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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Mother with Great Faith


Pastor Shim's sermon from May 8.

(Matthew 15:21-28)
Insights about mothers:
- “Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long.”— God
- “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” – Abraham Lincoln

The University of Michigan conducted a nationwide survey several years ago in which they asked thousands of girls between the ages of 11 and 18 what they would like to be in adult life. A surprising 80% expressed a desire to be like their mother. – Reverend Bruce Howell

A Strong Woman versus A Woman of Strength:
-A strong woman works out every day to keep her body in shape, but a woman of strength kneels in prayer to keep her soul in shape.
-A strong woman isn't afraid of anything, but a woman of strength shows her courage in the midst of fear.
-A strong woman won't let anyone get the best of her, but a woman of strength gives the best of herself to everyone.
-A strong woman walks sure-footedly, but a woman of strength knows God will catch her when she falls.
-A strong woman wears the look of confidence on her face, but a woman of strength wears grace.
-A strong woman has faith that she is strong enough for the journey, but a woman of strength has the faith that in the journey she will become strong.

This nameless mother was identified as Greek in Mark 7:26. Matthew said she was a Canaanite, which meant that her ancient ancestors were enemies of Israel (Joshua 9:1-2). Despite her national origen, this mother came to Jesus seeking help for her demon-controlled daughter. She came to Jesus because she heard about His power over demons, His healing power, His compassion and love. Before she came to Jesus, she must have tried everything, like the woman with an issue of blood in Mark 5, but no help could be found.

We start this message with this promise in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened.”

The mother's approach to Jesus and the reaction of his disciples is found in Matthew 15:22-23.
-A Cry For Help, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me.” She called him Lord and asked him to show her mercy and forgiveness. She did not ask for healing.
-A Desperate Need “My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”
-A Sound of Rejection from Jesus disciples. When Jesus did not say anything to this mother, his disciples said the unthinkable. They said, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

Why were the disciples of Jesus insensitive and callous toward the need of a mother in pain?
-Maybe they did not want to be identified with a gentile woman.
-Maybe they were prejudice because of this mother's national origin. Does our attitude and our action repel people or draw them to Christ and his church? We are Christ’s ambassadors in this world.

Jesus’ response came after a long silence and the mother's reply (verses 24-27): Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (John 1:12). Jesus was sent to fulfill the prophecy given to the Jewish people about the Messiah. Jesus was in this mother's territory—that shows his love to all people. Jesus's silence might have been to test her and to bring out what was in her.

Jesus teaches here that any request has three possible answers:
(a) no, (b) no answer at all, or (c) be patient.
Our reaction to God's silence determines the positive or the negative outcome.

That mother was not offended by Jesus' response. She understood that delay doesn't mean denial. Jesus told us in Mark 11:24, “Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” This mother's unwavering faith can be seen by her reaction to Jesus’ words.

She knelt before him in worship. She switched from self focus to God focus. She said, “Lord help me.” She was saying to Jesus, I have no other plans or helps. You are my only help, I trust you in full surrender. Or as Reverend Larry Norman put it, “She was saying in essence, It is true, Lord, I have no claim on you. I am just a Gentile. But there must be some extra grace, some grace I don't deserve.”

Jesus said, “It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs.” What did Jesus mean by dogs? He seems to reflect the Jews’ attitude towards non-Jews. Jews considered Gentiles dog-like and unfit to receive God's blessings.
Jesus knew the Jews’ view was wrong, and He was outside the Jews’ area to make Himself available to the needy, such as this woman with a desperate need.

Jesus' response did not drive away this mother from pursuing her goal. But what kept her from getting upset? From running away? From taking offense and quitting? Her love for her daughter, her lack of options, and her encounter with Jesus. In spite of His words, she must have been able to see His love and His compassion that brought Him in the first place, His power over demons. These kept her in the presence of Jesus.

Listen to her response. She agreed with Jesus. “Yes Lord.” She knew she had no claims or rights like the Jews, God's chosen people,"...but even the little dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table."

She was saying to Jesus, You just be my master and the crumbs from your table will be enough. That's why I'm here. Besides I have no other options. I don’t have the quitting option.

Jesus honored this mother of great faith. He said, “Woman, you have great faith.”

Jesus surprised her with a joyful reward for her faith. “Your request is granted”—and her daughter was healed from that very hour. By giving up an illusion of control and submitting herself and her need, she found the selfless Jesus Who gives Himself to all who seek Him.

Or as the philosopher John F. Kavanaugh wrote, “The authentic power that Jesus offers is none other than the power of love, but such power does not and cannot control the beloved. It is a yes to the truth of the human condition.”
-This mother teaches us that God's way is not our way. (Isaiah 55:11)
-This mother teaches us that patience with God never disappoints us.
-This mother teaches us that faith in God means to trust him.
-This mother teaches us never to give up on our goal. Paul knew that “My god will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19)

The mother in our lesson came seeking physical healing for her daughter - Jesus challenged her to seek the real need - the saving grace of God. When she opened her heart and mind - Jesus offered her both physical and spiritual healing. God wants to do the same for you if you, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

When she understood what Jesus came to give, her affirmed her faith and granted her request, “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed. Jesus is our healer and healing that is wholeness!

Pastor Shim Habte, Willows United Methodist Church,
544 N. Lassen, St., Willows, CA 95988
Shim53Jesus@gmail.com (530)934-3190

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