WORSHIP VIDEO LINK (linked after 10:45 AM Service)






Pentecost 12 2023, Proper 12A
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
August 20, 2023
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8, Romans 11:1-2a, 13-15, 28-32, Matthew 15:21-28


Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                           pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                        bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:   bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship


There is a whole industry built around risk management.  A lot of what risk management does is to try to figure out ways to prevent you or your loved ones from ever feeling desperate.  For me, between my employee benefits and personal insurance, tens of thousands of dollars are spent each year to manage my risk and try to keep me and my family from ever having to be in a desperate situation.  There is health insurance, disability insurance, car insurance, house insurance, life insurance, identity insurance, not to mention social security payments, retirement programs and savings accounts, all trying to prevent times of desperation.  Because desperation hurts.  It is a terrible feeling to be desperately in need and not be able fix it. 

In our Gospel reading today we meet a desperate woman.  Even worse than having a personal problem, this is a problem with woman’s daughter -- this poor woman’s daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.  The devil and his evil angels are attacking this woman’s beloved child and there is nothing she can do.  But the woman has hope.  She knows of someone who can help.  Jesus of Nazareth can drive out demons.  He has done so in Capernaum and around the Sea of Galilee.  The woman hears that Jesus has come north to the coastal towns of Tyre and Sidon and she goes to Jesus.  He is her last hope; the last hope for her daughter.

Matthew 15:22 (ESV) 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.” 

            The Canaanite woman knows who Jesus is and Matthew lets us know this by recording her words, “O Lord, Son of David.”  In Matthew, only the disciples call Jesus, “Lord”. This woman knows who Jesus is and knows what Jesus can do and so she cries out, “Have mercy on me!”

            She is desperate.  Jesus can help.  She cries out for mercy for her daughter.  Jesus is right there -- and Jesus ignores her.  He does not answer her.  The woman could give up right then and slink away, but the woman knows who Jesus is and knows what Jesus can do, so she persists.  Apparently she is so persistent as to become annoying to the disciples who beg Jesus to send the woman away.  In our lesson a few weeks ago we saw the disciples asking Jesus to send away the crowd of thousands who were getting hungry, now they want Him to send away this annoyingly frantic woman in her moment of desperation.  But she persists because she knows who Jesus is and she knows what Jesus can do.  The disciples want Jesus to send her away, but instead, Jesus addresses this woman and Jesus seems to reject her.  Matthew 15:24 (ESV) 24 He [answers], “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  I came for the children of Israel, you are a Canaanite, an enemy of Israel.  Jesus has ignored her and now he seems to reject her.  The woman should get the hint and go away, but the woman knows who Jesus is and knows what Jesus can do.  And she cries out again, “Lord, help me.”  Again, she calls Him “Lord”. 

            But now Jesus really gets mean and nasty with the woman.  Matthew 15:26 (ESV) 26 And he [answers], “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  This does not seem like the kind, loving, caring Jesus we learn about in Sunday school.  Who is this Jesus and what is He doing?  He calls this desperate woman a dog.  Now, it was common for the Jews to refer to Canaanites as dogs.  It is an ethnic slur.  The desperate woman is seeking help from Jesus and He ignores her, tells her she does not deserve help, and then calls her a dog.  And yet the woman does not give up and go away because she knows who Jesus is and knows what He can do.  Matthew 15:27 (ESV) 27 She [says], “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 

            Now Jesus responds to the woman in a way He does not respond to anyone else in the Gospel of Mattew, Matthew 15:28 (ESV) 28 Then Jesus [answers] 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!”  Earlier, in the boat on the water, Jesus tells the disciples that they have “little faith” but this woman is said to have “great faith”. 

            The woman knows that she does not deserve God’s mercy.  She knows she cannot earn God’s mercy.  She knows she is nothing compared to God and yet -- she knows who Jesus is and she knows what Jesus can do and in her desperation she knows Jesus is the answer.  By responding to her the way He does, Jesus demonstrates this to everyone.

            When it comes to the sin in your life it is quite natural for you to always be looking for risk management.  You look for ways to mitigate the risk of the consequence of sin by finding something that you can do to take away the punishment of sin.  You desperately want to be able to do something, or pay something, so you can rely on your actions and not be left desperate in your search for forgiveness.  “If only I prayed enough.  If only I read the Bible enough.  If only I volunteered enough.  If only I gave enough.  If only I could take some control over my problem with sin.”  Then I would not feel so vulnerable – so desperate.  Martin Luther got himself excommunicated and sentenced to death because he opposed the sale of indulgences which, for a price, removed the penalty for sin.  What a wonderfully easy way to deal with sin – just buy a certificate signed by the archbishop.  Indulgences are a pretty straightforward risk management tool for sin -- too bad they are a fraudulent invention.

            You are vulnerable to the penalty for sin.  There is no managing the risk of sin.  There is nothing you can do to help take care of your sin issue.  Your problem with sin is a problem to the core.  You are, by nature, sinful and unclean.  You can, and should, battle sin and temptation.  You can, and should, strive to minimize sins of thought, word and deed, but you cannot eliminate sin.  You cannot do it.  You are a sinner and the wages of sin are eternal death and hell.  This leaves you in a place of desperation.  You desperately need someone else to cure your sin problem.  You are desperate and you have only one hope.  You need Jesus. 

            Jesus is God in flesh and He sacrificed Himself on the cross to pay the price for your sin.  He accomplishes what you cannot accomplish.  Jesus sheds His blood for you and declares, “It is finished.” 

The good news is that you know who Jesus is, and you know what Jesus will do for you.  You cry out, “Lord, have mercy!” knowing that Jesus is Lord, and the Lord forgives you your sins.  You know Jesus and you know what Jesus has done for you.

            Now it can seem, at times, that Jesus is ignoring you. You pray, “Lord, take away this sinful desire,” and it seems that nothing happens.  It can seem as if Jesus is there for others, but not for you.  It can seem that Jesus goes out of His way to leave you in desperation over past sins, but none of these perceptions matter. You know who Jesus is.  You know what Jesus has done for you. 

            Jesus is God in flesh and He sacrificed Himself on the cross to pay the price for your sin.  He accomplishes what you cannot accomplish.  Jesus sheds His blood for you and declares, “It is finished.” 

In a world that is all about me, me, me, Jesus teaches that it is not about you. It is about Jesus for you.  Jesus declares, “I forgive you all your sins.” And “this is my body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins.”

            When you find yourself caught in a desperate situation, when you feel like God is ignoring you and not giving you what you need, when you question whether you are even a Christian, do not give up hope. You are a beloved, baptized child of God.  You have eternal life.  You know who Jesus is.  You know what Jesus has done for you.  Amen.