Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sermon for 3/16/14--Lent II



Great Faith

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

If this woman's faith was so great, why wasn't her daughter healed until Jesus showed up? If she had such great faith, why didn’t her will that her daughter be healed come to pass? Why didn't this great faith cause the demon to go flying from her poor daughter? The answer is a simple one. Faith doesn't drive out the devil. Faith doesn't save. Only Jesus can cast out Satan. Only Jesus can save. In this account of this precious and persistent Canaanite woman, the Lord would teach us true repentance and true faith which trusts in Christ and His gifts and promises, not something inside of us.

Let us therefore repent of our false notions of faith. Sometimes you will hear people say, after they come through a tough time or some tragedy, “My faith got me through it.” If you ask some people what makes them Christians or why they are saved, they will say, “Because I believe.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not be na├»ve. Such thinking is common! The world is filled with preachers who teach that some decision you make, some sincerity in yourself, makes peace for you with God. “I accepted Jesus into my heart.” “I made Him my Lord.” “I decided to follow Him.” And people will believe that their believing is what saves them! Here is the mistake we make when we read about this wonderful Gentile woman. We think that Jesus helps her daughter because He is impressed with her persistence. “Wow,” says Jesus, “You really don't give up, do you? I'm impressed. I'll reward your persistence and faith by healing your daughter.” That's how most people read these words. But Jesus is not impressed by the whims of human hearts. He does what He does, not because something in this woman compels Him, but because He is Jesus; that is what Jesus does. So let us repent, dear Christians, of thinking of faith as some measure of persistence inside us which is the basis for our salvation.

True and saving faith is a gift from God, a gift which clings to Jesus and His gifts and promises. Faith which is from the Holy Spirit is a lively confidence that rejects anything in us and trusts instead in Christ and His Word and promises. This woman begs Jesus to heal her daughter because she knows that's the kind of Jesus He is. Even when He calls her a dog, she persists—not because persistence is a good way to get noticed, but because her faith has attached itself to Jesus, the One who will save. You can always tell who someone’s true god is by what their faith talks about. One person says, “I'm saved because I believe. I have faith in God or Jesus. Basically I'm a good person. I am a Christian because I have faith.” Notice who it is doing all the work of faith: “I.” But true faith confesses Jesus: “Lord, Son of David; have mercy upon me and heal my daughter! Help me, Lord!” And when true faith does notice itself, it confesses, “Yes, I am a dog.” Even when Jesus calls her a dog, she clings to Him. “Even the little dogs get the crumbs from their Lord's table.” That's all she needs. A few crumbs from Jesus and her daughter will be saved. True and saving faith can only speak about and glorify Jesus.

Jesus gives her more than the crumbs she seeks. He gives her salvation. This is why He came. The One who is sent “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” is the Lamb of God who is sacrificed on Calvary. He who came walking among the Gentiles hangs upon the cross for Gentile and Jew alike. He hangs there for you. This is indeed the Son of David, the only-begotten Son of the Father who has come to set you free from sin and death. Faith clings to this Jesus and no other. This woman's encounter with Jesus shows us what the life of faith, the life of a Christian, is like. The Lord drives the devil out of this woman's daughter. That points us to the work of God's Word in the water of Holy Baptism. There at the font, Christ drove Satan from you and filled you with His Holy Spirit. His words, “Let it be done for you as you desire,” point you to the words of Holy Absolution which declares that His mercy is indeed yours; your sins are forgiven. And the crumbs from the Lord's Table? These so-called crumbs are the feast of Christ's Body and Blood, given for the forgiveness of sins.

Do you have faith, dear Christians? Then instead of speaking about your faith, come and receive God’s gifts. Do you have faith? Then live daily in your baptism. Be absolved of your sins. Feast upon the food of Christ's Table. That is what makes faith great: your Jesus who saves you is great. Faith looks to Him and His gifts, never to itself. We are truly nothing but dogs, and our only hope is that something will fall from our Lord's Table. But Now in Christ we are God's children, and He treats us so by giving us what belongs to the children of the Father. Your faith, your Jesus, has saved you. You have been made well from this very hour. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.   

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.  

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