March 13, 2022 anno Domini
Faith trusts that God is good even when He doesn’t answer, even when He says no, even when He calls you names. Faith is more than believing in God. It’s more than believing Christ died and rose again. Faith is holding on to God’s goodness even when you feel or think that God has told you to get lost. Faith holds to that because it believes that Christ died and rose again for you.
Usually, Jesus chided his men for having little faith. But in today’s Gospel reading Jesus encounters a woman about whom He says “great is your faith.”
The Son of God was sent to seek and save sinners. He came for you and what He is looking for is faith. He seeks those who despair of looking in the mirror of God’s Law and seeing the ugliness of their sin. He seeks men who are exhausted from relying on their own strength and reason for life. He is calling women who are helpless to fix their marriages and children and grandchildren. He came looking for people who were over themselves (or fed up with themselves) and were ready to cling once again to the living God and receive life from Him. He came looking for you that you might have faith in Him and be saved from your sin and the troubles that plague sinners.
Jesus found great faith in the Canaanite woman, and we would expect that He would immediately reward her great faith, but that’s not the way of faith. Faith doesn’t tell God what it deserves. It doesn’t tell God how to work or when to work. Faith trusts God to do all things well in His time and according to His way.
This woman comes to Jesus with perhaps the most perfect prayer in all of Scripture. (Read vs. 22 b)
The woman is asking Jesus to be who He is. Compassionate. God is the God of mercy. He feeds a hungry crowd and cares for the sick and lame and forgives sinners so she prays. “Have mercy on me.”
She confesses that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament. She calls Him Lord – Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “Have mercy on me, O Lord.”
She looks to Him as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of David whom the Father sent to bring about an eternal Kingdom. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David:
She doesn’t pray for herself. She’s not asking for a mansion on the river with a three-car garage and a black Suburban to drive around the suburbs. She prays for her daughter. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed.”
She prays for what God wants. She prays against His enemy. She prays for the defeat of Satan. She’s not asking for her daughter to get a date to the prom or for her pimples to go away or not to get pregnant before she gets married. She’s praying for her daughter to be saved and snatched from the devil’s grasp. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”
To her great faith and in answer to her perfect prayer Jesus doesn’t say a word. That’s because Jesus knows something we don’t know. He knows this woman perfectly. He’s God. He knows what she needs and how far He can test her. To our ears and eyes Jesus is rude. If his followers established a human resource department, He would be disciplined. If He pulled this at seminary, He wouldn’t make the cut to be a pastor. But remember Jesus is God. You’re not. Jesus knows what He’s doing. You don’t. Jesus knows what this woman’s faith needs as He knows what you need. You don’t.
The woman has faith and like Jacob in today’s Old Testament reading she won’t let Jesus go easily. She keeps after Him in an obviously annoying fashion because soon the disciples want Jesus to send her away. Help her or tell her to go. Do something to make her stop.
So, Jesus tells her no. (Read vs. 24). I didn’t come for Gentiles. I came to the Jews. I’m from them and for them. Jesus isn’t lying. He’s God. God doesn’t lie. God chose Israel to be the family of the Savior. He would come from them and to them, but Israel was greater than the blood of Abraham. Israel is bound up in the blood of God. Whoever trusts that Jesus’ blood was shed for her sins is in the Israel of faith. The Israel of Abraham rejected her Messiah. This woman trusted Him, confessed Him, prayed to Him.
The woman’s faith persists. She’s almost got Jesus pinned. “Lord, help me.” Jesus has one more move to test her faith. (Read vs. 26). Now she had Him right where He wants her. She takes hold of Jesus by His Word and makes Him say “uncle” or in this case, “Your daughter is healed.” (Read vs. 27)
Faith is easy and hard at the same time. On the one hand faith is easy. This woman heard about Jesus, had a demon oppressed daughter, and believed that one and only one man could help her. For that faith God gets all the credit. Word of Jesus reached this woman’s ears and the Holy Spirit created faith in heart. You don’t get credit for faith. No one in the Bible boasts “I have decided to follow Jesus.” Faith is a gift of grace alone. You do nothing. God speaks His Word and the Holy Spirit gives you faith and to your faith gives all of Jesus, His sin-atoning death and His righteousness-declaring resurrection.
On the other hand, faith is hard – because once you have faith God expects you to work, not for salvation, but because of salvation. He’ll put your faith to the test. He allows trouble to come your way to stretch and strengthen your hold on Him. He wrestles with you. He might not answer you. He might call you a name. He might be downright mean. God will not be nice to you, because no one gets strong with a nice god. A nice god will never test you, make you angry, or bring you to a fight. God wasn’t nice to Jacob – He left him with a dislocated hip and a blessing. Jesus wasn’t nice to the woman. He was good, stretching her faith until she had hold of Him so hard, He cried uncle “Your daughter is healed.”
We do not have a nice God. We have a good God. We can trust Him always in the name of Jesus. Amen.