11th Sunday after Pentecost | The Faith of the Canaanite Woman
11th Sunday after Pentecost, 2017
Lutheran Church of The Way
Text: St. Matthew 15: 21-28
You are whatever Jesus says you are.
That’s one thing you might take away from Jesus’ interaction with the Canaanite woman in this morning’s Gospel text..
You are whatever and whoever Jesus says you are.
That is great when Jesus calls you sons and brothers and children of God!
That’s great when He calls you disciples and cuddly sheep.
That’s great when He calls you His friends.
But what happens when Jesus calls you a dog?
That is confusing. That does not sound much like the Jesus we know and love.
Some might try to make excuses for the way Jesus treats this woman –
Noting that He has been recently rejected at Nazareth,
The Pharisees are continuing their campaign against Him,
The disciples seem to miss the point of His teaching time after time,
And, if that weren’t enough, He just received the news that John the Baptist,
His dear cousin, has been executed at the hand of Herod.
So it may make sense, from a human point of view,
That Jesus goes away from there and withdraws, that He moves on.
But when you have a touch like Jesus, when you feed 5,000 people,
Walk on water, and heal the sick, as Jesus has been so busy doing,
You don’t get to simply withdrawal;
Because hopeful people tend to talk, and desperate people tend to do desperate things. Enter the Canaanite woman:
“Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon…Lord, help me.” (St. Matthew 15:22, 25)
Here, right before Jesus, is a real woman with a real daughter and very real problem.
Not only that, but this woman’s cry suggests that she knows exactly who Jesus really is.
The way she addresses Jesus, “Son of David,” that was a well-known title for the Messiah
She is not one of those hangers-on waiting for a free meal.
She calls Him the Christ; and in return, He compares her to a dog.
To her plea for help, Jesus says,
“It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (St. Matthew 15:26)
Israel had long considered the Canaanites to be a lesser people, as idol worshipers; Something that, historically speaking, was true.
But she must have understood what was happening,
Because instead of just being offended like the Pharisees,
She fired right back.
She recognized that Jesus was prodding her.
“Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (St. Matthew 10:27)
Her reply, is:
“Fine. You’re Jesus. You’re the Messiah. You’re the Christ, the Son of David.
And me? I am whoever You say I am.
You say I’m a dog, and that’s fine. Only, let me be your dog.”
That is the kind of confession that makes Jesus smile and say,
“O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire. And her daughter was healed instantly” (St. Matthew 15:28)
Great is your faith.
Note that this woman is the only person in all of Scripture, to whom Jesus says this.
By faith this woman not only knows who Jesus is,
But faith also allows her to say who she is.
Great faith confesses, “I am whoever You say I am;” because faith agrees with Jesus.
So He commends her and He touches her with His words,
Her and her demon-possessed daughter.
After her confession Jesus talks to the woman from an idolatrous people, differently.
After her confession, Jesus talks to her the way He talks to His mommy.
He calls her, “woman.”
Obviously, she was plenty happy with the benefits of being Jesus’ dog,
But “woman” is great, too.
Because you are what Jesus says you are. And faith agrees.
If that is true: if faith agrees with Jesus;
If faith hears the name Jesus calls you and joyfully receives the gifts Jesus gives you,
Then what do you call it when you prefer another name, and want a different gift?
Most days you don’t want to hear Jesus call you a dog,
One who has chewed up the couch and messed on the carpet;
As one with no resources, no sense,
As one completely dependent on the mercy of a Master.
The best way to do that, to not be called a dog, is to not be in the Master’s house;
To not hear His Voice; to refuse to be taught and disciplined;
To go away just like the disciples wanted her to.
You can distract yourself during the sermon.
You can wander up to the Lord’s Supper unthinking, unprepared, and unaware.
You can drift away during Confession at the beginning of Service.
Please. Don’t. Do. That.
Because when you say confess are sinful and unclean,
When you say that you have sinned in thought, word, and deed,
It is not because you are stoically self-aware.
It is because you are who Jesus says you are.
Worst of all, if you are somewhere else, spacing out, you won’t hear Christ’s Absolution.
And so you won’t hear what this Canaanite woman heard.
You won’t hear Christ call you by the Name He has bestowed on you in Baptism.
Forgiveness will sound like the punch line to a story you weren’t following,
Like the period on the end of a sentence in another language.
Then you won’t know what this woman and all good dogs know.
We are nothing but given to.
The world cannot understand this.
We cannot understand this.
Faith understands this.
Faith agrees with Jesus.
Faith says, “Yes. I am a dog. But, I am Your dog.”
“Very well,” says Jesus. “Here are some crumbs. And there is more where that came from,”
Because the Gospel is always more.
Jesus sees you lost and invites you home.
He sees you dirty and washes you.
You had no name, so He gave you His Name.
He brought you into His family, and even appointed servants to feed you.
Jesus can do all of that because He does what no other master does.
Jesus makes Himself lower than this Canaanite woman,
Lower than the dogs, lower than all of you.
Like a spurned stray, Jesus is stricken, smitten, and afflicted.
He is starved, beaten, cast aside, and then killed.
On the cross Jesus defies all our worldly logic about what it means to be a master.
He lowers Himself to the point of being lifted up;
Because our wrongs cannot be simply dismissed as if they did not matter.
Wrongs had to be made right.
And so let your sins be spoken aloud, truly, consciously, and honestly.
Hear Christ’s Absolution for what it is: As Divine pardon for crimes of which you are guilty.
With thirst for Righteousness and hunger for the Bread that comes down from heaven,
Receive what comes from the Master’s table.
As you come, listen to Him.
He says, “You have no life, take My Life. You have no name, take My Name. You have no food and drink. I will be your Food and Drink. All that is Mine is yours. My home is your home. My Father is your Father. My family is your family. Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1).
Jesus calls us many things. He says that we are dogs. We are sheep. We are servants.
We are disciples. We are friends and brothers.
We are His dogs, His sheep, His servants, His friends, His brothers;
Free, forgiven, and resurrected.
To all of this, faith agrees.
You are whoever Jesus says you are.
Thanks be to God.