Let us pray: Dear Savior, although we often feel weak and powerless, we Christians possess a powerful force. Through Your gift of faith, we have been given the gifts of the Spirit which nothing in this creation can stand against. Today move and inspire us to use those gifts not only for our own spiritual well-being, but for the well-being of others, too. For then Your name truly will be made holy by our Spirit-induced actions! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF FAITH AND THE CENTER OF FAITH!
TEXT: Matthew 15: 21-28
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Do you believe in demon possession? I do. I believe it first, because Scripture says so, as in our lesson, and secondly, because I personally know of one case of demon possession. Let me tell you about it. And as I do envision the heart-ache that this mother in our text must have felt.
She was a beautiful young woman, about 17 years old. Her family was staunchly Lutheran. There was no sexual abuse, drug abuse, or any other kind of abuse in her family. One day, out of the blue, she had a 180 degree change in her personality. Her parents were fit to be tied. They turned to medical doctors for help. They visited various psychiatrists. For a while she was institutionalized. She became more manageable, but always something wasn’t right and everyone around her knew it. As she became older, she met a kind fellow and they fell in love. But, she would have those “spells” of uncontrollable distress and her fiancée didn’t know where to turn. Finally, her cousin made an appointment with an exorcist in a nearby city. Her fiancée went along and waited in the anteroom. The cousin accompanied her into the office with that pastor. After talking with her, praying with her and for her, and reading Scripture, he called on the demon to depart. Her eyes rolled back in her head, she shook and shook, and eventually landed in a heap. Then they all heard it. They heard footsteps treading across the floor to the door. It opened, more footsteps echoed through the anteroom, and then the outside door opened and closed as the demon departed. However, the exorcist informed her cousin: “Well, I was able to cast out one demon, but there are many in her, I’ve done what I can.”
Over the years, that woman was married to that kind fellow, and had a couple of kids. Today they are grown and have children of their own. But, she still has those “spells”, she’s still a bit odd, and if any of you were to get a card or letter from her, as I do on occasion, you’d look at the impossible writing and conclude: Something is definitely not right with this woman!
Now, today’s lesson is not about demon possession or exorcism. Instead, it is about faith and the power of faith. And since each Christian possesses saving faith, all of you need to be reminded that:
TRUE FAITH IS A POWERFUL FORCE!
The time frame is the last half year of Christ’s earthly ministry. The place is just outside of Jewish territory, the area of Tyre and Sidon, old Phoenician or Canaanite country. The very fact that Christ went there shows that He was the Savior of all people—Jew and Gentile alike. A Canaanite woman, a mother, comes to Him and cries out: “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”
Obviously this gentile woman knew who Jesus was. Good news, news of miracles and healings done by Christ had spread, even to non-Jewish territory. And obviously by her greeting of honor and respect, she had a fledgling faith. She, too, was fit-to-be-tied and beyond her depth. She, too, needed help. And she turned to the One Who had the power to help. When you’re troubled and confused and out of your depth, do you turn to Christ, as well? I hope so.
Note well that this mother accepted demon possession as a fact. So did the disciples. So did Christ. I happened then and it happens even today. You’d think she would be afraid of her daughter knowing all this. But love is a powerful force. And true faith is even more powerful, as we’re about to see.
Upon hearing this plea for help, Christ says and does nothing. It’s not that He’s uncaring or oblivious. He just wants to test her faith a bit and drive her deeper into His warm embrace. However, the disciples are embarrassed by her plea and her heritage. Good Jews had an aversion to Canaanites. They shunned them. And they do so here. “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us,” they said.
No doubt the woman heard all this. Would such persecution of your faith by Christ’s very disciples jar you? Would it cause you to turn away and go back home sorrowful? Well, not this woman! She keeps on pleading. Then Jesus gives a seemingly hope-dashing answer: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” But, I ask you: “Who are those lost sheep?” Are they only folks who have an ethnic or common DNA link to the Jews? No! For Scripture says elsewhere that God’s true Israel, His true chosen people, are linked to Him via faith! Yes, true faith is a powerful force because it links us with Christ and through it we’re adopted into His family. All the benefits of His life, death and resurrection become ours!
This woman knew more theology than the disciples. She knew all this. So, she keeps pleading: “Lord, help me!” And then Jesus replies to her: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” By this answer, He’s testing her faith even more. He’s trying to see whether or not she truly understands that true faith, saving faith, transcends societal and ethnic divisions. By her answer to Jesus, she shows not only her humility, but her understanding of Biblical truth, as well. “Yes, Lord,’ she said, ‘but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters table.”
“Then Jesus answered: “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”
True faith is a powerful force! Why? Why was she able to stand fearlessly against a demon, to stand fearlessly against the disciples’ scorn, to stand up fearlessly to Christ’s testing of her which seemed, on the surface, to be off-putting? She was able to do all this because she trusted God’s Word as found in her Old Testament. She had heard of the miracles and Christ’s preaching and through the Spirit’s power, she took it to heart. And once it was in her heart, nothing could dislodge it. So, in the end, that power of faith, which was really the power of Christ, God’s Son, saved her soul, helped heal her daughter, and taught the disciples and all of us a great lesson. That lesson being: True Faith is a powerful force!
By God’s grace you trust in Jesus, too. You’ve been given the gift of faith, too. Put it into practice, even if means arguing your case before God Himself, and you know what? The reward of Christ’s victory of sin, Satan, and death, revealed by that empty tomb will shine forth in and through you–just like this amazing woman! Amen