Sermon – Matthew 15.21-28 (Lent 2 – 2019)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, grant us, we beseech You, by Your Holy Spirit, that He may strengthen our hearts and confirm our faith and hope in Your grace and mercy, so that, although we have reason to fear because of our conscience, our sin, and our unworthiness, we may nevertheless, with the woman of Canaan, hold fast to Your grace, and in every trial and temptation find You a present help and refuge; through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen. 

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

21 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon.

 22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”

 23 But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”

 24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

 25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”

 26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

 27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

 28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (Matt. 15:21-28 NKJ)

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your word is truth. Amen.

Christ, Our Help in Need

Dear fellow redeemed,

If Christ were merely a teacher, we could only expect advice from him in our troubles, but certainly He wouldn’t be the solution. If He were merely an example of love, though He didn’t appear loving in our text today, well what help would He be to us today in our great need. If He were simply a man, what could He do about our sins, death, and the devil’s captivity.

If Jesus were any of these, what a sad story this would be. Instead of seeing a woman with incredible faith, we would see a foolish woman, who is going to the wrong person. And instead of a Christ, who saves us from sin and hell and the devil, we would see a pitiful excuse for a Savior. She would be coming to him for help, and Jesus could only turn her to look to herself or some other earthly solution, which is fruitless.

But Christ is the one who is able to help and will help. He is our God and Savior. And like the woman in the text, we should go to Him for our help and salvation. For where else can we find our deliverance from sin, death, hell, the devil, and the brokenness of life? It is found in Him alone.

But for this we ought to first know our need. We are weak sinners. And though we are new creations in Christ, we don’t have as much control over our sinful nature as we would like. We have our sins, and the eternal damnation that those sins deserve. We don’t have as much control over our lives as we would like. We deal with trouble and difficulty and brokenness and death.

But it is not easy to humble ourselves and to admit our weaknesses, our utter need for a Savior to forgive us, to restore us, to pick us up and to lead to do what is right and holy.

This is especially true in regard to our sin. We easily say the words of general confession. We say it without thinking of the seriousness of our sins, the depravity of our nature, but imagine standing before the holy God who takes and account of your lives, and every sin known and hidden, every wicked thought, word and deed are plain and clear in His sight. If we make a true assessment of ourselves, we would drop our heads and eyes, and the only thing that we could say is, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me.

Another part of the problem that is keeping us from going to Christ for help is that we think that we can solve our problems ourselves. We use determination, hard work, and positive thinking, among other things to achieve earthly goals, but what are they in overcoming our sin, our captivity too the devil, and our brokenness and eventual death. Yet people think that we can overcome those things. Some will say that they need to clean up their lives and make themselves worthy before coming to church. But it is through the gospel of Christ crucified for sinners that a person’s life is cleansed and a soul is made worthy before God. Some will say that they have had a time of stress, trouble, or sorrow so they need to focus on healing and recovery within themselves, rather than finding it in Christ through the Word and Sacrament, but doesn’t Jesus say, “Come unto me you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”? Certainly, we have sought to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, rather than finding our heavenly aid in Christ Jesus. I can overcome sin, I can fix my brokenness, I can fend of Satan, I can exercise control over death.

It is our nature to look to ourselves or to anything but God for help in our need.

And so sometimes God shows us our need is beyond a solution that we can find in ourselves or anywhere on earth. God does this because He loves us and wants to strengthen our faith in Him, and lean more and more upon Him and the promises of His word. It doesn’t always seem loving. Jesus certainly didn’t appear loving to the Canaanite woman. Yet in love, He tested her, refining her faith, and caused her to cling to the Word about Him more and more firmly. And oh what an amazing faith resulted.

So also, when death comes, we are led to think more closely to our need, that our lives wither as grass. Or through experiences in life, in our hurt, or the hurt that we have caused, though God is not the cause of sin, He does use our sin and this hurt to lead us to see our sin and our unworthiness. Or sometimes through difficulty and disappointment in life, we see this world lose its charm, and God teaches us to look upward. When all our solutions to our troubles fail, when we find that we do not have the answer to our need within ourselves, when we cannot create for ourselves true and lasting peace and comfort, then our ears are opened to the invitation of God to find our help in Him.

And so we recognize our need, and know that Christ is not some weak teacher with no solution for us. He doesn’t simply teach us to love and then direct us into our own hearts to fix ourselves. Rather He is our Lord, true God made flesh, who is crucified and risen and ascended for us! He saves us from our sin. He cleanses us from our sin and gives peace to our consciences. He gives us true and lasting comfort in the midst of life. He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. He either removes our difficulties, or gives Himself to be our strength to deny ourselves and carry our cross through the difficulties of life. He is the victor over the devil, and has saved us from his captivity. Jesus has removed death’s sting and its victory, and has given us life eternal, and the certainty hope of the resurrection from the dead!

And so recognizing our need is not weakness. It is being honest with ourselves and recognizing the reality of sin and its effects. But what blessedness there is in seeing this need, for we may then see Christ truly as the one who is able and does satisfy all our needs.

Though, He seemed unloving for a time, yet in love He strengthened the faith of Canaanite woman. But then see how He loves to help! He is thrilled that she, in her need, so steadfastly looked to Him for her help! What a beautiful faith!

May the Lord grant us such a faith that we cling to Christ and His Word, even when He seems to be unloving. For He does love to help. For He is love. Simply look to the cross, and there see how He in His infinite love has helped. There is your forgiveness and peace for your conscience, there is your salvation, there is your deliverance from the devil, there is your eternal life, there is your strength and help in every need! And He is now Your risen and ascended Lord, who is near, who forgives, comforts, strengthens and helps you through His Word and Sacraments. So here in His Word is your forgiveness and healing. And see how He loves to help, see here, He gives you His true body and blood for you to eat and drink, for your forgiveness, for your victory over the devil and death. And helped by Him, fed by Him, well, we’re ready for another week in His grace. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

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