Lent 2 Reminiscere
St. Matthew 15: 21-28
March 13, 2022 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In the region of Israel’s ancient enemies, the center of Baal worship, a Canaanite woman cries for mercy to the Son of David. Baal likes child sacrifice. He is the lord of demons. It is hard to ask him for help. But if you are innocent, you ask God for justice, not mercy. This woman wants mercy for herself and for her daughter and that because her daughter is possessed by a demon. They are not innocent.
How this situation came to be we will never know, but the fact that she wants mercy for her and her daughter suggests that she knows what caused this and that it was somehow her own actions.
Just think of the guilt you would feel if you caused your daughter to become possessed by a demon. In that pagan land it was common to engage in occult practices that promised to make a desired person love you, to make the fields fruitful, or to get vengeance upon some enemy. It is not hard to imagine that this woman did such a thing and invited a demon in. Whatever the cause, the demons overplayed their hand. They drive her to Jesus, the Son of David. He who commands the wind and the waves, who called all things to be, is the true Lord of demons, in the sense that they must obey Him and cannot thwart His will, not that He is like them or that they admire or willingly follow Him. Even from afar, after exercising the woman’s faith, bringing it to its fullness and praising it, He can and He does cast out the demon and heal the girl.
We are not prone to occult practices. I suspect most of us will not even read horoscopes. We certainly wouldn’t play with ouija boards or engage in satanic rituals. But the demons have not gone away. We ignore them or deny their existence to our peril. They do not ignore us. Pornography can be a portal for demons. Inebriation opens us up to their influence and possession, so does giving in to wrath or laziness or depression.
We have a tendency to make light of our sins, to pretend as though we aren’t fully culpable or were stuck in a hard situation and made the less evil choice. We want to see them as inconsequential or dismissed for cause. But in fact God doesn’t forbid things that don’t matter. He is not interested in trivia. Our keeping of the Law doesn’t benefit Him in any way. The Law is written for the benefit of Man nor for God. Violating the Law might hurt nature and its creatures, but the main victims are the sinner and his immediate family. Repent. Don’t dangle your blood soaked feet in shark-infested waters. Don’t tempt demons.
The Canaanite woman and her daughter need mercy. Only He who establishes and sits on the throne of David forever can help, but He owes her nothing. She cries out but He ignores her. She got herself into this mess without His help. She worshiped false gods. The disciples urge Him to send her away. He says that He was not sent except for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Who is she to Him? She falls down before Him and says, “Help me.” He says that it is not right to give the children’s bread to the dogs.
What wickedness has this woman done to be treated so poorly by God in the Flesh? No worse than us, I expect. But look at her response. Even after all of this, she will not give up. She has no other place to turn and she knows the promises. The Son of David comes in the Flesh to relieve us of demons, to rescue us from Satan’s clutches, to forgive our sins and restore us to His image. She will not be swayed away from that promise by His silence or His seemingly cruel words. She does not ask to sit at His right hand in glory or to have the honored title of Israel. She just wants to live with her daughter in His house. So she says, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.” If she is a dog, let her be His dog, and He, her Master.
Now we see the purpose of Jesus’ seemingly harsh treatment. He did not treat her this way because her sins were so terrible, because she had flirted with demons and nearly brought destruction upon her daughter, but because her faith had such potential. He was exercising her faith and training her flesh. Though she is a Canaanite woman and a sinner, she is praised for her great faith. Only one other in all of the Gospels gets such praise from Jesus, another Gentile, the Centurion.
Christ was teaching her to use her faith, to cling to the Word above all earthly wisdom or reason, even before and beyond any theological sophistication, and certainly beyond what man can observe or think he experiences. Cling to the Word. Do not let go. In times of prosperity, prepare for adversity. In times of adversity, hold the Word as a beacon in the dark. Recognize that Christ honors you with trials not unlike those of the Canaanite woman. Those whom He loves, He chastens.
Live by faith. Wait on God. Trust in Him. The demons are real but powerless against Christ the Victor. It shall be as your desire.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.