Anglican Orthodox Church
Sermon Notes for 2nd Sunday in Lent, 12 March 2017 Anno Domini
21 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. 23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. 27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. 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. Matt 15:21-28 (KJV)
There are two high lights of prayer demonstrated on this occasion by the woman of Canaan – persistence and humility of the highest mark.
There are a few salient points that stand out in the narrative which we will examine in order.
THE DISTRESS OF THE WOMAN:
No mind can imagine the pain and suffering of a poor mother whose dear daughter is vexed by a devil. Of course, there is One who always understands and reads the condition of the heart; and it is to this One to whom the mother addresses her humble petition. She has struggled for a very long time (we know not how long) with a daughter who is both self-destructive and hurtful of those around her – but hurtful of the mother above all else. Her tender love has born no dividends in the improvement of the girl’s condition. No one could help her – physician, priest, or sorcerer.
Had the woman been a person of great wealth, her suffering would have been, in no wise, alleviated thereby. Devils pay no heed to one’s station in life – only to those who are vulnerable to their entreaties.
THREE THINGS FAVORABLE TO THE WOMAN:
That our Lord was then in the flesh. He was then, and is now, Emmanuel – God with us.
Word of His power and compassion had reached the shores of Tyre and Sidon where the woman dwelt - else, there could have been no seeking. If no seeking, there is no discovery.
Not only was our Lord incarnate, but He was nearby to where the woman sought Him. She knew that there could be no remedy for her daughter in any other than the Lord. That is a great discovery in itself for us. When we realize that there can be no true answer to the sturggles of life apart from the Savior, we are then on track to discover Him. He will make Himself available to all who seek Him, and He will answer to all who knock. “7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Matt 7:7-8 (KJV)
The Lord’s response was favorable to her: “It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.” The word for dogs is ‘puppies’ – the pets that gather around the masters table to receive all that comes down to them. These puppies are loved. We are like those puppies – unable to feed ourselves on the Bread of Life, but dependent on the Master to feed us therewith.
THE FERVENCY IN PRAYER OF THE WOMAN:
Note the reverence with which she addresses the Lord. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David.” She used the prophetic titles, of the Lord in addressing Him – something the learned rulers and Pharisees of the Jews failed to do. She only asked for MERCY, but implicit in her request was to plead for mercy enforced with an active healing on the part of the Lord. “. . . . my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” You may be sure of one thing: the mercy of the Lord will always result in a benefit.
Her prayer was offered once, but the Lord did not even acknowledge her prayer, not because He did not hear it, but because of His intention to reveal the mystery of fervency in prayer to the surrounding disciples. Amazingly, it was these who were closest to our Lord who tried to silence the woman. “And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.” The Lord NEVER sends away those who seek His face: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Heb 13:5 (KJV)
If the first prayer seems to avail no response, repeated prayer is efficacious. “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.” “Lord, help me!” There are times when the shortest prayer will avail the greatest benefit, especially when there is not sufficient time to make a more detailed petition. Remember Peter when the Lord bade him come to Him on the sea. Peter took his eyes off the Lord and immediately began to sink. What was Peter’s prayer? “Lord, save me!” Matt 14:30. This is the prayer that every Christian must have prayed at least once when lost on the sea of life.
THE PRAYER ANSWERED:
We may trouble the Lord many times for things that are not conducive to our well being; but prayers that are offered which coincide with the will of the Father to grant will ALWAYS be answered according to our petition.
The Lord commends the woman for her faith. Faith will redound to the benefit of the supplicant on every occasion – that is, faith in the right thing, our Lord and Savior. “O woman, great is thy faith.” This was rhetorically uttered by the Lord for the ears of his less faithful disciples.
The Lord grants the woman the pleadings of her prayer: “. . . . be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” This is an occasion in which the woman’s will matched perfectly that of the Lord.
There is much to be said for the benefits of prevailing prayer. The prevailing westerly winds of the temperate zone do not bring rain with each gale, but they nonetheless insure a fair distribution of rain to the soil. Prevailing prayer may not bring an immediate response, but when repeated over again will certainly bring an answer to our petition that we can understand. We do not always obtain what we ask in prayer, but we do ALWAYS get an answer even if that answer is NO!
The power of God is demonstrated in the lives of His faithful just as it was in the life of the Syro-Phoenician Woman. For those unable to offer prayer on their own behalf, the Christian intercessory may offer them. Such intercessory prayers are a testimony to the love and compassion of God and His people.