Sunday, March 20, 2011

Reminiscere - The Second Sunday in Lent

The Last Supper, sepia, by Norma Boeckler.

Reminiscere Sunday, The Second Sunday in Lent, 2011

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn #652 I Lay My Sins on Jesus 1:24
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual
The Gospel
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 454 Prayer Is the Soul's Sincere Desire 1:41

Dividing Line

The Hymn # 281 The Savior Calls 1:29
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 374 Grace Tis a Charming Sound 1:91

KJV 1 Thessalonians 4:1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. 2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; 5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: 6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. 7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

KJV Matthew 15:21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. 23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. 27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. 28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

Second Sunday In Lent
Lord God, heavenly Father, grant us, we beseech Thee, by Thy Holy Spirit, that He may strengthen our hearts and confirm our faith and hope in Thy 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 Thy grace, and in every trial and temptation find Thee a very present help and refuge, through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Dividing Line

[Note – many extras are included in this sermon and others, so people can do additional research and reading. These sermons really sermons plus resources – unless I run out of time. Then they are sketches. If Lenski offends Mequonites looking for something wrong – good. It may be the only time you ever opened Lenski.]

Matthew 15:22) And lo, a Canaanite woman, having come out from those borders, cried out, saying: Show me mercy, Lord, son of David! My daughter is badly demon-possessed. “Lo” pictures the case as being remarkable. Even here in this distant section Jesus and his miraculous power are known (4:24). Writing for readers of Jewish descent, Matthew uses “Canaanite,” recalling the Old Testament account that the Jews had not completely exterminated the Canaanites as God had commanded. This woman was a descendant of that old pagan race. Mark (7:26), writing for Gentile Christians, calls her a Greek in the sense of a Gentile, to mark her religion; and a Syrophoenician by race, using the more modern term for her nationality. Before Jesus could enter her country, she “came out from those borders” to find Jesus at the edge of Galilee. Mark 7:31 makes it certain that Jesus afterward went through Sidon, but this woman took no chances—he might turn back from the border and so get beyond her reach. Jesus wanted no man to know of his presence, but word got out, nevertheless. When Mark tells us that he was in a house, this means only that he was in retirement and doing no work among the people. It does not place the following scene in the house, for v. 23 transpires in the open.
Jesus and his disciples had probably just dined in the house, which would make the reference to “the children’s bread” in v. 26 the more suggestive. As he leaves the house to go on, the woman is there, having, perhaps, anxiously waited for him. With the aorist imperative she begs for an act of mercy, and ἔλεος always means pity for the suffering, for the sad and painful consequences resulting from sin and our sinful state; while χάρις always refers to the guilt of sin. She begs the act of mercy for herself, but her sad state is due to the terrible state of her little daughter who is demon-possessed. The mere verb is enough—there is no need to add the particular havoc the demon wrought. On the actuality of demoniacal possession see the notes on 4:24.
When the woman combines “Lord” with “son of David,” she understands “Lord” in the higher sense as being in fact the Messianic title. She plainly reveals that she has knowledge of the Messianic hopes of Israel and had heard that they were being connected with Jesus as the promised great descendant of King David. It is not necessary to regard her as a Jewish proselyte, and it is quite enough to believe that knowledge had come to her from the reports that had been carried into her heathen land. She surely had tried the remedies offered in her neighborhood for her daughter’s recovery, all of which had proved ineffective. Then she heard of Jesus and how he with a mere word had expelled demons from poor sufferers like her daughter. These reports found fertile soil in her heart. How she had longed to reach this mighty Helper! Now he had come to this far corner of Galilee, and here she finds him with her fervent prayer.
23) But he did not answer her a word. This apparently strange silence on the part of Jesus must not be separated from what follows. And his disciples, having come forward, kept requesting him, saying, Dismiss her, for she is yelling from behind us. The picture presents Jesus walking on in silence, the woman following him with her frantic cries. The imperfect ἠρώτων is descriptive, and the verb denotes respectful asking. One after another of the disciples comes up to Jesus and joins in this request. The verb “dismiss her” is neutral in force and leaves to the discretion of Jesus whether he will dismiss her by granting or by denying her request. Yet the disciples had never seen Jesus deny anyone pleading for help, although at times he had delayed a little while (John 4:47, etc.; Matt. 8:5, etc.), namely whenever some question had first to be settled. It is fair, therefore, to conclude that the disciples think of a dismissal by granting the woman’s prayer. They indicate, however, that they are not moved entirely by pity for her distress. Jesus did not want his presence to become known, but the outcries of this woman were bound to attract public attention. It was quite a scene for thirteen men to walk along with a woman shouting ὄπισθεν, not “behind them,” but with the greater precision of the Greek, “from behind them,” R. 645. The thing may also have appeared unseemly to the disciples.
24) The motives that prompt the action of Jesus are by far more profound. He, however, answering said, I was not commissioned save to the sheep that have been lost of Israel’s house. Since Jesus is about to cross the boundary of the Holy Land and to go into Gentile territory for a brief time, all those present must know that this in no way implies a transfer of his ministry from the Jews to the Gentiles or even an inclusion of the Gentiles into his Messianic ministry. The working of this miracle was not to be understood as ushering in the performance of a great number of additional miracles among the Gentiles of this territory. The divine plan, according to which Jesus “was commissioned,” was to work out redemption in the Jewish nation and not elsewhere; as soon as it had been worked out, it would be carried to all the world. Moreover, this would begin in less than a year, following the next Passover. With this divine plan Jesus was in fullest accord, and his great work was already hastening to its climax. These mighty facts must be thoroughly understood. That is why Jesus delays and explains them in advance in the most impressive way and does not postpone the explanation until after the woman has gone.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN. : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 593

There are many approaches to this miracle of healing, but it remains one of the difficult ones. Everyone has questions about this healing and what Jesus said. Perhaps it is best to start at the ending, which explains the entire story.

Matthew 15 28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

The greatness of this woman’s faith, here openly praised by Jesus, lies not in its strength and its intensity which overcome obstacles set up by Jesus and grow greater as these obstacles were increased. The greatness lay in submissively accepting and in rightly understanding what Jesus said about his Messianic mission. Her great distress did not dull her ears or darken her mind to Jesus’ word. The view that she overcame the reluctance of Jesus to help her attributes to Jesus what was foreign to him and gives a wrong turn to the narrative.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN. : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 600.

I see a theme which is carried out many times in John’s Gospel, where it is clearer. Jesus always speaks at His level, as the Son of God with divine authority. He speaks at this level while the answers from His disciples and the followers are always at another level, sometimes picking up on words and phrases but missing the point.

For the Woman at the Well, John 4, Jesus spoke of providing water so that the woman would never thirst again. This is clearly a metaphor, but the woman responded about the labor of hauling water from the well each day.

During the washing of the feet of His disciples, Jesus corrected Peter about washing the feet of the first pope (according to Rome). Once this is explained, Peter asks for his hands and his head to be washed, too.

KJV John 13:5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. 6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. 8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. 10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. 11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. 12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

I see the main explanation for this healing miracle to be in Jesus’ own words of commendation, praising the woman for her faith.

This is truly the dividing line in the entire Bible, the difference between believers and unbelievers. Everyone is flawed and sinful. We are all equals in that respect.

But relatively few believe the Word of God and trust only in the wisdom of God. This miracle teaches that complete trust and shows how faith motivates people in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

So, let’s look at this miracle as one which shows us how this woman’s complete trust in the mercy of Christ moves every action and word.

Matthew 15:22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

How do we know she has faith? She offers her confession in her request or prayer – O Lord, Son of David. In the Greek speaking lands, Lord is used for the ultimate leader. No doubt the New NIV or future ones will make it mean “Sir, or Mr.” Lord can be used for lower level leaders, but it is often used for God. Revelation clears up any doubt by using “Lord of Lords, King of Kings,” a beautiful expression about Christ as the Savior and Creating Word.

Here the woman, though not a Jew, acknowledges that Jesus is the promised Messiah (Son of David).

Her trust means that she believes Jesus would hear her and grant her prayer for her daughter – possessed and thrown about with a devil. Some like to come up with a modern medical diagnosis. Such things keep publishing houses busy. But we should take it for what it is – demonic possession, which is far more dangerous and frightening than a seizure disorder, which can be modified with painkillers or alcohol. This also means the mother is certain Jesus has power over the demons, which is true.

23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.

Anyone can claim that he knows why Jesus did not answer a word. These are very bright people. Without ever meeting me, they know my motivations better than I do, and they are happy to explain them, as long as they remain anonymous.

Jesus did not respond. It does not say, “He refused to answer.” It does not say, “He pretended not to hear.” It does not say, “He was forcing her to say more.” We only know that He was silent at this point while the disciples pleaded for Him to dismiss her for all the asking and crying out.

The disciples provide a useful contrast, which shows us how much this woman was pleading to Jesus. They did not want to hear another word – she was persistent.

We should always ask ourselves why a particular story was provided for us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The world is not big enough to hold all that Jesus said and did, as John wrote in his Gospel.

So why is this difficult miracle given when others would be more soothing? The phrase “said not a word” is significant.

Many believers pray earnestly for a particular need, especially when parents and grandparents pray for children. There seems to be no answer, which is a severe trial. I have met parents whose child went through surgeries and treatments for 20 years and more. I have known parents of children with incurable ailments, where many treatments are tried and offer only partial help.

Some fall into the temptation of unbelief. But this woman is an example of constant motivation by faith in Jesus. A child-like faith keeps asking. Most of us have had experiences of children asking again and again, always smiling and trusting and loving. As Luther said, “They only expect good things.” They are certain that a few dozen more requests will do the job.

24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Jesus responded to the disciples with this statement, above. This is a simple statement, so we should not look for motivation behind it. That is only guesswork. As I tell my Biblical students all the time, when turning them from the theories to the text itself, “The text is what we know for sure. Everything else is theory.” They are in awe of textbooks which claim this or that. I want them to be in awe of the Word of God rather than the opinions of man.

Jesus was sent to the Jews first, then to the Gentiles, as Paul said about his own work. This did not keep Paul from being an apostle to the Gentiles, nor did it impede his work with the Jews. The Word brought success in both groups, so much that Paul was hated and persecuted.

25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

The worshiping should not be overlooked. This showed her complete trust in Him, even before she had any definitive answer. Her prayer was simple. She knew Jesus heard her words before. She said, “Lord, help me.”

26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to [the little pet] dogs.

The term Jesus used here is not the same as “dogs.” This is the diminutive version of the word, suggesting indoor, pet dogs, allowed to have scraps. They are not the same as the outdoor, feral dogs, which would never be allowed in the house.

If we read it just as “dogs,” Jesus does seem insulting. But this is just a common observation, which anyone can observe today. We have a begging table, made of glass. Our three dogs gather under it and look upward as we eat, adopting the “starving puppy” look or the “loving, happy pet” look, both good as coaxing extra food. The do not sulk or get angry at being neglected and ignored. They have complete trust that they will get their portion and then some.

Therefore the woman’s response is in perfect keeping with the term used by Jesus. Notice that this explanation assumes they are speaking Greek to each other, not Aramaic. I doubt where the subtlety is there in Aramaic, and it would make no sense for Jesus or the woman to use a limited dialect as opposed to a world language. (Thanks to Yoel for this insight.)

27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the [little] dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.

She used the same term as Jesus, showing her faith in what He was teaching. His mission was to gather believers among His own people, and that was first in the limited time He had.

Yet so vast was His ministry of grace, that the scraps from that would please her and satisfy her.

28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

Jesus granted her prayer, and her daughter was healed at that moment, showing the power of His Word, since the daughter was not there on the journey.

We can see how significant this is for all believers at this time. This is really a miracle story to help believers.

I know about many of the trials and difficulties facing our audience. Some are indicated in the prayers. Others are communicated privately.

More than that, it seems as if God is silent about the apostasy around us. If we watch religious TV, we can see an outright phony teaching blatant false doctrine in the name of (and with the financial support of) two “conservative” Lutheran synods. And he is the only media voice of those two synods combined. How can this continue?

This miracle shows us that the scraps are more than enough. God’s grace is so abundant in His Means of Grace that He will accomplish His will through His Word. If most choose to abandon and abuse it, they will get their reward from juggling with the Word, a dangerous project.

Those who utterly trust in Christ will never be separated from Him by all the trials and misfortunes of this life. God promises to make the Word more abundant through those crosses and to strengthen our faith in spite of them – because of them.

Our faith is not in us, because trials show us how weak we really are – impatient, angry, doubtful. Our faith is in God, and strengthened by His Word.


"But see in this example how Christ like a hunter exercises and chases faith in His followers in order that it may become strong and firm."
Sermons of Martin Luther, ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983 II, p. 149. Matthew 15:21﷓28.

"In like manner Moses must precede and teach people to feel their sins in order that grace may be sweet and welcome to them. Therefore all is in vain, however friendly and lovely Christ may be pictured, if man is not first humbled by a knowledge of himself and he possesses no longing for Christ, as Mary's Song says, 'The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent
empty away,' Luke 1:53."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 149.

"All this is spoken and written for the comfort of the distressed, the poor, the needy, the sinful, the despised, so that they may know in all times of need to whom to flee and where to seek comfort and help."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 149.
"Now what does the poor woman do? She turns her eyes from all this unfriendly treatment of Christ; all this does not lead her astray, neither does she take it to heart, but she continues immediately and firmly to cling in her confidence to the good news she had heard and embraced concerning Him, and never gives up. We must also do the same and learn firmly to cling to the Word, even though God with all His creatures appears different than His Word teaches. But, oh, how painful it is to nature and reason, that this woman should strip herself of self and forsake all that she experienced, and cling along to God's bare Word, until she experienced the contrary. May God help us in time of need and of death to possess courage and faith!"
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 150.
"As for example when we feel in our conscience that God rebukes us as sinners and judges us unworthy of the kingdom of heaven, then we experience hell, and we think we are lost forever. Now whoever understands here the actions of this poor woman and catches God in His own judgment, and says, Lord, it is true, I am a sinner and not worthy of Thy grace; but still Thou hast promised sinners forgiveness, and Thou art come not to call the righteous, but, as St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:15, 'to save sinners.' Behold, then must God according to His own judgment have mercy upon us."
Sermons of Martin Luther, ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983 II, p. 153. Matthew 15:21﷓28; 1 Timothy 1:15

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