Mar
20

Second Sunday in Lent

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1 Thessalonians 4: 1-8—Matthew 15: 21-28

Have mercy on me, O Lord thou Son of David

The story of our today’s Gospel begins with Jesus going in the region of Tyre and Sidon, two cities located outside of Israel and considered as Gentiles territory. The people living in that region were not Jews and did not observe the Law of Moses.  A Canaanite woman from that region came to Jesus crying: “Have mercy on me, O Lord Son of David”.  This woman must have heard the prophecies about the Messiah, the Son of David. She saw in Jesus the fulfillment of that prophesy. She must have heard what Jesus was doing, his miracles of healing and his compassion toward everyone in need. That gave her confidence to come forward with her request: “Have mercy on me, O Lord Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” When we read the gospels what we find is that in several occasions people come to Jesus crying out to him with the same words. We remember the blind men asking to see. A father requesting deliverance for his son. The Canaanite woman is seeking help for her daughter, who is tormented by the devil.

Suffering as we all experience it can drive someone astray or lead him to the Lord. When everything is moving smoothly in our life we take God’s blessings for granted. But when trial comes and we have no one else to run to, nowhere else to go, that’s when we turn to God. It doesn’t have to be that way. We should worship and praise him at all times and in all places. Paul said to the Thessalonians “In everything be thankful” (1Thessalonians 5:18). Whenever trial comes, God said, “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” That’s what the Canaanite woman is doing here when she comes to Jesus. In her day of trouble, she does not call on anyone else, but God. “Have mercy on me” she said. The mercy of God covers everything. We find this all the way through the Bible. The whole purpose of the Bible is to present God as merciful, to reveal God to man as merciful.

Jesus’ response

Jesus did not answer her a word. That’s surprising! That’s not what the woman was expecting. That’s not what we expect when we pray to God! Jesus always immediately responds to the needs of people he meets. What’s going on here? Is Jesus being rude, cold hearted? How do we explain the silence of Jesus?

We all experience that. Sometimes when we pray in our distress, we don’t get the answer we are expecting. I am here this morning to tell you that God wants you to know that it is normal for a Christian to at times feel as dry as bone spiritually. It is normal for a Christians to go through seasons in their lives when God seems to be absent. We have many bible scriptures that describe the “silence of God”.

Psalm 13:1-3: “1 LORD, how long will You continually forget me? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long will I store up anxious concerns within me, agony in my mind every day? How long will my enemy dominate me? 3 Consider me and answer, LORD, my God. Restore brightness to my eyes; otherwise, I will sleep in death.”

Psalm 22: 1-2 “1 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? [Why are You] so far from my deliverance and from my words of groaning? 2 My God, I cry by day, but You do not answer, by night, yet I have no rest.”

How do we then deal with this difficult trial of the silence of God?

First we must admit that every believer goes through the same season in his life. Secondly, we must have faith that God can change our situation whenever and however it pleases him to do it. Thirdly, know that you are not alone. God is with you. Jesus himself experienced such a time as this. We remember that he quoted Psalm 22 while he was on the cross. You can therefore go to him knowing that he has been where you are. He knows the pains and loneliness before God. You are not alone. You are in good company. And Jesus is inviting you to come to him to find encouragement in the midst of the silence of God.

The first response that the Canaanite woman of our gospel receives is silence. It seems that Jesus is saying “Get lost, a lousy Gentile like you doesn’t deserve any help”. Because Jesus tells her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” That’s true. But the woman is not discouraged by that answer of Jesus. She persists because she has faith in what Jesus can do.

She is not discouraged. Think of the obstacles that her God-given faith fought through: She was not discouraged by Jesus’ initial silence, when he did not answer her a word. She was not discouraged by the comment of the disciples, “Send her away.” She was neither discouraged by Jesus’ comment about being sent only to the lost sheep of Israel nor by his remark about the dogs eating the bread of the children. This woman simply does not give up. She perseveres. Her faith produced by the Spirit working through the word overcomes all these obstacles.

Beloved, God wants to give you that same kind of faith–persevering faith in a merciful Lord. God wants you to come to Jesus, time and time again, in spite of any obstacles you may face. It is so easy to give up. People do it all the time. When there is suffering in their life, they give up and think that God doesn’t care. When something goes wrong in their life, people give up and stop coming to Jesus. When something at church doesn’t go the way they like, people give up and stop coming to church. But God does not want you to give up. He wants you to persevere, in faith, like the Canaanite woman did, and to seek–and find–his mercy and blessing.