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Lent 2 – Matthew 15:21-18

by pastorjuhl ~ March 18th, 2011

A revision from 2006.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Jesus and the Canaanite woman lock up in a wrestling match not seen since Jacob wrestled the Angel of the Lord. It doesn’t look like a “rasslin’ ” match we see on television. There is no gouging of eyes, no pulling of hair, and no chokeholds. No doubt about it, this is a wrestling match.

In this corner is a Canaanite woman. Either she comes from the land formerly known as Canaan or her family’s lineage is from Canaan. Her daughter is severely demon-possessed. She comes to Jesus hoping He can do something about her daughter.

In that corner is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He comes from God Most High, conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary. He is Messiah, the One Whom the house of Israel has long expected. He is in the home of someone in Upper Galilee, near Tyre and Sidon.

The woman speaks first, Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed. Jesus counters her cry of help with silence. The disciples chime in, hoping that the Lord would do as she says so she might disappear. Jesus responds, I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As if that wasn’t enough, the woman cries out again, Lord, help me. Jesus answers her heartfelt plea with another rejection, It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.

You can almost hear the squeak of the door as it starts to slam shut. Jesus wants no part of this woman. Jesus wants no part of her daughter. She is a Gentile, a foreigner. She has no right to ask for anything. She ought to learn to live with her daughter’s affliction, pray about it, and get over it. Jesus has applied the hammerlock. Forget about a three count. Our Lord is going for a submission hold. It’s as if Jesus can’t wait to hear the words, “I quit!” come from the Canaanite woman’s mouth.

We’ve been there and done that. There are raw calluses on our knees from prayer. We’ve asked the Lord countless times for help. We’ve prayed until we can no longer pray. We have run out of words to pray. We ask God for something and He seems to give nothing. Along comes Satan whispering in our ears. Satan tells us God is too busy to listen. He has more important things to do than listen to our constant nattering.

Unlike us sometimes, the Canaanite woman prays with faith. Remember her first words to Christ, Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! These are not words from someone who thinks Jesus is a magician. These are the words of a woman who believes Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. She comes to Jesus believing He has to hear her prayer.  She comes believing her prayer will be answered.

Repent. Be not unbelieving, but believing. Believe the words of this hymn: Hear us, Father, when we pray, / Through Your Son and in Your Spirit. / By Your Spirit’s Word convey / All that we through Christ inherit, / That as baptized heirs we may / Truly pray. Jesus, advocate on high, / Sacrificed on Calvary’s altar, / Through Your priestly blood we cry: / Hear our prayers, though they may falter; / Place them on Your Father’s throne / As Your own. Believe even when others, like the disciples, think our praying is foolish, the Lord will answer. Believe that Jesus Christ wants us to pray. Believe that He will give us what is best. It may not be the answer we seek. However, the Lord will answer prayer according to His good and gracious will.

A better way to describe a little dog is to call it a puppy. Puppies crave eating human food. They claw and scratch at our ankles for a table scrap. They are relentless. They will not be denied. They will keep on scratching, clawing, fighting, and begging until they receive what they want. We try to shoo them away. Nevertheless, the puppy usually gets what it wants.
Our Lord Christ wants us to pray like a yipping lap dog. He wants us to lock up with Him in a life and death struggle. He wants us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. What looks to the world as annoying and irritating is music to the Lord’s ears.

The Lord knows we drown our beds with tears praying for deliverance. Jesus Christ has brought deliverance. The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world in His death upon the cross. Tears of sorrow are wiped away by the Man of Sorrows. Christ’s blood covers us. Once we were not worthy. The Lord has wrestled us away from Satan through His innocent suffering and death. He rises from the tomb victorious that we might rise from the tomb and live with Him forever.

All night long Jacob wrestled the Angel of the Lord. Jacob was tired. His hip was out of joint. The Angel wanted him to let go. Jacob wouldn’t let go until he received a blessing. Jacob received that blessing. His name became Israel: “He struggles with God”. Jacob saw God face-to-face and lived.

The Canaanite woman wrestled with God. She would not let go until she received a blessing. Even when Jesus seemingly applies the hammerlock, she responds in faith: Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. She saw God face-to-face. The Canaanite woman and her daughter live.

Our anxious prayers for deliverance have their answer in Jesus. He remembers His tender mercies and loving-kindnesses from of old, delivers us out of all your troubles, and brings us out of our distresses. Jesus remembers us. Jesus visits us today with healing salvation in His means of grace. We have seen the Lord Christ face-to-face and live.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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