Caught in His Own Words

Thursday of Lent 2
Matthew 15:21-28
March 16, 2017
Lutheran Hour Ministries Chapel

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 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.” 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.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 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 + Jesus.

You’ve seen the picture of Jesus. You know which one. There’s probably one hanging up somewhere around here. That one with the wavy hair and beard. Soft light. Looking off in the distance. Calm, serene look. Curiously anglo-looking. But you know the one I’m talking about, right?

Now, imagine that face turning towards you in a scowl. A frown.

What do you do when it seems like your prayers are falling on deaf ears?
What do you do when it seems like God’s blessing everyone but you?
What do you do when despite your repeated prayers and petitions, it seems like He’s adding insult to injury?

This is a crisis of faith; a crisis of prayer. We sing “What a friend we have in Jesus…take it to the Lord in prayer,” but let’s be honest—most times the measurable results of prayer are nothing or worse. For every person who claims to have been miraculously cured from cancer because of their prayer, there are hundreds who pray for healing and end up dead.

Yet we are commanded to pray, and there are great promises attached to prayer. So what gives? For that, we need a Canaanite woman, who picture of prayer for us.

She is engaged in a spiritual battle—her daughter is severely afflicted by a demon. Her prayer is certainly for her daughter’s relief, but also as much for her own.

Three times she pleads with Jesus; three times she’s met with increasing hostility.

First He ignores her—her prayers fall on deaf ears.
Then He excludes her—she’s not one of the privileged few.
Then He insults her—He lets loose an ethnic slur!

But, an opening! Not a mangy street dog, but a house dog. Jesus has invited her to the household! Even the dogs get the crumbs. A hidden blessing.

Dr. Luther: “She catches Christ, the Lord, in his own words and with that wins not only the right of a dog, but also that of the children. Now then where will he go, our dear Jesus? He let himself be made captive, and must comply. Be sure of this: that’s what he most deeply desires.” (Luther, House Postils)

O woman, great is your faith! Her faith is great because Jesus made it great.

Started with confession: “Lord, Son of David,” but Jesus draws her closer, brings her into the household, makes her a child. Her daughter is healed, but the gift is even greater than health—the gift of a great faith.

Luther, that great teacher of the Church, reminds us that prayer belongs with mediation and temptation.
Meditation on God’s Word. That’s what it means to pray in Jesus’ name. Not to simply tack the name on the end of prayer, but that the prayer is grounded in His Word and asks for what He’s promised to give.

Temptation. Trials. Suffering. Prayer isn’t to avoid trials, but that Jesus would draw us through them to something even better.

So we learn to pray like the Canaanite woman, even when it seems like prayer falls on deaf ears, even when it seems like everyone else is getting blessing, even when Jesus Himself feels like an enemy.

Faith Takes Christ Captive in His Word

And the prayer of faith will find its answer and more in that Word.

In the name of + Jesus.

Jacob W Ehrhard
VD+MA