Sermon: “The Merciful Savior”
LSB Series A; Proper 15
The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost; August 16, 2020
Gospel Reading: Matthew 15:21-28
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Do you like crumbs? Do you like the crumbs of a cookie, or perhaps some cake, or maybe from the pie? Do you like crumbs? You see, most people are not content with the crumbs. They want the whole cookie, the whole piece of cake, or the whole piece of pie. But crumbs…you have got to be kidding me.
Our kids have had this tendency to like crumbs. Now what I am about to share with you might make you a little bit uncomfortable and question what goes on in our household, but I take that risk nonetheless. You see, there have been times in our household where the kids when they were in their highchair at a young age have not finished their meal. Yet in the course of that meal, they have managed to make a mess, and there are crumbs everywhere. After giving up trying to get them to eat their food, we clean them up and put them back down on the floor to play. And in those times where we haven’t swept up fast enough, sure enough, the very food that they wouldn’t eat before, they are eating like nobody’s business off of the floor. Though it is mere crumbs, they delight in it as if it is a feast.
This woman in our text was offered mere crumbs from Jesus. After having begged for mercy for her demon possessed daughter, she now knelt at Jesus feet and said, “Lord, help me.” And Jesus’ response was, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Crumbs. She was content with crumbs. Not a whole piece. Crumbs. One might even say she was overjoyed to receive crumbs.
Here she was a Canaanite woman, a reject, an outcast. A Canaanite was a descendent of Ham, the awful son of Noah who had defiled his own father by exposing his nakedness and subjected his family to sin and shame. To a Jew, Canaanites were not worth anyone’s time. They were mere dogs, and they were easily cast aside.
To this woman though, what may have seemed like an insult, was an invitation. It was an invitation to receive something she never thought possible as a Canaanite. She was being invited to receive crumbs of mercy from the promised Messiah.
To the disciples, however, this woman wasn’t even worth receiving the crumbs. The disciples literally begged for Jesus to send her away. They had done the same with the crowd of five thousand that were like sheep without a shepherd, hungry in the wilderness, after having come to listen to Jesus.
If the disciples had their choice, this woman would starve to death. They were just fine with that. She was a reject.
Is there someone in your life that you have rejected and treated as an outcast? Is there someone whom you have deemed not worth your time? Is there someone you are content to see die outside of the grace and mercy of God?
The disciples were. They were alright with their being included. But this woman was a Gentile. This woman deserved to be damned.
Is that how we sometimes feel toward others? We like to think that we don’t take it that far, but every time we draw that proverbial line in the sand, we allow our hatred and malice toward others to be exposed.
Is that how we treat someone of a different race? Perhaps it is someone of a different political party? How quick are we to vilify others and think that they are not even worth a crumb of mercy from us.
Imagine if Jesus had treated this woman this way. Imagine if he had just kicked her to the curb and rejected her. The disciples probably would have thought nothing of it. They probably would have even applauded such action. After all, they were Jews, and they deserved to be on their rightful thrones of the hierarchy…especially when it came to being around a Canaanite.
See how easy it is for people to become filled with arrogance and pride, but all the while do it at the expense of someone else, at the expense of their receiving compassion and mercy.
The ironic thing is that the very thing we often won’t offer others, is exactly what we desire for ourselves. In fact, we may even think we are entitled to the mercy we seek. We look at how we live, or the stuff we have, and we think we are pretty good people. And as good people, we not only deserve the crumbs, but we deserve the whole piece.
Truth is, we are all beggars before God. We all have something to learn from this woman. There she was, ‘kneeling’ before the Savior of the world. She didn’t care that the disciples had treated her poorly. Her focus wasn’t on them. Her focus was on her Savior.
Is that where our focus is? Do we have our eyes fixed on Jesus as He graciously offers us crumbs of mercy as fellow Gentiles, or are we more interested in comparing ourselves to others, puffing ourselves up, and making ourselves look good at others’ expense?
If that is the case, we have some repenting to do. As we face a world right now where we are so quick to vilify others as the enemy, we all need to take a moment and have a gut check. No matter our political party, our race, or anything of the sort makes us better than someone else. We are all, and I mean ‘all’ deserving of death and damnation. We are all sinners, and we all need to confess those sins. To say otherwise is to reject the very One who offers crumbs of mercy.
Being a Christian is a life of humble begging before the Almighty God. It is coming to terms with the fact that we are nothing without Jesus. Everything we have comes from Him. Everything.
Look at what He is offering us here today. He is welcoming us into His presence to hear His holy Word. He is not treating us as outcasts or rejects. He is calling us His beloved children. He is welcoming us to His table in His house. Though it may appear to be a mere crumb as it is only a small wafer, in that wafer is the bread of Life, Jesus Himself. It may appear to be a sip of wine, but in that wine is the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes all of our sins away.
All of our sins. This is not just a crumb here. It’s not even a piece. It’s the whole thing. All of our sins are taken into the very body and blood of Jesus. All of our sins are done away with by the Savior of the world who delights in giving us mercy. And not because we are entitled to it or deserve it. We don’t deserve mercy.
You see, mercy is not getting what we do deserve. Mercy is God taking upon Himself and into Himself everything that we do deserve. Mercy is Jesus becoming the outcast by dying on the outskirts of town. Mercy is Jesus being condemned as a criminal even though He was innocent. Mercy is Jesus being treated as if He wasn’t worth anyone’s time as He was spat upon, mocked, and ridiculed. Mercy is Jesus calling out to His Father and getting no reply. Mercy is Jesus exchanging our punishment of sin, death, and hell, and giving us His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
See here in this text that it is all about the mercy of a Savior who desires ‘all’ to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. We who were outcasts, who often lack compassion and mercy, He mercifully has welcomed us here today. He has welcomed us into His presence to beg for forgiveness and He graciously gives it to us, and makes us His own. Though, just like that Canaanite woman, we have no business being a part of His family, baptized into His name, we are God’s children nonetheless.
In a matter of moments, we will forego the crumbs, and go directly to the feast, the foretaste of the feast to come. And it won’t be long and we will all be dining together, brothers and sisters in Christ, of all nations, in the halls of heaven, and every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Until that day comes, we rejoice in the crumbs of mercy as Jesus offers them knowing that whatever Jesus gives is more than enough as we cry out in the Kyrie week after week: Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. And that is exactly what He gives, for Jesus is our Merciful Savior. In His name. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.