Second Sunday in Lent - "Persistence in Prayer; and Gender-Rejection, Gender-Confusion"
[Matthew 15:21-28] And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
God Is Faithful, Be Persistent in Prayer
“But He did not answer her a word.” And He was not wrong. The Canaanite woman did not belong there – the Canaanites were supposed to have been driven from the land long ago. And, in truth, how much of her current plight may have been her own fault – the fruit of her sin found in the spiritual distress of her child?
What I mean, is that this demon-oppression doesn’t come from nowhere. God had warned Israel that the presence of Canaanites in the land would lead them to the worship of false spirits. How much more might this woman, a Canaanite herself, be part of a long lineage of those whose worship invited such demonic oppression into the land?
We can’t know for sure. But we can relate to this common experience: that the distress – and the failure in faith – of children is so often the fruit of the parents. What starts as a root in one generation sprouts into a sapling in the next, and into a full-grown tree in the next after that.
This is biblical. God says, “I am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation” [Exodus 20:5]. Our failures to love God with all our heart pass down in worse ways to those after us. Original sin itself passes down from parent to child. And we sometimes see the fruit of our mistakes reflecting back at us.
This is a hard reality. Yet it is a situation common to us all. Facing this hard truth is for the healing of wounds that are there – and faith knows that God can reverse even our errors.
In the Canaanite woman of today’s Gospel reading, you and I are learning what great faith is. The Canaanite woman is crying out in distress for what? For the healing of her daughter – that her daughter would be released from the devil’s grip. The Canaanite woman has come to know who Jesus is, she calls Him by name, “O Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me”. And the Lord is silent to her. “He did not answer her a word,”
The disciples are of no help to her. The Lord finally does answer her with a rejection of her request: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The woman’s response to this, amazingly, is to worship. It says she knelt – but it’s the Greek word for ‘worship’. She came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me.” But it’s another “No” from the Lord: “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.”
Our response to this is that it’s so harsh. But, in truth, brothers and sisters, in all His words, and His silence, our Lord has not erred. He’s not wrong. He’s not wrong when I cry out in distress and He’s silent to me. He’s not wrong when He says, “Who are you?!” Jesus is not wrong or unjust to say to any one of us, “No. This table is not yours. You are, by your own fault and wrongdoing, a dog and not a man. What I have is not yours by right.”
I once heard someone ask an older pastor, “What is repentance?” And the old pastor didn’t say, “Repentance is trying your best, or doing better.” Instead, he said, “Repentance is me realizing that I’m nothing but a dirty dog, that I’m no good” – that the Lord doesn’t owe me His goodness. Yet faith is knowing that He gives His goodness nonetheless. “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.”
“Yes, Lord – Your silence is right. Yes, Lord – Your ‘No’ is just. The bread You have I am not owed. Nonetheless, I know that You will be good to me.” “O woman, great is your faith!”
Faith is great when it does not believe myself to be great, but only clings to the One who is great and who does good, even to the ungodly [Romans 5:6].
The false worship of the Canaanites led to great evils in the land of Israel – evils that the children of Israel themselves participated in – and spiritual evil had been laid even upon this Canaanite woman’s daughter. With this, I’m thinking of some evils that are befalling the generations after us and how, in fact, our current failures to be faithful to God’s Word – among ourselves – is creating an inheritance of great harm for those after us.
This past week, on Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill called the “Equality Act”. It’s a bill that, if it passes the Senate, would enforce current gender-confusion ideology upon the nation as law. It’s not a bill that protects transgender persons from harm – no one should be mistreated by another – but it’s a bill that would enforce as law a particular transgender philosophy/ideology that’s in conflict with basic Christian beliefs. It would become nearly impossible to successfully navigate the career world and maintain a faithful confession of God’s Word. And, if enforced, it puts, especially, woman and young children into harm’s way in very specific ways.
Where did this all begin? Not in the young, but in the old. Current gender-confusion among the young is only the just consequence of gender-rejection in the marriages and churches of their parents.
Gender-rejection. Consider these words of Scripture: “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” [1 Corinthians 11:3]. And, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” [Ephesians 5:22-25,33].
In my experience, even among Missouri Synod Lutherans, these words are scoffed at, rejected, and are not lived as God’s Word. These words are perhaps most avoided by clergy and church-leadership. As true male and female, according to the order given in God’s Word, has been rejected in the marriages of the parents, now male and female has been confused among kids and grandkids. They don’t know what male and female is in themselves because their parents did not truly live as male and female in their marriages, according to God’s Word. And the Church has not lived according to male and female, but as if all are the same. The result is that now we don’t know which is either.
Adam and Eve scoffed at God’s command – they didn’t believe it to be best, but believed another way. By this one rejection of God’s Word, all mankind fell into sin and into oppression under the devil. How could it be that scoffing at God’s Word in regards to male and female in marriage and in God’s Kingdom, the Church – how could it be that that wouldn’t lead also to a great fall? It has. And, like with this Canaanite woman, it is daughters and sons who suffer the distress. And we can know for sure that we’ve invited it.
So, what should we do with all of this? Pray. Pray with the faith that says, “Yes, Lord – I am a guilty dog – yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table” – “I know that you are still willing to do good.”
Jesus answered the Canaanite woman. And not long after, Jesus died on the cross for the Canaanite woman and for her daughter. He healed them in full. Jesus carried your sins on the cross and that of your children to heal you and them in full. Your sins are forgiven.
Pray, therefore, for your children and grandchildren with courage – courage which comes from faith, believing that the Lord has forgiven. The Canaanite woman’s bread was that her daughter be healed. Pray with persistence, even through the Lord’s silence and hard answers, because He does desire no less to give you that same bread and to be good to you. Amen.