St. Matthew 15:21-28
March 8, 2020 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
At the end, Jesus praises the woman for her faith. She is only one of two in the Gospels to get such praise. But that faith was hard won and it may not have been so great at the beginning.
At the beginning, she had faith. She rightly recognized and confessed Jesus as the Son of David whose mercy endures forever, whose mission it is to deliver us from demons. But despite that faith Jesus did not answer her. Perhaps, she was too clever, so easily discerning what the disciples did not. Perhaps she was too confident in thinking that she knew the mind of God or was proud of her intercession being selfless. In any case, what she needed, what her faith needed, what the disciples needed, was for her to be ignored. So ignored she was. She is not in control. Her daughter’s fate was in His hands. She needed to learn to trust in Him.
The disciples become embarrassed by His inaction. She was making a scene. They asked Jesus to send her away. He did not send her away. They aren’t in control either. He speaks harshly of her. She is a Gentile. Has she presumed too much in calling Him the Son of David as though she were in the family? I don’t think so, but she does seem to need a bit of humility and, again, the disciple need an object lesson.
So she humbles herself. God be praised at that. She drops all pretense. She accepts her place. She prays no more for her daughter. She now prays for herself. She uses no lofty titles that demonstrate her acumen. She prostrates herself. She keeps it simple and says only, “Lord, help me.”
Still, He does not. Her faith is not yet what it will be. He is not done. He has one more insult left, but the insult hides an opportunity. He says that it is not proper to take the children’s bread and give it to the little dogs. Our translation uses the word “good” for what would be better translated “proper” or “fitting.” Jesus doesn’t claim that such an action would be unjust or immoral, only that it would be improper, not fitting. He also softens the blow by characterizing her as a little dog, a pet. She isn’t likened to a wild, mangy mutt that scavenges in the garbage and scares the children. She is likened to a beloved pet at His feet who lives in His house.
She seizes upon it. If she is a pet then she is at His table and she is His pet. She has a Master. She belongs to Him. She doesn’t want the children’s bread. She wants His bread, the bread that masters give to their dogs.
Now her faith has come full course. It is now worthy of the Lord’s praise. She has persevered and accepted His rebukes. She has been emptied and thus her faith has grown. She has held Him to His Word.
Here is the real question. Can you trust God in Christ to be good and all-wise when He ignores you and you suffer all manner of injustice and sorrow? Can you trust God in Christ to be God when the wicked prosper, when we are overrun with fake news, with our loved ones die too early? Will you trust Him when He doesn’t do what you ask?
That is the definition of faith. It trusts in God and His Word even if and when it is contrary to own experience and fallen reason. It waits on Him. The greatness of the woman’s faith wasn’t in her confidence or certainty. It was in its weakness. It was great not when she was yelling “Son of David have mercy on me” but when she says, “Yes, Lord. I am your dog.” It was great then because it only wanted what He gave, His bread, at His table, in His house, and nothing more. Her faith was great because it rested in what He gave according to His Word. May God do the same for us and give us His Body in His bread at His table this day that we too might have great faith and be freed of demons.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.