2-25-24 Reminiscere

Bible Text: Matthew 15:21-28 | Preacher: Pastor Christian Preus

Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David, my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon. Have mercy on me, she says, not, have mercy on my daughter, which seems strange at first, but the reality is that to have mercy on the one is to have mercy on the other. Her daughter is in pain, she is in pain. The devil is oppressing the daughter, then he’s oppressing the mother. It’s a beautiful thing that God has worked into human nature, that a mother will love her children so fiercely. You see it even in animals. You don’t want to come between a mother bear and her cubs. This is a reflection of God’s love for His creation. “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you,” says the Lord. And Jesus says, “How often I longed to gather you together as a hen gathers her chicks.” Jesus identifies Himself with us. Our pain is his pain. When Saul persecutes the Church, Jesus says, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? Because to persecute the Church is to persecute Jesus, you can’t separate the two, because they are one. And this applies not just to the Church as some organization or body of people, but to each individual Christian. So Jesus says, “Whatever you did to the least of these my brethren you did to Me.” This is why Jesus calls us His bride, one flesh with Him, why He says we are His body and He is our head. There is an identification, a beautiful one, where everything He has is ours, so much so that God counts us as pure and righteous with Christ’s purity and righteousness, and his children because Christ is His Son.

So when the mother says have mercy on me it means as much as saying have mercy on my daughter, because the two can’t be separated. And this also means she can’t live without Jesus because Jesus is the only One who can have mercy on her and her daughter. And this is the definition of a Christian. The Christian can’t live without Jesus. We’d rather lose everything, rather give up our houses, our cars, our retirement, our life, than give up our Lord. And this isn’t simply a law the Christian learns to obey, Thou must love God above all things. No Jesus gives what the world cannot give, what we need, what makes everything else worthwhile. Look at the Canaanite woman. What do you think she enjoyed in life when her daughter was possessed by a demon? Her food, her house, her wine, her friends? Of course not. Everything depended on Jesus healing her daughter. Everything depended on Jesus having mercy. And so it is with us. Yea, heaven itself were void and bare if Thou Lord were not near me.

So it’s the Canaanite woman who teaches us this stance, this rigor of Christian faith, the clinging to Jesus, the faith that stakes everything on Him, refuses to let Him leave, insists on His blessing, will give up not just money, but even dignity, even pride, anything and everything, if only Jesus stays and has mercy, and that even when He seems to be trying to run away from us, even when we seem to be dogs and totally unworthy of His presence, to hold Him to His promise, to know Who He IS and to insist that He be Who He Is for us. Because our very life, our happiness, our eternity, our everything depends on Him.

First the Canaanite woman knew her need. It wasn’t a theoretical, intellectual problem she had. It was existential, affected everything in her life. Her daughter was severely oppressed by a demon. She knew the devil’s work and it haunted her. And so it’s from her desperate need that she comes to Jesus.

If we know our need, we won’t take Jesus for granted. We won’t let Him pass by. We’ll be like this woman and refuse to stop crying out until He answers and turns His kind face toward us. We’ll be like Jacob wrestling with God at the river Jabbok and refusing to let go until God blesses him. So let’s understand our need. And notice that this woman’s pressing need wasn’t simply that she was a sinner. It was that her daughter was hurting. Our need can’t be reduced to our own sin. That’s not to minimize our sin. Each and every one of us should feel the need every single Sunday to come and receive forgiveness for our sins at this church, realize that despite our best intentions we have once again soiled ourselves and grieved our Lord with our thoughts and words and actions. But look at this Canaanite woman and see she doesn’t come to Jesus asking for forgiveness but for mercy for her daughter. And learn from this that because your Lord Jesus has spilt His blood for you and won your forgiveness, He is also there for your every need, everything that sin touches in your life.

So come to church because you need relief from the devil and the evil in this world, because of the death that strikes your family and friends, because of the cancer and disease that attacks you or your loved ones, because of mean people or sad people or confused people in your life whom you don’t know how to deal with, because of the demonic propaganda and sexual perversion endlessly streaming from the media, because of loved ones who have fallen into sin or fallen from the faith. These are all the oppression of the devil, not just your own sins. Creation groans to be relieved from these things. Yes, you need mercy for your own sins, but you need more than that, and your Lord Jesus knows you need it. To stand in His presence, to know He’s here with His own body and blood for you, that your Lord hears your prayers, that He gives you strength to endure in this vale of tears, this is what you run after, and we need to learn to do it with the same urgency that this woman ran after Jesus and would not give up until He blessed her.

It’s more than that. Jesus tests this woman. He insults her. Calls her a dog. And He did it because He knows a faith that is not challenged and doesn’t know its need, a faith that doesn’t have to suffer and fight for Jesus, is a faith that ends up dying and taking Him for granted. He’d seen it in Israel. He sees it in America. He doesn’t want to see it in you.

And so you can expect with this woman for Jesus to test you. Put hard things in your life. Show you how dreadful sin can be in you and in others, what pain this corrupt world throws at you. And that’s so that you don’t lose sight of two things. First is your need. Let every suffering, every pain, every sin against you, every sin in your own heart, every dirty feeling you get looking at the corruption of society and culture and politics, let it all remind you of your need for cleansing, for help, for communion with God and relief from it all in Jesus.

The second thing you can’t lose sight of is Jesus Himself. That woman never forgot her need. But she also never gave up on who Jesus was, that He was for her and loved her and cared for her. Even when He didn’t answer, she knew He heard, even when He said He came only for the children of Israel, she knew He came also for her, even when He called her a dog, she owned it and asked Him to pity even a dog like her. She wouldn’t give up because she knew who this Jesus was.

So know it. He is the God who took up His home on earth in human body, in poverty and in pain, because He loves you. He is the Lord who pitied you and saw your need and decided to leave His perfect happiness because His love would not let Him be happy without you. He is the Lord who hated the devil and sin and pain and cancer and meanness and filth, and so laid down His life and allowed these things to touch Him and bruise Him and dirty Him, so that He could cleanse you and free you from them forever. He is the Savior who has sent His Spirit to win you and woo you by His Word and name you a child of His Father. He is the Redeemer who meant it when He said, come unto me all ye, all, everyone, who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Know your need and know your Savior. And He will answer you. He will never leave you. His law will insult you and call you a dog, call you unworthy, but His blood washes you clean and makes your worthy, and His Gospel calls you a child and an heir of heaven and His beloved, whom He cherishes above everything, for whom He has died and for whom He fights even now.

And then realize with what joy Jesus says, “O woman, great is your faith.” Realize how precious it is to your Lord Jesus that you come to Him, knowing your need and calling on His name, confessing that what you desire above everything is His mercy. This is the goal of God Himself, the goal of eternity, the goal of faith, the goal of history, that we come before the presence of our God and belong to Him again and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true. Amen.

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