Reminiscere—Lent 2 (Mt 15:21–28)
INI + AMEN.
((5. Oops!: This is a hard text, because of Jesus!))
This is a hard text—our Gospel text. It’s not hard because of the woman, that she won’t take a hint, that she’s just too pushy, too demanding. She’s an outsider. Canaanite. Gentile dog of a woman. Lays claim to “Lord, Son of David.” Who does she think she is?
But it’s not the woman that makes this a hard text. The disciples are in some sense moved by her unending cries for help and mercy, but that’s not what gets them to speak up. What gets the disciples to finally speak up is the silence. Jesus’ silence. Jesus, the Word of God, is silent. “He did not answer her a word.” The disciples seem a bit embarrassed by Jesus’ lack of action, and maybe we’re embarrassed, too! It’s a hard thing to witness. “Don’t you hear her, Jesus? Can’t you see her distress? Her child’s demon-possessed. If you won’t say anything, then we’ll help you and her out by getting the ball rolling. Look, now, ‘she’s crying out after us!’ Say something! Do what she asks! ‘Send her away!’” It may even seem to us that Jesus is the opposite of our Sunday today. Not “Reminiscere” (“remember”) but forgotten who He is.
((4. Ugh!: It’s worse than just ignoring the woman.))
Nothing but silence from Jesus. But the silence isn’t nothing because it’s Jesus’ silence. But it gets deeper and darker than just silence. When Jesus finally does speak, the bottom falls out of the silence. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” All that’s left after that is the woman’s raw and desperate cry for help, “Lord, help me!”
We’d expect Jesus to finally help. He’d helped others with far less goading. Here she claims, “Lord” once again. Then Jesus pushes the emptiness of her need to nothing but emptiness, nothing left of any claims. She has no claim: Gentile. Claims are based on rights, on what’s fair. Jesus lays that out for her. She has no claim. No right. Canaanite. Gentile dog. “It’s not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Did Jesus ever speak more brutal words?
((3. Aha!: Jesus gets trapped in His Word.))
Jesus’ Word simply wipes this woman out. But then these words, along with the woman, come back to Jesus, up out of the bottomless emptiness. “Yes! Yes, Lord!” How can she say “yes?” Her “yes” runs with Jesus’ Word, agrees with Him. That’s faith! He can’t back out now. “Yes, I’m a dog, if you say so Lord.” She traps Jesus in His own Word! “But even the dogs get the crumbs.” Jesus loves to be taken captive like this, taken captive by His own Word. “O woman, great is your faith!”
((2. Whee!: JESUS REALLY IS THE MERCIFUL SON OF DAVID.))
Jesus has not forgotten to be Jesus. He knows who He is, but this text is all about faith. What’s in her claim of “Lord”? To try and get what we need from Jesus isn’t yet faith. Could be the opposite of faith! So, Jesus is merciful and won’t rest until He’s pulled this woman to faith. He pushes her to the nothing of nothing but being given to. That’s faith. And there, then, all of Him. More than all the emptiness of all our needs.
That’s faith. Receiving everything from the Lord, even His silence. Faith. That’s what it’s really all about, all about Jesus. All of Jesus being “Lord”—great Jesus; great faith. Faith is only as good, is only as great as its object. Faith speaks nothing of itself and everything of Jesus. Having Him, all of Him, she then gets what she first came for. And she doesn’t go away simply grateful, which she would’ve been had Jesus helped her right off the bat. She goes away with “Jesus…is…my….Lord,” as we confess and pray in the Small Catechism.
You see, Jesus doesn’t forget who He is. He is there for this woman. That is who He is. “Jesus…withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.” Why there? For her. All that He did for this woman was to bring her to all of who He is. JESUS REALLY IS THE MERCIFUL SON OF DAVID. In His silence, His passive-aggressiveness, even His insults, JESUS REALLY IS THE MERCIFUL SON OF DAVID. He won’t leave her without faith, won’t leave her to simply seeking a last ditch miracle from some wandering preacher. That’s not merciful, at all! Great Jesus; great faith. That’s who He is; that’s what He creates.
((1. Yeah!: Even His crumbs deliver all of Him.))
The merciful Son of David always creates faith, hunts for it, always leaves a crumb for it to hang on to, grasp hold of, follow, be nourished by. But in His crumbs, all of Him. “Even dogs get the crumbs.” Great Jesus; great faith. Faith in Jesus who REALLY IS THE MERCIFUL SON OF DAVID.
Today, we are gathered at our Lord’s table. We, too, are also dog gentiles. No claims. No rights. What’s fair? “Temporal and eternal punishment.” We are poor, beggarly sinners, sinners in need of mercy. (That’s what “miserable” means: “able to receive mercy.”) To His Word which says, “Gentile. Sinner. Dog.” We simply say, “Yes, Lord.” Bottomless emptiness. That is the way of what is fair and what is right.
But He won’t stop until we have all of Him, too! We come with nothing, nothing but ourselves, our sins, but we will leave with nothing, nothing but Jesus. Just the way He wants it. He pulls us to Himself, pulls us to faith. So He bids us, “Come!” He can’t back out His Word—won’t ever do that!—nor does He want to. He pulls us to where, with the crumbs of bread and wine, He gives us His body to eat and His blood to drink, given and shed for you.
With His body and blood in you, forgiven and enlivened you go to the rest of your life, to the next gift He has for you: His Word, His silence, the people you meet in your daily lives. For the Canaanite woman it was back to caring for her daughter, who, I’m sure, was ravenously hungry. Bread and fish received of Jesus’ bountiful goodness. What a meal that must have been! That’s the life of faith: nothing disconnected from Jesus, all gift from His hands: big gifts, little gifts. What bigger than His body and His blood given and shed for you?
JESUS REALLY IS THE MERCIFUL SON OF DAVID for you. Great Jesus; great faith.
INI + AMEN.