Sunday, February 21, 2016

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: Second Sunday in Lent: Reminiscere – Persistent Faith: The Woman of Canaan

Matt 15:21-28
21 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, 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.”
23 But He answered her not a word.
And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Luther's Notes

21 If Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. 
The woman of Canaan. In this woman is represented to us the struggle of faith, where not only the person, but all other circumstances are so unfavorable that they could not be worse. For first, she is a heathen woman. It is no fun, when conscience confronts and says, O you are none of those that should ask, you do not belong to Christ; let Paul or Peter pray, but our God will not hear you, you have no faith; perhaps you are not one of the elect. But so great is that woman's heart, and her trust in God, that she thinks, He will not forsake me. With such confidence she overlooks the fact that she is a heathen. Thus do thou also say, I may be what I am, it matters not.

Thou Son of David. She gives herewith a beautiful, glorious confession of her faith in him, that he is the promised Savior, whom God hath sent into the world.

23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 
He answered her not a word. Is this that good and friendly man? Or are these the good words which I have heard spoken of him and in which I have confided? It can not be true, he is thine enemy, and wants nothing to do with thee. Oh, this is a hard rebuff, when God shows him self so earnest and angry, and hides his grace so high and so deep, as those know very well, who feel and suppose in their hearts, that he will not keep what he has promised. Yet, in spite of this, like that woman, we must cling to the word only.

The disciples became tired of the crying of the woman; in their mind they are more pious than Christ himself.

24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 
Sent unto the lost sheep of Israel. But when they think he should be come more lenient, he becomes harder, and refuses her petition. This other rebuff or test is harder still, since not only her own person is repelled, but also the only consolation which was yet left her is refused; namely, the intercession of pious and holy people. Here one might confront Christ with all those words in which he promised to hear all his saints, as in Matthew 18:20; Mark 11:24.

25 Then came she and worshiped him, saying, Lord, help me. 
Lord, help me. She might readily be called an impertinent woman. But this is written for our instruction and consolation, that we should learn what a cordial pleasure Christ takes in our importunity and perseverance.
26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. 
The children's bread cast to the dogs. This third rebuff is the sharpest of them all, and in truth, Christ is no where in the Gospel pictured so hard as here. To be classed as a dog among the children, is as much as not even to be reckoned among the servants, but to be plainly excluded from the eternal inheritance of the children.

27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table. 
Dogs eat of the crumbs. This is a high and excellent example, in which one sees what a mighty thing faith is; her faith takes Christ at his word, when he is most angry, and draws from a hard reply a comforting conclusion, in that she immediately turns his word back upon himself, and interprets it to her advantage.
28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. 
O, woman, great is thy faith! What could he do, the dear Jesus? He was caught. Oh, if only every one could do this; he likes so much to let himself be caught. He replies: O, woman, canst thou suffer and endure rebuffs in thy heart; then be it unto thee according to thy faith.

He gives here more than a dog's right; he does not only heal her daughter, but offers to give what she asks and desires to have, and places her among the seed of Abraham.

Hard as Christ appears, he gives no final decision, in which he would say "no;" though all his answers, indeed, sound like "no"; yet they are not "no," but they suspend and waive. For he does not say, in verse 23, I will not grant thy request, but is silent, says neither yea, nor nay. So also in verse 24, he does not say that she is not of the house of Israel; but that he had been sent only to the house of Israel, and therefore lets it be suspended and waived between yea and nay. So also in verse 26 he does not say, Thou art a dog, but, "It is not meet to take the children's bread and to cast it to the dogs," and leaves it undecided whether she is a dog or not.

We must perceive and hold with a firm faith in God's word the deep se cret yea under and above the nay, as this woman does, and accept God's decision against us; then we shall gain the victory and catch him in his own words. For we bring all our disgrace upon ourselves in that we do not admit God's judgment against us and say yea to it, when he regards and judges us as sinners. And if the condemned could do it, they would be instantly saved. We, indeed, say with the mouth that we are sinners; but when God himself says it in the heart, then we do not admit it, and would like to be regarded as pious, and be rid of the condemnation. But it must be so; if God is right in his words, that thou art a sinner, then thou canst make use of the rights of all sinners, which God has given them; namely, the forgiveness of sins.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 91-93.