Pastor's Corner: Affliction and faith
A woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon possessed." But He answered her not a word. Matthew 15:22,23 (v. 21-28)
Sometime it seems as if God is ignoring us in the same way Jesus appears to be ignoring this poor woman. Our reason demands to know why Jesus should act like this. How could God let "bad" things happen to us? Why must we suffer? Our old nature is even so bold as to pass judgment on God and His actions, not realizing it is we who are judged and found lacking by His promises, the very things we should rely upon.
The Gospels tell us that reports about Jesus spread outside the regions of Galilee and Judea. People came from Tyre and Sidon (this woman's home) to be healed by Him (Mk. 3:7,8; 7:25). When Jesus came to her district, could she, a Gentile, expect help from Him? This woman's daughter needs relief from a tormenting demon even though she is not part of Israel. Such affliction reveals a need and drives her to seek help; the self-righteous feel no such need (Mk. 2:17).
Jesus delays His answer in order to draw out of this woman a confession of what she believes, and then to hold her before His disciples and His Church as an example of faith (v. 27,28). She believes and relies upon what she has heard about Jesus and trusts that He will help her, even when it appears otherwise (v. 24,26). She is not being tested to see if she can impress God, but to reveal the nature of genuine faith. It relies upon God's promises, even when He seems to be unfaithful (Job 13:15ff; Prov. 3:11f; 2 Cor 12:7ff).
The great challenge to us and our lack of faith is that when we are given God's promises, do we expect more proof, neatly packaged and meeting our requirements for certainty? Do we demand something we can measure and judge? Do we seek assurance in an appealing appearance, a pleasing emotion, or a "successful" outcome?
What we are given is promises; promises in the Gospel, in Baptism, in the absolution, and in the Sacrament of the Altar. These promises are tied to a crucified Savior and the apostolic reports of His resurrection. The Spirit uses these promises to create faith in the Crucified (2 Thes. 2:13f).
Christianity is not about impressing God with our great leaps of faith, but in acknowledging we are sinners ("dogs"; v. 27) whose need for a Savior is fulfilled in the incarnate Son of God (1 Tim. 1:15b). The Church's genuine "worship" is to believe God's promises and to look to our Lord for all we need (v. 25), whether for this life or for the life to come. "My Lord, hurry to help me!" (v. 25); "Let it be so" (v. 28).