Photo by Joel Sileno on Unsplash
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
᛭ INI ᛭
When it comes to Jesus’ travel plans, it’s hard to say where He’s coming from and where He’s going. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. He’s always back and forth across the Sea of Galilee. The context of our Gospel text, He had been in Bethsaida (NE corner of the Sea of Galilee), then off to Gennesaret (on the West side). He’s actually going to end up back at Bethsaida, but which way does He go? Not in any direction His disciples could ever expect.
From Gennesaret He travels “into the region of Tyre and Sidon.” Where we get our story today. (Actually it’s closer to Tyre, according to Mark. Tyre is some 40 miles to the North West from Gennesaret, as the crow flies.) Then, to get back to Bethsaida, Jesus travels some 20 more miles to the North into Sidon, then some 80 miles to the SE into the region of the Decapolis, East of the Jordan River, and then it was just a small jaunt of 20 miles NW back to Bethsaida.
Like I said, it’s hard to guess where Jesus is coming from and where is going. It’s unexpected; Jesus is a bit unpredictable in His itinerary, until, of course, He sets His face toward Jerusalem. But the true problem with our Gospel text today isn’t just where Jesus is going. The problem is what He does, what He says, and that, dear friends, is definitely unexpected.
When Jesus shows up anywhere, what do you expect Him to do? You expect Him to preach or teach. You expect Him to help, to heal, to bless, to save. (And the list could on and on.) But when Jesus is confronted, in the region of Tyre and Sidon, by this Syrophoenician woman, Jesus apparently doesn’t want to do anything of the sort! He ignores her. He insults her. He calls her a name. (Well, that escalated quickly.)
You see it countless times in the Gospels. Jesus comes to some place, and there’s someone there in need. They call out to Him for mercy, and He instantly helps them. “O Lord, Son of David,”—true confession of who He is—“have mercy on me! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” And He didn’t answer her a Word. You know that feeling, don’t you?
You’re in need or someone you love is, and maybe it’s dire. But the Lord seems to be ignoring you. You’re met with silence. Apparently there’s no answer, no help in time of need. The Lord comes, but He doesn’t seem to come for you, to save you, to help you.
But the woman won’t be deterred. She has no other hope, I guess. (It was the Lord’s silence, after all.) His silence was broken only because His disciples begged Him to help her, to send her away. “She keeps crying out after us!” Then He seems to confirm to the disciples, answering them and not her, what we’ve suspected: “I wasn’t sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Not her—Syrophoenician woman! And what about you?
Are the Lord’s promises for you? Is what the Lord says and does for you? Or for someone else? In our emptiness, our faith wavers and unfaith speaks: “Maybe He’s not really for me, but for someone else. I’m on the outside of His mercy looking in. Something in me keeps Him from being my Lord, my Savior, my Helper. Who I am. What I’ve done.”
But this woman’s faith in Jesus won’t be stopped. She stops Him!—gets in His way. (You should, too.) “She knelt before Him saying, ‘Lord, help me!’” Then He does speak directly to her, “It’s not proper to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (Did Jesus ever say anything so harsh?) But then the biggest road block to Jesus avoiding her, then the thing that will get Jesus to do anything and everything to save, then the One thing that will get Jesus to be Jesus—His own Word!
“Yes, Lord, for even the dogs eat from the crumbs that fall from their Master’s table.” Her faith speaks yet again! Her faith sought Him out. “If He’s come here, He’s come here for me.” (And He had…)
“Yes, Lord.” She agrees with Jesus. What He says is true. No matter what He says. Even when He says nothing. (His silence is a gift.) “Pray and never loose heart.” So, when He does speak a Word, if He says she’s a dog, then she says, “Woof! Now, help me!” Jesus is now trapped in His Words, His promises. (And He loves to be trapped.)
“O woman, great is your faith! Let it be for you as you want.” And her daughter was healed that very hour,” instantly. Her faith is great because her Jesus, her Lord, her Son of David, her Master is great. (Great Jesus; great faith.) Her faith had no other trust or confidence than the Jesus who had come to her neighborhood.
She wrestled with Jesus just as much as Jacob did in Genesis. Jesus’ low blow for her was with words, with Jacob He did hit below the belt. Then the blessing—new name—Israel. That woman, too—of Israel. By birth she was Syrophoenician, but by faith Israelite. The God of Jacob was her God. The God Jacob is Jesus.
And “the Lord of hosts is with us,” too. “The God of Jacob is our refuge.” “He is our Refuge and Strength and ever present Help in trouble.” Look no farther than Calvary for that. Jesus traveled there, and was forsaken by His Father, for your sake. Yet, Jesus’ heart was steadfast in trust for all the times yours isn’t. Help was absent from Him: “betrayed, suffered, crucified, died, buried.” (“We don’t have a High Priest unable to sympathize.”)
There’s trust only in the Jesus who came to do all that for you. There’s no trust or confidence in our asking Jesus to help. There’s no trust or confidence in what we do for Jesus to earn some credit with Him so that He will help us. There’s no unbelief based on what we haven’t done for Jesus or for others. (The Lord’s silence strips away all other trust and confidence but Him.)
He’s caught in His Word. He will help you. In His own time He will—just like with that woman. He must! Faith says as much. Jesus does as much. His Word chains Him, binds Him, pens Him up with no way out except through you, helping you. “I baptize you.” “You!” He came to your region just to do that. Here again today—“crumbs from our Master’s table.” Here only to give it: “My body and blood for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
And faith, to the Lord’s silence, to the Lord’s Word, to His promises, to His Gifts, to His saving— faith says, “Yes, Lord.” If He says, “You’re a sinner,” “Yes, Lord.” “You’re My sheep, I will never leave you nor forsake you. I am with you always even till the end of the age.” “Yes, Lord.” “Eat, this is My body, which is given for you; drink, this is My blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” “Yes, Lord.”
The Lord comes, faith does one thing, goes where He goes, comes where He says to come, do what He says to do. The Lord speaks, faith always says one thing, “Yes, Lord. Amen, Lord.” ”Amen, amen, means, ‘Yes, yes it shall be so.’” And it is so. Your Lord is true to who He is, what He does, what He says and promises.
After all, He is the Lord, the Son of David, who saves His sheep. He comes for them—all of them, each of them. For you. He did come for that woman and her daughter. Just ask them about it at the Resurrection. He’s here for you, too. Your faith in Jesus won’t believe any other way. Your Jesus won’t have it any other way either.
JESUS COMES TO SAVE, AND FAITH SAYS, “YES, LORD.”
Jesus came to save, and that woman was saved, her daughter saved. In faith, that Gentile woman said, “Yes, Lord” to whatever the Lord Jesus said to her. Jesus comes to save, and you are saved. To all that Jesus says, you also confess, “Yes, Amen.” Salvation, Gift, your great Jesus received!
Jesus comes to save. To Tyre and Sidon. To Bremen, too. “I baptize you.” “I forgive you all your sins.” “This is the Word of the Lord.” “This is My body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” And you are saved. Faith receives, faith says, “Yes, Lord. Amen, Lord.” Jesus received. And you are forgiven, saved “this very hour.”
᛭ INI ᛭