Sunday, August 17, 2008

Proper 15 - August 17, 2008

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

10653 N – 550 W
Decatur, IN 46733

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Celebrating our 170th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

August 17, 2008
Proper 15
Matthew 15:21-28
Help me Jesus!

Almighty and ever-living God, You have given great and precious promises to those who believe. Grant us the perfect faith which overcomes all doubts.

Introduction: The cry of Peter from our gospel lesson last week is the cry of faith – Jesus! Help me! Now we hear the same cry from a foreigner a Syroiphoenician woman. Jesus, Son of David, have mercy! Will the Savior respond? Why should He? He isn’t under any obligation to help her…or is He?

Jesus yields to the persistent pleas of a Canaanite mother. Jesus retired to a territory outside Israel and consequently He is approached by a pagan Gentile mother, a Canaanite, a Syroiphoenician who asks Him to heal her daughter who is suffering from demon possession.

Is Jesus’ ministry limited only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel? At first glance it appears so, because Jesus tells her His ministry was first and foremost to the Jews. With that He brushes her off.

Still, she persisted in her appeals - until He granted her request. Jesus is impressed with her faith. As a result, she was commended and her daughter was instantly healed. In this exchange we learn of the universality of Christ’s ministry and we see that faith has no racial boundaries.

Who doesn’t need help? For many, it is a daily need. At times great needs appear as in the case of the Canaanite mother. Some may feel unworthy of asking Jesus for help. What do they have to offer of Him?

For some, they have not been to church, are not church members, do not pray or read the Bible, possibly they may be living less then stellar lives. And yet they stand in the need of the Savior’s help. They are in need of the touch of His healing hand. They have nothing to offer. Too often they have been forgotten. And yet, their plight is real.

They stand in the need of prayer. This woman had nothing going for her that Jesus should help her. Yet He reaches out to her in her time of need. Why? How so?

Are you any different o man? Why should the Savior think of you? Who are you - as to demand an audience of Him? Why should He answer your petitions? Are you so high and mighty that He should take notice of you? Does your righteousness exceed the Scribes and the Pharisees? Does not your sin disqualify you? Who are you that you should ask of Him?

The answer my friends, boils down to one word – faith - placing our confidence in Christ and His sure and certain words.

Outline: You, like this woman, can receive Jesus’ help

1. If you have a real need And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed v. 22. The pagan woman asked Jesus to have mercy on her. It is significant that she identified her daughter to the degree that the help given to the child would be given to her. Here is a depth of love that is possible between parent and child. A true parent wishes she could take the pain and trouble of the child. The woman kept crying out to Jesus, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Vs. 22) She pleads for mercy but her concern is for her daughter who suffers from demon possession.

You can receive Jesus’ help –

2. If you are humbleBut He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table Vv. 26, 27. Mere crumbs are all she asks for, for she knows that behind this teacher with whom she is talking is God’s plenty. The power of God can never be exhausted for it has its foundation not in our good intentions or our own human resources but in Jesus Christ, whom the woman recognized as her Lord.

Her response is quick. It exhibits a spirit – a faith that no doubt gave Jesus great joy. He had no time for those who just hoped for the best – those people; like many today, who find it difficult to place complete and total confidence in God’s good grace, because deep down they think that they have something to offer Him in exchange for His mercy.

The woman only responds with two words: “Help me!” She had no arguments – she had no excuses. She knew she had no claim on Jesus. She is only a woman, a foreigner.
You can receive Jesus’ help –

3. If you have faithThen Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. v. 28. Until Jesus said, “O woman, great is your faith,” no mention is made of faith. Jesus did not ask if she believed He was able to help her. In this struggle to overcome Jesus’ reluctance to help, He saw her faith. It was a faith that He could heal her daughter, because she addressed him as Messiah, “Son of David.”

He saw faith in her knowledge that He would help her. This was demonstrated by her persistence. Faith is the key to getting a hearing and a blessing from Christ. It is not a matter of race, religion; the determining factor is faith in Christ and Him alone.

Still, her faith persisted, and that persistence paid off! Christ’s power becomes ours, as we believe that He can overcome any barrier, any obstacle, with His divine love. The Syroiphoenician woman had such faith; she believed Christ’s power was great enough to surmount the obstacles of race, distance, and disease.

You can receive Jesus’ help –

4. If you are persistentBut He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us. v. 23. When the woman begged for mercy, Jesus was perfectly silent. He ignored her as though she said nothing. She was invisible. There are times when God is silent when we cry to Him for help or for answers. In this silence God is saying something to us. It is a testing of faith. The test is whether we have patience and persistence in our prayers. Are you angry at Him because you petitioned Him once and received no reply? We have no right to expect “instant answers to our prayers.” Prayer often is a wrestling, a waiting upon God. Sometimes God appears to be silent. Sometimes that silence is the call for us to call upon Him again.

The persistent faith of the woman on behalf of her child exhibits a great confidence in the attitude of Christ’s resources as the Son of God. Mere crumbs are all she asks for – this would satisfy her. Her persistence enabled her to be specific in her request.

Conclusion: Great was this woman’s faith. Not because of her potential - what she could be – or of any particular power she had. She is found to be great because of her unyielding faith. She had the confidence to ask of Him who alone could heal.

The words of Christ to the woman were not words of displeasure or arrogance is it might appear initially. They brought to the surface a tenacious, persistent faith in the power of God. May we too offer to Christ the same utter loyalty, the same unquestioning obedience, and the same persistent faith.

Faith is the only thing needed when we go to God for help. Faith and no other possession, is the only necessity for receiving God’s help. The woman would not take no for an answer.

She knew her place alright – but she also understood what the Savior was committed to do. When it comes to the Savior helping those who place their confidence in Him - nothing will deter Him.

He knows of this woman’s faith – He’s already made up His mind. Her child will recover. When we cry to Jesus for help in a desperate situation, He comes to us without fail. May we be given such a simple yet great faith – a faith that will not let go but clings to Jesus Christ alone.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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