Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sermon for 2/28/21: Second Sunday in Lent

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Does God Hear?

Matthew 15:21-28



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



Today’s Gospel reading tells us about a faith that would not be turned aside. It was found in the woman of Canaan whose daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit. She heard that Jesus was there and sought Him out. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely demon-possessed.” Jesus did not answer, but His silence did not silence her. She continued to cry out for help, so much so that the disciples became annoyed. They were tired of hearing her cries and begged Jesus, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” Jesus answered: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Knowing that she was meeting with opposition from the disciples, who probably had already told her to leave, and refusing to be discouraged by the Lord’s reply, the woman came up to Him and knelt before Him, “Lord, help me:” three words that have often been on the lips of those who sought the Lord’s help, but perhaps never have they been more earnestly spoken than by this woman. And His answer to her seems completely out of character, doesn’t it? Though she was seeking nothing for herself, only pleading desperately on behalf of her daughter, Jesus said: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” But as surprising as His answer might seem, the response of this woman was equally astounding: “True, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” Jesus was testing this woman almost beyond the point of endurance, and yet, she comes through magnificently. And Jesus finally said to her: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

 “Have mercy on me, Lord!” “Lord, help me!” These cries are not foreign to any of us. This is the language of suffering, the language of confused and anxious humanity. These words are universal in meaning because they represent a need common to us all. What the Gentile woman said was, in essence, the plea of all the afflicted. It was the plea of Jairus for his daughter, the cry of the centurion for his servant. It is, in substance, what you and I have pleaded before God at the point of a severe need. It is what we have prayed in the face of sickness or before the threat of death. As long as there are sin-sick, frail, and suffering people, this petition for mercy will ascend to the throne of God.

But does it do any good? Does God hear? Does He care? Will He help? Are we just deceiving ourselves when we turn to God for help? If God hears anyone, does He make distinctions among those He hears? Perhaps there is help for others, but must I carry the full weight of my burden? Look at the woman in our text. She was no skeptic. Had she been, she would never have sought help from Jesus. Had she been skeptical, His way of dealing with her would have discouraged her. But she felt that she must make the Lord understand how important her need was. Of course, the Lord had mercy. He heard her plea, and her daughter was healed.

Are we as wise as this Gentile woman who brought her burden to Jesus? We may piously say: “Of course God’s children should seek His help in every trouble;” but then, do we sometimes try to carry our own burdens without a thought of the Lord? To this, Jesus answers: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” As we share our need with Him, He takes our concerns upon Himself. He who cares for us is the first one, not the last one, to whom we should bring our burdens. For us, as it was for her, our greatest concern is to bring our need, whatever it may be, to God, with the cry, “Lord, help me.”

But His answer may not always be as quick as the one given to the woman in our text. Perhaps it will be necessary to wait a while for an answer. Or it may be that the answer is different from what we expected. His answer may not seem at all miraculous, for it may be that He will lead us to a gradual solution, and in the process we grow in our reliance on Him. Perhaps the help we need is one that God will provide through one of His children on this earth whom He has uniquely equipped for just such a purpose.

As we face the problems and needs of life, we don’t always know just what the best answer may be. But we can be certain that God does. And that is why we pray, “Thy will be done...” It is always best to trust God to determine what shall be done. And if our trials must remain, He will give us the strength to endure them. If the burdens we bear cannot yet be set down, He will give us grace to carry them. Believing this, we can know the certainty of what Paul wrote: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” And so that we might know that God does care, He feeds us—not with crumbs from the master’s table, but from His own gracious hand. We receive nothing less than His body and blood for the remission of our sins. And, as we receive them in faith, we hear Him say to us and to all our needs and burdens: “Great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” 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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