21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I told you at the beginning of the service, but do you remember what this Sunday is called? Yes, Remember Sunday (in Latin it is called ‘Reminiscere’). In the Call to Worship (Introit) we asked God to remember His mercy and His steadfast love (Ps. 25:6), and we asked God to not remember our past sins (Ps. 25:7). This is the form and shape of prayer. We ask God to remember His good and gracious promises to us, and we ask God to not remember our sins so that He will not be angry with us and reject our prayers. As an example of prayer, we have before us this Canaanite woman.
The woman is not part of the people of God. She was a Canaanite, a pagan who was involved in occult worship, and this is likely why her daughter was severely demonized. James 4[:7], says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” It isn’t stretching the text at all to connect this woman’s Canaanite identity to her daughter’s terrible, horrific situation. Canaanites weren’t resisting the devil; they were dabbling in demonic stuff.
This woman knows that the demon oppressing her daughter is evil and that Jesus can help her. So, she prays. She prays because she remembers that the God of Israel promised to deliver His people from the devil, which is why she addresses Jesus as the Son of David – to remind Him of His promises. And she remembers that she doesn’t deserve Jesus’ help because of her sins, so her prayer is, “Have mercy on me.”
She comes to Jesus in prayer, and what does your Savior do? He ignores her. He doesn’t answer her a word. But does she go away? Does she stop praying? No! She persists because she knows her trouble. She walks by faith and not by sight. She keeps praying because she knows that Jesus is the one who answers prayer. She prays so fervently that the disciples pray against her, “Send her away.”
So, Jesus answers the disciples, not this woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Now, at least this woman knows two things: First, she knows that Jesus has heard her prayer. And second, she knows that Jesus knows who she is – a Canaanite and not an Israelite, not part of God’s people. She continues to persist in prayer. She kneels down before Jesus and says, “Lord, help me.” And finally, she gets her own word from Jesus, “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”Yes, Jesus called her a dog.
This looks to us like a terrible insult. It looks horrible, racist, and sexist. If you did this today, it would go ‘viral,’ and your reputation would likely be ruined. But in faith, this woman takes the insult. She says, “Yes, Lord.” In other words, “If You, Jesus, Son of David and Messiah, if You call me a dog, I’ll take it. I’ll be a dog. Go ahead and treat me like a dog. Just give me what the dogs get. I’m a dog, but dogs get crumbs. And a crumb is enough. Yes, Lord.”
Now, Jesus praises her faith. “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Here’s the thing. God insults you as well. The Bible calls you worse than a dog. God in His Word calls you a sinner. He says that you deserve His wrath and anger. God says that you don’t deserve anything good from Him because you have rebelled against Him and hate Him. But here is what faith does. Faith believes that word from God. Faith clings to God’s declaration that says you are a sinner.
Faith says, “Yes. Yes, Lord. I am a sinner.” But faith doesn’t stop there either. Faith says, “Yes, Lord. I am a sinner. But, Jesus, You have said, ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Mt. 9:13). Faith says, “Lord, treat me like you treat sinners.” In other words, “Remember Your mercy and steadfast love. Don’t remember my sin.”
Boone, today you are Baptized. Boone, though you were a sinner, Christ has died for you and risen for you. Today in your Baptism, Jesus has clothed you with Himself (Gal. 3:27). Christ connected His Word to water and washed you clean making you His child and heir (Gal. 3:7, 9). So, Boone, Jesus has given you a word to remember, a word to cling to. Always cling to that Word. Remember His love and mercy for you. When you sin, have the boldness to ask Jesus to be what He says He is, the Savior of sinners.
Boone, and all of you, be bold in your prayers. Even when it seems that God is distant and ignoring you, He hears you. He loves you. Jesus has died and risen for you and is even now interceding for you before His Father in heaven (1 Jn. 2:1).
Know also that Jesus doesn’t only let you have the crumbs that fall from His table. He has given you a seat at His table. He invites you now to come to His table to receive the Bread of Life from heaven – His very Body. Come and receive His Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.