2-28-21 Reminiscere

Bible Text: Matthew 15:21-28 | Preacher: Pastor Christian Preus | Series: Lent 2021 | The Holy Spirit tells us Jesus was in the region of Tyre and Sidon. The first thing we have to ask ourselves is why He’s there. Tyre and Sidon, if you know your geography, are north and west of Israel. They’re not part of Israel. It’s not a place where Jews live. In fact Jesus will later tell the Jews that if the works He performed among them were performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have long since repented in sackcloth and ashes. But they weren’t. Jesus didn’t perform miracles in Tyre and Sidon, because as He says in our Gospel reading, He came only for the lost sheep of the tribes of Israel, and they don’t live in Tyre and Sidon. So here is Jesus, who explicitly says that He’s not come to preach and do miracles in places like Tyre and Sidon, but He’s there. Why? Because he’s on vacation. That’s why. He’s left the people of Israel for a time. He needs a break. Because they don’t listen to His word. Here God Himself in human flesh has appeared to them to show them their Maker, to reveal to them salvation, eternal life, the forgiveness of sins, and they don’t care. So Jesus leaves and goes to Tyre and Sidon.

And this is the first and foundational lesson this morning. Jesus left. He stopped preaching the Word to them. This pattern is repeated wherever people despise Jesus and His Gospel. It’s how the Book of Acts ends (by the way, we’re going through the Book of Acts in Bible Class, and it’s worth your time – if you think about it, you have nothing better to do, so you might as well come to Bible Class and learn more about Jesus). The Book of Acts ends with Paul saying, “Fine, you Jews don’t want to hear the Gospel, you don’t care that Jesus rose from the dead, conquered death, and now offers you communion with God by His blood, fine, I’ll go to the Gentiles, I’ll preach it to them, and you can live in your ignorance.” And with the Gospel leaving, who leaves? Jesus leaves. This is how it has gone in Europe for the most part too. People got too smart for the Bible, too enlightened to believe in Jesus’ resurrection, and instead prided themselves on pseudo-scientific myths about evolving from slime, and the Gospel stopped being preached. Jesus left.

And it’s something that can and does happen here too. Jesus leaves. When people don’t care about the Gospel, they lose it, and when they lose it, they lose Jesus and heaven. During the Covid crisis we’ve seen churches literally shut down, close doors, because as people don’t come to church they don’t give to the church. And then the church is no more. And this is nothing new. Jesus leaves when people don’t care enough about the Gospel to actually give of their mammon for the preaching of the Gospel. You can call that an economic reality, but really it’s a theological maxim. People don’t give money to the church, and I mean give generously, because they value other things more than they value the Gospel. Pure and simple. I spend money on cars, on going out, on sports, on tv, on booze, because I want these things. I give money to the church because I want it. Now the question is what is more worthy of my wanting? Jesus? Or a shiny car? And once again, I’m not preaching this to make you feel bad. If you do feel bad, that’s great, but I don’t want to hear, O boy, pastor really gave it to us this morning. That’s not the point. This isn’t a stewardship sermon. It’s a Jesus sermon. Jesus left Israel. He went to Tyre and Sidon. The worst thing I can possibly think of is that Jesus would leave me. It is the most horrible, nightmarish, hellish terror imaginable. I would rather sell my house and move into a dingy apartment, stacking my seven children in one bedroom and living on beans than go without church, go without receiving the body and blood of my Lord and singing with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I would give up anything, and I mean anything, rather than give up church. Now I’m not suggesting anyone sell his house and give everything to the church. I’m saying that we need to think this way, to actually mean what we confess, that Jesus is our priceless treasure, so that our lives reflect this, and that’s in far more than giving your money, it’s in reading the Bible at home, praying to your Father in heaven every morning and every night, doing daily devotions, making Jesus our all in all in everyday life. And Jesus will never leave. So long as we have His church, and love it, and listen to His Word, He is with us, He doesn’t leave His church, He is with us always, to the end of the age. This is His promise.

And it’s the Canaanite woman who teaches us this stance, this rigor of Christian faith, the clinging and wrestling with Jesus, that 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.

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 insanity of the world, because of the death that is constantly tallied in the media or the death that has struck your family or friends, because of the cancer 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 anti-Christian propaganda and sexual perversion endlessly streaming from Hollywood, 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. How much more should we, who are the new creation in Christ Jesus. So yes, you need mercy for your own sins, of course, but you need more than that, and your Lord Jesus knows you need it. So to stand in His presence, to know He’s here with His own body and blood for you, to know that you are surrounded by the family of God, the communion of saints, brothers and sisters in Christ who love 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 in fact. 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’d see it again. 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, not for sport but for 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 may insult you and call you a dog, and you’d better own it, because we deserve nothing, we’re sinners, but His blood and His Gospel will call 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 the blood He spilt for you. 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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