Crying for Mercy

Sermon for Reminiscere based on Matthew 15:21-28

Dear people crying for mercy: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus did not answer her a word. The Canaanite woman begged for help for her daughter. She knew she had come to the only one who could help. She had heard of His healing of others. She had heard that He is kind and loving; that He is full of compassion and pity. She knew He had the power to help, so she cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But He did not answer her a word.

When we experience silence from God in response to our prayers, our flesh responds with thinking that what we have heard about Christ must not be true. The flesh grows impatient when things go wrong. The flesh trusts what it sees and feels, but does not trust the Word of God.

The Canaanite woman would not believe that Christ did not hear her. She would not believe that He would forever remain silent. She would not believe that He would refuse to help her or deal harshly with her. His silence did not drive her away. She continued to beg Jesus for mercy.

The disciples got embarrassed. They were probably confused. Why is Jesus not helping this poor woman? Why is He not even answering her? He’s been teaching us, “Ask, and it will be given to you,” (Matt. 7:7) but here is this woman asking and Jesus is not giving. He’s just ignoring her.

Then she started to call after them. The disciples are perhaps embarrassed for her. She seems so pathetic. She’s being ignored and everyone can see it, but she’s still crying out for help. So the disciples ask Jesus to send her away. What good does it do anyone to have this public spectacle as they travel along their way? If Jesus is not going to help or even respond, why should she keep calling after them? If He is going to help, then do it already so that she will stop calling after them!

Jesus answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” So, the woman got a response, but it went from bad to worse. She called Him the Son of David, acknowledging Him as the promised Saviour of the world, and when He finally responded to her, He said that He did not come for anyone except the house of Israel. She has no right to expect help from Him.

The Canaanite woman did not claim the right to expect help. She fell down before Jesus and begged Him, “Lord, help me!” She knew that He could help her. There is no one else who could help. She had no right to expect help, but she still believed that He would help. She believed that He is merciful.

Still, it only got worse. Jesus responded, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” The bread which belongs to the children of Israel is for them to eat. It is not for the unclean Gentiles, like her.

Where all we hear is insult, she hears hope. Where we hear no, her faith hears yes. She is not a child of Israel, but she belongs in the house. Even the dogs get fed in their master’s house. It may be scraps that fall from the children, but that was enough for her.

She was unclean. She was sinful. She was unworthy. She did not present her prayer to Jesus based on her cleanness, sinlessness, or worthiness. She presented her prayer based on Jesus’ mercy and compassion. She knew that with Jesus, there is no shortage of bread. The children can all eat enough, and there will still be some for her. She was content with the crumbs from the floor, knowing that even they would satisfy her; that they would be more than enough.

Jesus did come to save the lost house of Israel, but He also came to save the whole lost world. He came to save you.

He came to save you from your uncleanness. He came to save you from your sin. He came to save you in spite of your unworthiness. Jesus’ death in your place covers your uncleanness, sin, and unworthiness. He doesn’t just give you crumbs on the floor. He doesn’t just give you bread for children, but He gives you Himself, His risen body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of all your sins.

Jesus’ forgiveness is not finite. It is infinite. It doesn’t run out. He is the Bread of Life. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever (John 6:51).

Your uncleanness, sin, and unworthiness will not prevent Jesus from hearing your cries for mercy or your prayers. Repent of your sins and throw yourself upon the mercy of Christ. He is merciful. You know that He is merciful because He has had mercy on you. Instead of punishing you for your sins as you deserve, He took your sins on Himself. He suffered and died for your sins. He has saved you eternally and you have no punishment waiting for you when you die from this life.

Since Christ has earned eternal life for you, do you think He will withhold lesser things from you? After grief, He will give relief. He will strengthen your faith through the trials of this life even if you experience it as silence, insult, or harshness. Throw yourself upon His mercy. He will bring you through it all to the joys of eternal life.

Yet even though I suffer The world’s unpleasantness,

And though the days grow rougher And bring me great distress,

That day of bliss divine, Which knows no end or measure,

And Christ who is my pleasure, Forever shall be mine. (LSB 713 st. 6) Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


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