Monday, March 5, 2012

Great is Your Faith!

Matthew 15:21-28 (ESV)
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. [22] And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon." [23] But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us." [24] He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." [25] But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." [26] And he answered, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." [27] She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." [28] Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.
“O woman, great is your faith!” Jesus calls this woman’s faith great. Because of it he saves her daughter, even though at first he made it seem as if he did not want to. Actually the story is quite remarkable. It is remarkable that this woman believes at all, much less that she believes so strongly, that no matter how harsh Jesus and the disciples treat her, no matter how much he tries to ignore her, she doesn’t give up, doesn’t let go. She may not wrestle with him the same way that Jacob wrestled with God, but nonetheless her faith wrestles with him, and she does not let go until she is blessed and her daughter is saved.
Faith, for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes (murderers, rapists, fornicators, adulterers, drunkards, gossipers, little children and even you) in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16, Bo Giertz calls that verse the little Bible. It summarizes all of scripture in such a simple manner. Faith saves. That is faith saves when it is placed in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God who died for our sins, and rose to give us life. Faith in him alone.
But faith is a funny thing, rather hard to define at times. I think this is where most people get into trouble. It is a misconception concerning the nature of faith that keeps Baptists from baptizing children, a misconception in my mind that comes dangerously close to unbelief. For they let that conception of faith run roughshod over scripture, and over ride scriptures own definition of faith, Christ’s own statements concerning faith, to the point where they seem not to believe this Jesus in whom they claim to believe. He says the little ones have faith. “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “ (Matthew 18:6 (ESV)
See we often get faith a bit confused with something we do. I suppose in the same way that we get sin confused with things we do. And there is truth to both. Sin manifests itself in sinful acts. Faith manifests itself in faithful acts. But we dare not let the acts, the deeds define the thing itself. Sin is much deeper than our actions, so too faith.
Faith, is a living gift from God, it is the eternal life he gives to you, and sustains in you. Scripture attrivutes the gift of faith both to Baptism and to the hearing the word of God. Of course baptism is a one time thing, but the life of faith trusts in God’s word, and listens to it continually. We don’t know from whence this woman received her faith. It is safe to assume though, that living not to far from Galillee where Jesus was preaching and teaching, a distance that is shorter than here to salt lake, she heard of his preaching and miracles, and in hearing she believed. She knew who Jesus was. She let that faith grow inside her. When he daughter was sick she knew who it was that would save her. She went to wrestle with Jesus. She had strong faith.
Strong faith that is marked by a fear, love and trust in Jesus above all things, This is faith. Her faith in jesus was so strong that it denied her own pride. She knew Jesus didn’t owe her or her daughter anything. She knew she was an unworthy sinner. She had been brought up worshiping the false God’s of Canaan. The Jewish people called them dogs. Jesus hints at this. Talking about taking bread from children, and throwing it to dogs. She does not bat an eye. She merely points out that dogs get the crumbs that fall from the children, and she will settle for this. She denies her pride, so as to receive blessing from the master’s table.
We might do the same, if we want our faith to grow. Jesus doesn’t give us crumbs from the table. He gives us the very bread of life, when he gives us himself in the lord’s supper, and forgives us our sins. Do we approach his table proudly thinking that his forgiveness is something we deserve, something we have a right too? Do we think we have earned it? Here Christ forgives sins. Here Christ forgives you, despite yourself. Despite your pride. No we don’t deserve it. We though children of God, most often live lives indistinguishable from that of a dog. Today we even brag about this. We dare not approach his table in pride.
Pride ruins faith. Pride thinks it is too good for forgiveness. Pride refuses to forgive, and refuses to be forgiven. Pride eats and drinks judgment upon itself. With the yardstick you measure… But faith, faith receives forgiveness. And when it is ever so hard, faith wrestles with God and holds him to his promises. Because faith knows that there is no other savior. Faith knows that as prideful as one may be he is a sinner that cannot save himself. And yet faith, that wonderful gift of God, teaches us to fear love and trust in Jesus who died for our sins. So it is faith craves forgiveness, faith craves the word of God and the bread of life so that it may continually grow stronger, the way small children at the table of the master crave the bread they need, the way dogs so crave the food they need that they can’t help but stare at every bite the master takes, and fight for the crumbs that fall from the table losing all pride. And the master, our Lord Jesus Christ, he does not make us wait, does not make us fight. But says, take eat this is my body given for you. Take drink this cup is the new testament in my blood given for you for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus looks upon you and says your sins are forgiven.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus Our Lord. Amen.

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