11th Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 15 – A)
August 16, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel, which was read a few minutes ago.
I saw a social experiment several years ago where a crew recorded an event on a busy sidewalk and the reaction of the bystanders. In the first instance, when a well-dressed executive appeared to have a medical emergency, people rushed to his aid. When a homeless man collapsed in the same place, nobody helped him. Some looked his way, while others didn’t even turn their heads. It’s sad that homeless beggars are seemingly invisible. I can’t imagine having to beg to survive, it has to be an absolutely demoralizing thing to do; I can’t imagine how those people feel. Begging is admitting that you have nothing to trade for what you need; you’re completely at the mercy of the person you’re begging from. While we pray that we’ll never be homeless and while we pray for those who are homeless, the truth is that we are beggars when it comes to our relationship with God. We have nothing to offer Him, we have nothing of value to trade. All we can do is kneel before Him and beg, and when we do, we’re like the Canaanite woman and we know that Jesus feeds us all we need, even if they seem like crumbs.
Our account for today finds Jesus once again on the move. He had yet another run-in with the Jewish religious leaders about their lack of faith so He heads north. As Jesus enters the region of Tyre and Sidon He encounters something that most people wouldn’t expect – a Canaanite woman who believes He’s the Savior. In case you didn’t know, The Canaanites were the people living in the Promised Land when the Israelites arrived to settle their new nation. When Israel first encountered the Canaanites, they were sacrificing children and worshipping idols. For their sin and idolatry, God demanded that they be destroyed. The Israelites failed to obey God, so they’d been enemies with the Canaanites for 1,400 years.
Yet this woman comes to Jesus, calling him “Lord” and “Son of David.” She’s heard the stories about Jesus, maybe she’s even seen Him in person, so she knows what He can do. Contrary to what we would expect she knows that He’s God’s Son who can heal her daughter. He has to heal her daughter because without His help her daughter is doomed. In her desperation she cries, not once but over and over again, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But Jesus doesn’t answer her at all. Like I used to pass beggars on the Denver streets without so much as a glance, Jesus does the same thing to this poor, hurting mother.
She is so persistent that the disciples beg Jesus to send her away. They want Jesus to just give her what she wants so she’ll go away. To which, our loving Savior says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This is why He hasn’t answered the woman or healed her daughter, she’s not Jewish, she’s not an Israelite. She’s a Gentile, an enemy of Israel.
While this response would send most of us on our way with shattered hopes, the woman keeps begging. She falls in front of Him, “Lord, help me.” She’s literally worshipping Him, begging for help, and how does Jesus respond? “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” This is awful! What Jesus is saying is that He’s not in Tyre to start a ministry or to do miracles, He’s only passing through.
Martin Luther said that Jesus wasn’t being heartless, rather He was leading this woman to counter His words, and she does! She confesses that Jesus is right. She isn’t an Israelite, she’s not a member of God’s chosen people, yet she knows that Jesus can help her daughter. She says, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” She knows that Jesus is feeding the children, but children always spill crumbs, and all she wants is a crumb. Feed the children of Israel, be their Savior and she’ll be content with the scraps that fall from them.
Jesus challenges the faith of this begging mother and it rises to the challenge. She has caught Jesus in His words, and He rejoices as He says to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” Jesus says “It’s done! Here’s your crumb! Your daughter is healed.” Jesus’ coming means crumbs, the Bread of Life, not just for the Jews, but for all people.
Like the Canaanite woman, you’re sinful beggars who have no right to ask for anything. You sin and you ask God to give you want you need? You only talk to Him when you want something? You sin and then come asking for forgiveness? You have nothing to offer. You deserve nothing from Him whatsoever, and neither do I.
All we can do is beg. We beg Jesus to help us. We beg for help because we can’t solve our problems. We can’t free ourselves from the grasp of Satan. We can’t stop his torment or get rid of our sins. We can’t heal ourselves, we can’t pull ourselves up by our bootstraps to fight our sin.
We’re beggars, there’s no way to avoid it, but we beg of a God who is merciful. The Canaanite woman cries, “Have mercy on me.” She trusts that the Messiah is merciful and she’s right. There’s no point in begging of one who will not have mercy, she knows this, so she begs the right person. And so do we! We beg Jesus, the Son of David, to have mercy on us and He does. He went to the cross and He suffered hell all so that He could have mercy on you! Beg God for your God is a God of grace, a God of love, a God who died also for you!
Beg of a Savior who gives you everything. He gave His life into death on that cross. He paid for your sins. The bread that falls from the table into our mouths is His own body. He redeemed your soul. He heals your wounds. The bread that falls from the table into your mouth is his body. His blood flows from the cross to the cup and to your lips. Your Savior gives you everything!
And as you beg your Lord you’ll find that there’s no end to the crumbs that fall to you. Every crumb contains the mercy and grace of God. Every crumb heals. Every crumb satisfies. Every crumb forgives. Every crumb feeds our hunger. The crumbs fed the lost sheep and the lost dogs, they feed you and the feed me.
When Martin Luther died, they found a note in his pocket which said, “We are all beggars, this is true.” How true this is! We have nothing to offer God for His mercy; we’re poor and miserable. Praise Christ that He doesn’t avoid looking at us or just passes us by. Rather, He hears and grants our prayers. He’s the God of unending crumbs. He gives freely the crumbs of his Word and the crumbs of his Sacraments. Every crumb has the power of God, and the crumbs are for you, you blessed beggar.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen