard about this guy named Jesus. But, from what she’d heard, she though and believed something else about Him. Now understand: she had heard of Him because “His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.” This Jesus had healed multitudes from whatever ailed them. Even the demons and devil bowed and moved before Him. There’s only One who could do such things—God Himself. This woman of faith goes to find Jesus who had come into her neighborhood, and she “came out and was crying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely demon possessed.’”
She confesses faith that this Jesus is both Lord and Christ. “O Lord, Son of David,” she says. And this Jesus who has compassion on thousands to feed them; who heals the sick, raises the dead, and casts out demons; who hears the cries of lepers, the blind, lame, and hurting; who praises and commends the faith of gentiles and all who seek Him, but chides and condemns unbelief among the people of Israel—this Jesus IGNORES her! With all her pleading and crying, Jesus looks the other way. He keeps on walking. Not a word to her! That’s what we learn from St. Matthew, “He didn’t answer her a word.” Not a single word spoken by the Lord to this woman in her great need. Just a cold shoulder, which we all just love, don’t we?
(2. Ugh!: Jesus insults the woman.)
But it’s worse than just ignoring the poor woman with the demon possessed daughter. First, there’s the no-help disciples. They didn’t want to help the 5,000: “Send them away,” they said, and so they say now, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” They just want her gone. Whether she’s helped or not is besides the point. Second, there’s no-help Jesus! First, He’s given her the silent treatment, the cold shoulder. Now, He really acts ill-mannered. He finally answers. But He’s not talking TO her. He’s talking to the disciples ABOUT her. Don’t you just hate being talked about, when you’re right there? It’s pretty terrible. We’ve got words to describe such people: Passive aggressive, mean, rude, or even jerk. This is what Jesus does. He answers, as if to the air, “I wasn’t sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
“Lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Ouch. That’s not her. That’s the Jews. She’s no Jew. She could’ve been a Centurion, a samaritan, a tax collector, or just plain sinner, but Canaanite! That’s too much, it seems. But this doesn’t stop the woman at all. She’s unfazed. She’s determined. She won’t be denied. We would’ve given up by now. We would’ve turned away and thought, “It’s not worth it. I’ll figure it out myself.” But not this Canaanite woman. “She came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’” All this being ignored, despised, and rejected, and she worships! She knows who Jesus is, after. He’s the “Lord,” “the Son of David.”
At this Jesus finally answers. Well, He finally answers HER. The Word made flesh finally opens His mouth. He who created the universe speaks. Maybe we’ll finally see the Jesus we all know and love. No dice. “He answered, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’” What? This is the answer she gets? Jesus finally decides to answer, and He calls her what? He calls her a dog?
This is just terrible. Where’s the Jesus we all know and love? Where’s the Jesus who came to “seek and to save that which is lost”? The Jesus who came “to give His life as a ransom for many”? The Jesus who died on the cross for my sins, your sins, the sins of the world, even this woman’s sin, her daughter’s sins? The Jesus who in love for you and the Father died and rose? Instead we get rude Jesus, insulting Jesus. We get a Jesus who calls a woman by a racial slur. She was a dog, a gentile, גּוֹיִם as they are called in Hebrew: those outside the kingdom; those detestable people who search for gods elsewhere, who live as…well…dogs.
This “dog” shouldn’t be construed or understood as “puppy dog.” No, if you called someone a “dog” how would that go over? It’s charged just like “boy” used to be.
She should be offended! She should sue Jesus for defamation of character. This is just name calling. We’d all walk away at this point. We’d probably say some four lettered response to Jesus and storm off. We’d unfriend him from Facebook. Call him a bully and go our way. But not this woman. She responds, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” She says, “yes, Lord!” She agrees with Him? What is she doing!?! When she says, “Yes, Lord,” she’s saying, “Amen!” And we know what that means from Luther’s explanation to the Lord’s Prayer from earlier, “Amen, amen means, ‘Yes, yes, it shall be so.’” Amen is the word of faith. “It shall be so!” “It is so!” “Gift received!”
How can she say this? Why does she say this? She says this because
IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT JESUS SAYS BECAUSE FAITH WILL ALWAYS RESPOND WITH “AMEN,” THAT IS, “YES, LORD” AND, IN THAT WAY, WILL RECEIVE WHATEVER HE GIVES.
(4. Whee!: Faith does receive what Jesus give.)
This woman shows the great faith worked in her by the report and word she had heard about Jesus. She has great faith. That’s what Jesus Himself says, “O woman, great is your faith!” Jesus doesn’t marvel because she stuck with it through trial and tribulation. Faith certainly does this. But her faith is great because it agrees with what Jesus says. No matter what He says. “You’re a dog.” I’m a dog, Jesus. She catches Jesus in His own Word. “It must be that I’m a dog. You’ve called me as much, Lord. It must be so. That’s what I am. I’m a dog. Now, help me. All I need is a crumb Jesus. That’s what dogs get and deserve. If it’s a crumb from you Jesus, then it’s all that I need.” That’s great faith. Faith agrees with whatever Jesus says. “You’re a dog.” I’m a dog, Jesus. “You’re a sinner.” I’m a sinner, Jesus. “It is finished.” It’s finished, Jesus. “I baptize you.” You’ve baptized me, Jesus. “This is My body and blood given and shed for you for the remission of sins.” I eat and drink Your body and blood for my forgiveness, Jesus. “Yes, Lord.” “Amen.” That’s what faith says. That’s what great faith says.
Such faith also receives what the Lord gives, whatever the Lord gives as gift. If there’s silence, that’s gift. If there’s trial, that’s gift. If there’s the Word calling you something, that’s gift and it must be true. See what happened with this woman. Jesus continued, “Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. No delay. Just the Lord’s Word, and then the “Amen!” “It shall be so!” “It is so!” “Gift received!”
(5. Yeah!: This is our life-long exercise of faith.)
It’s the life-long exercise of faith to agree with whatever the Lord says, even when He’s rough and gruff. He’s worked that in us. It’s the faith He’s worked in little Eva Marie, all of 4 days old. His water has rescued her from devil and hell, from sin and death. Now for her death is just like her many naps. So it is with all of us, the baptized. It’s for us to always agree with whatever the Lord says, and it’s not just mouthing that we agree. We must actually believe that what He’s saying is true. That’s it actually true for each and everyone of us. We receive His Word as it’s given to us. No additions. No subtractions. No sanding or cutting required. What He says is true: “You’re a sinner. I’ve died for sinners. You’re forgiven because I’ve given that to you with My Water, Word, and Body and Blood.” Amen. A dog receives a dog’s help. A sinner receives a sinner’s help, and that Help is the Lord Jesus Himself who baptizes, forgives, and feeds sinners, and saves them forever. So we can rejoice with our “Amens” and know that we are the Lord’s because of what He has said to us in Christ, “You’re my child because you’re baptized.”
There is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring: Even there I’ll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise!
“Amen” for Eva. “Amen” for you and me too.
INI + AMEN.