Jesus’ mercy is even for you!

August 20, 2023

Pastor Gunnar Ledermann

Matthew 15:21-28

Matthew 15:21-28

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

You are willing to wait for something important to you. You may wait hours for a ride or experience at a theme park. You may wait for a home cooked meal to simmer or smoke rather than grab fast food in a bag. You may wait for months or years for help and healing with sickness or injury at doctor’s office or hospital.

Today, scrolling has become synonymous with waiting. Rather than use your imagination, talk with a live person or even read the Bible and pray, we choose to scroll through our phones while we wait. Our scrolling takes us down all kinds of paths to entertainment, projects, medical help, shopping, memories, etc. Our need for scrolling when waiting can become quite sinister when it comes from a heart driven by instant gratification and entitlement, and when it causes others to wait on us because we are caught up in whatever we were scrolling. Scrolling among many things tempt us away from faith when God keeps us waiting.

We are not told how long she waited. In our Gospel reading today from Matthew 15, we are not told how long a Canaanite woman had to watch her demon possessed daughter’s terrible suffering. She saw the end to her waiting though as we hear in Matthew 15, 21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” This woman was a Canaanite, descended from the nations God drove out of the land of Canaan to give to the Israelites. She was from the region of Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean coast, the same area we have heard about over the last couple of weeks as the home of the wicked Queen of Israel, Jezebel. This was Gentile, heathen territory. In Mark’s Gospel, he confirmed the woman as a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth. For her to approach Jesus as both non-Jewish and a woman would have been culturally striking, but her daughter was possessed by a demon and experiencing a terrible, unnatural sickness and suffering. She was sure that the only one who could help her was Jesus, but when she asked Jesus for help, 23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” Whether the disciples wanted her sent away with her request answered is not revealed, but they did want to wait any longer for the situation to be resolved. Then, Jesus answered, 24 … “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” After giving her the silent treatment and replying to the disciples for all to hear that his mission did not include those outside of the physical nation of Israel, it seemed that Jesus did not want to help this woman.

You know how long you have waited. Whatever is on your list of things you are waiting for God to resolve, you know how long it has been since you have been waiting for a response. And you feel that there has been no answer. It seems like God is giving you the silent treatment. Your requests must be going to the wrong inbox or God does not care, or God does not exist. You need help and the situations are not improving, and waiting on God feels as impactful as scrolling. Some of those things you are waiting for God to help you with may be things God has sent you help with or things you do not need solved, but we are not going to take the time to analyze all the things on your list.

Instead, we are going to address our problem with waiting. You fall into temptation when you lose sight of who you are asking for help. When you lose sight of God’s mercy, his underserved love to give you what you need, you wait impatiently or even give up waiting. When you become the Lord of your life who alone knows the right timing, God becomes a device for you to scroll through until you get what you want. That attitude separates you from God. And, waiting without God may not leave you feeling helpless with whatever is on your list of things you want resolved, but it is a guarantee that without God you wait with your sins for death and eternity in hell.

Jesus is worth the wait. It seemed Jesus would not help the Canaanite woman, but she did not give up. We read in Matthew 15, 25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” At first Jesus’ illustration sounds harsher than it ought to be. The dog pictured is not a street dog lurking in the shadows ready to pounce and steal, but rather a lap dog eating the crumbs accidentally or sometimes intentionally dropped for it from the table. And the woman agreed with Jesus using his illustration to share her faith as we read in Matthew 15, 27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. Jesus kept the Canaanite woman waiting, but it gave him the chance to show her that even though she had to watch her daughter suffer terribly from demon possession, wonder if being a Canaanite woman made her less worthy of Jesus’ help or excluded her from Jesus’ saving grace, she was one of his people, a true Israelite by faith, she was heard, cared for and her daughter was healed.

The Canaanite woman’s first words to Jesus showed her faith in him, 22 … “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He was no ordinary rabbi or teacher, but the Lord descended from David, the heir to the throne of Israel. And not just the physical nation, but Jesus was the Messiah, the Chosen One, whose kingdom is heavenly. She asked for his mercy, his loving desire to use his power to help sinners. She waited confident that he would heal her daughter and he did. Only one other recorded time did Jesus tell someone that they had great faith and it was another Gentile like her. Earlier in Matthew 10, Jesus sent out the twelve disciples with specific instructions 5 … “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” He wanted to open the eyes of Israel to their long-awaited true King and Savior, but Jesus also wanted the world to be saved as we heard in our Old Testament reading from Isaiah 56, 8 The Sovereign Lord declares—he who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.” Jesus shared how he would show mercy to all people in John 10, 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus crossed off sin, death and hell from your list of needs. You are one of his sheep. He laid down his life and rose for you. As you wait to see him in heaven, he listens to your requests and gives you what you need. Whatever you are waiting for, you always have the good news that Jesus’ mercy is for all people.

Pray as one of God’s people waiting. The Canaanite woman asked Jesus for something, and you get to do the same through prayer. Jesus is your reason to stop scrolling while you wait. He is your reason to wait when impatience or questioning his love for you tempt you during hardships in your life. In our New Testament reading from Ephesians 2, Paul reminds us that we are not on the outside, but inside members of God’s own household, 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. The apostles recorded Jesus’ fulfillment of the Scriptures written by the prophets. Your prayer life flourishes when you better understand your Father’s house; Bible study and prayer go hand in hand. Meditate on Scripture in personal devotions. Attend, listen and ask questions in Bible study. Attend, listen and apply the words of the weekly sermon to your life. Despite her ethnic heritage, the Canaanite woman was a true Israelite. The name Israel means struggle, and in Genesis 32, we hear when God gave that name to Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Jacob, whose twelve sons became the twelve tribes of Israel, struggled with God. He wrestled all night waiting for God’s blessing. There are many accounts in Scripture of people waiting for God’s response and mercy, even now Jesus delays his return for Judgment Day, but in his mercy, God waits for more to come to faith. Wait because God’s mercy is for all people and wait with prayer.

You wait for what is important. You also wait on who is important. Jesus helped us; has saved us through his death on the cross and his gift of righteousness by faith. When we wait with faith in God, we will see the fullness of his mercy play out in our lives now and in our heavenly home forever. God will help you with what you need and while you wait pray and give thanks because Jesus’ mercy is even for you. Amen.

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