Bible Text: Matthew 15:21-28 | Preacher: Rev. Alan Kornacki Jr. | Series: 2018
Whenever the devil comes at us “like a roaring lion,” we are to “resist him, steadfast in the faith.” And how do we resist him? Turn to the Lord in prayer. Cry out, “Lord, help me. I am too weak, and I am no match for the devil. His temptations overwhelm me. So I beg you, have mercy on me and help me.” Only pride keeps us from saying such a prayer. And pride is the delusion that we have the ability, the wits, and the strength to lead ourselves out of temptation and deliver ourselves from evil.
The woman who threw herself at our Lord’s feet seems to suffer no such pride. Her begging is shameless. She embarrasses the disciples and, as we see her in our mind’s eye, it embarrasses us. She prays without caring about what others think. And that is good. We should imitate her, for “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” So we must resist not only the devil, but also our own pride—the notion that we can make do, that God is just waiting for us to prove our worth.
The God who wants to save you from believing in yourself rather than relying solely on Him must Himself crush your self-belief. He may even use Satan to do so. And so, while you pray, God Himself might put you to the test—never to harm, always to strengthen your soul. He must overcome the Old Adam within you by killing your pride. He did so with Job. He did so with Abraham. And He does so with this poor, pitiable woman.
What is so pitiable about this woman is not that her daughter is demon-possessed. What is most pitiable of all is what she says. She cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me.” On me!? Why was she thinking of herself first? You’d think she would say, “Never mind me; have mercy on my daughter!” She prays only for herself because she feels put upon by having such a burden. Do you see where your pride leads you? Do you see the result of self-belief? It leads you to think only of yourself. It leads you to complain to God about your problems, to blame others for your troubles. And it leads you to feel sorry: not for others, not for your sins, but only for yourself. Is it any wonder, then, that our Lord seems to ignore her prayer? He even refuses to hear the intercessions of the disciples. Finally He seems to dismiss her. Our Lord treats her the way He does not out of disgust; not because of anger; but out of mercy—a mercy that we can barely see, yet a mercy that is so sweet only because it looks so harsh.
And where is that mercy? Jesus says that He would never toss the children’s bread to the little dogs. With those words, Jesus throws this woman a crumb, a tiny morsel of His mercy. And with that, the Light shines in her heart. True faith arises, and it dawns on her how it really is with our Lord. He has treated her this way because she is as much wracked with the devil as her daughter. The only difference is that everyone could see her daughter’s demon-possession, while this mother hid her pride and self-belief so much that she even hid it from herself.
Now she begins to see the Light. Quickly, without letting a second go by, she lunges for the crumb of mercy that Jesus shows her. “Yes, Lord,” she says. “You have told the truth about me. I am like those selfish little dogs. I am one of them, and worse than all of them. Yet, like a kind master, You have held out a crumb so that I might taste more of Your unending mercy.”
There is no shame in being a dog, especially when your Master is the Lord. He will not leave you hungry. He provides for you—not just daily bread, but also His holy body and blood. These seem like meager crumbs, but they are a feast which will sustain you for this life and for eternal life. 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.