Text: Matt. 15:21-28
You want to receive the mercy of the Lord? Are you sure? Do not answer so quickly. Remember, our God is the God who says, (Deuteronomy 32:39) “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.”
You have to be killed in order to be made alive. You have to give up everything to have anything. He who keeps his life will lose it, but he who loses his life will keep it. God is eager that you should live – so he's going to kill you.
This is what the Canaanite woman learns in today's Gospel reading. She comes to her Lord begging his mercy, ready to receive with empty hands, for she comes to her Lord as a dead woman. Her heart has been emptied. Her soul feels hollow: for she comes to her Lord as one who knows her powerlessness. She comes as one without pride.
For she comes as a parent who can do nothing for her sick child. She had been to the doctor's, she's stayed up endless nights – but nothing has helped. Still her daughter is grievously tormented by a demon, one of the false gods of Canaan.
And what can she, her mother, do? She knows that she can do nothing. She has no hope of helping her daughter. Her pride is dead. And with that, now on the brink of despair, she is ready to receive the mercies and the lovingkindesses of God, for they are from of old.
She comes to Jesus with empty hands: Lord, have mercy. She does not ask for what she deserves: her pride, her self-esteem, is dead. She knows she deserves nothing at all, or something worse. But she comes to beg mercy: for mercy is receiving the good that you don't deserve. She comes with empty hands: no more bargaining for her. She has nothing to try to bribe Jesus with: she just asks for mercy.
And behold: the Lord ignores her, then even calls her a Gentile dog and not his child. But she clings to him still: these harsh words of rejection from her Lord do not strike her as harsh.
For she knows that they are true. She knows she has no right to call upon the Lord; she knows that he is right when he calls her a dog. But she also knows of his mercy and his lovingkindesses for they are from of old. So she confesses: Yes, Lord: it is as you say. I am a dog, a sinner, a nobody and a nothing. I know that very well. There is nothing that I can rightly ask of you, nothing that you owe me. I do not ask what is right: I ask what is merciful. I ask only for a crumb of mercy from your table.
With her pride dead, with all hope of dealing gone, having given up on justice and instead begging for mercy: now the woman is ready to be made alive. Great is your faith, woman! - Your daughter is healed.
Faith is having nothing to offer God: so to say that your faith is great is to say that you are small.
Beloved in the Lord, you are in the shoes of the Canaanite woman. God seeks to kill you also that he might raise you to live. Each hardship you face, each cross you must bear, each prayer that seems to go unanswered: all these are God's work to crush your pride, to empty you of your self, to knock from your hands any chips you would bargain with. For God wants to fill you up. But to fill you up he must first empty you. To make you live, he must first kill you. So beloved, repent. Admit that you are dead. Give up on yourself. And instead cry out: Lord, have mercy. Nothing in my hand I bring, only to your cross I cling.
For there, in the cross, the Lord will fill you up. He emptied himself on that cross to pay for your sins – he poured out his life so that death for you would be but the gate to life immortal. He took upon himself the sin and pain and loneliness and sorrow and guilt of all the world and took it with him down to death – but then he rose from the dead all alone – for he left the sin and the pain and loneliness and the sorrow and the guilt down in that grave. He lives: and he now makes you alive.
Day in and day out, he will kill you and make you alive. Day in and day out, he will drown that own Adam in you by repentance and raise you to new life in himself. Day in and day out he will empty you so that he may fill you up. For he has lifted you up: he brings you to the table to give you the children's bread: the Bread of Life: the daily Bread of the children of the Heavenly Father, indeed the very Body and Blood which he shed on the cross. Beloved, come and receive him. Come with empty hands, with nothing to offer; Come calling on his mercy alone. Come and be filled, be raised, be made alive.