"A Savior Who Goes Where No One Has Gone Before" #81-50
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 17, 2014
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:What's the Original Ending of the Lord's Prayer?)
Copyright 2014 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Matthew 15:21-28
Grace, mercy, and peace to you in Jesus' Name. Amen.
Do you remember that Sci-Fi hit TV series, "Star Trek?" It only had a short 3-year run on television, but later, it became a cult hit, even a central piece of Paramount Studios. At the studios, they even called it "the Franchise," because it spawned spin-offs, movies, cartoons, conventions, long after the curtain came down on the show's initial production.
Do you remember the tag line for the show, the mission for the crew of the Starship Enterprise; "Its mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before"? Gene Roddenberry, the creative writer behind those initial shows, wasn't just trying to create a hit TV show. He had an agenda behind those scenes. You don't have to watch the series long to catch it. He thought that the show could harness the youth movement, showing humanity what it might develop into if it would only learn from the lessons of the past. We had to be more reasonable, more passionate about humanity's ability to progress (like Captain Kirk), and confident about our power to work together, (like the United Federation of Planets); you see, that was Roddenberry's ideal, optimistic version of a United Nations future for humanity.
Now, if you look around at the world today, all the troubles and chaos, who wouldn't want a future like that? Who wouldn't desire less war for all people, people getting along with each other? Who wouldn't want a personal life of purpose, more self-control; more opportunities to do good, a life on a worthy mission that ultimately would change things for the better?
Well, all those emotions and desires are going on in our text today. And this is not a TV series, or idealistic, wishful thinking; for in this real event in human history, Jesus Himself does what the Starship Enterprise could never do, He goes where humanity cannot go, to bring human beings like this woman, like you and me, what we can't bring, real life and salvation to humanity's failed missions, false hopes, and false expectations. In our lesson for today, Jesus goes to a faraway place, a place on the wrong side of the tracks and shows compassion to a foreigner, to a person who wouldn't ordinarily get the time of day from a self-respecting Israelite.
And this manifestation of God's love in action is merely a glimpse of Jesus' love for the whole world. Jesus goes to the wrong part of town, to a person that normally wouldn't garnish anyone's attention, to be merciful; so that all might see the power of faith for their lives too.
Pretty bold move by our Lord, wouldn't you agree? But, the more you read the Bible the more you realize that Jesus is unlike any person who has ever lived, then or now. He is no ordinary Man; He is the God-Man, the Savior of mankind, who goes where no one else can go so that grace might be possible for all who would receive Him.
Jesus is on a mission, and by God's grace, it's not to explore new worlds as much as it is to graciously leave no woman, no child, no man behind. It's to bring life and salvation into a world of sin, death, and destruction. And with Him, there is boldness, courage, mission, life, eternal life, to all who would trust and believe in Him. That's why this Canaanite woman risked it all and came before Jesus and was willing to receive whatever He offered.
That's why she came and knelt before him, and said; "Lord, help me!" He said, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs." "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." Then Jesus said to her, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted. Your daughter is healed."
But, when you read the dialogue between Jesus and this woman, it's easy to get confused, isn't it? It seems like Jesus is being harsh, that this woman is being disrespected. It seems like the woman is the one with all the courage and that Jesus is treating her like everybody else. Some say Jesus did and said what He did to strengthen her faith, but, I believe that a closer reading says otherwise. I think that Jesus wasn't merely strengthening her faith; I think that He was exhibiting her faith publically, demonstrating it for all to see because Jesus wasn't there merely for her help alone; He had come for all!
And that's one thing that the Bible makes very clear; it isn't God who is in the habit of delivering crumbs to human beings. Like Jesus Himself said in John 10, "I have come to give you life abundantly!" This world was created for human beings to receive as a gift, to manage with excellence, and to share it with those we love! Crumbs from tables; that's not a picture of God's work in the world, that's an image of what we've done with this place, people hell-bent on selfish sinfulness, jealously, and gluttony.
When Jesus paints the picture of a dog-eat-dog world, He's in essence saying to this woman, "Are you here to treat Me like everybody else, as a God who you think cramps your style, inhibits your life, and then gives you mere crumbs for your heartfelt devotion, are you here to treat Me like all the other false pious ones, or heartless leaders hoping to get in on My bandwagon for personal gain? Are you here too for this world's crumbs?
"Or do you really want what I can alone give? Do you really know how much I love you and care for you?"
Now, there is no doubt that this woman was bold to risk it all by coming before Jesus. But it's her answer to Jesus that compels us. For her answer to Jesus demonstrates that she knew exactly who He was and what He alone could bring. She was willing to receive whatever He granted because of who He was and what He alone could offer.
She comes before Him, totally dependent, with a daughter in crisis. She's exhausted all human possibilities, but realizes that Jesus isn't merely the next possible solution, but the One Solution that really matters in this broken world.
She doesn't have to be told about what kind of world this is. When Jesus points out that dogs don't eat the children's bread, she knows that He is merely reflecting the way that this sinful, broken world is.
So, to really get to the point of this event we have to be honest; as harsh as Jesus' words sound, this is an honest description of this world, right? Don't we hear it all the time, "it is a dog-eat-dog world"? And we're told that that's just the way it is. Survival of the fittest, might makes right; that's just a realist talking. And, I've heard all these lines in our newspapers, on our TV shows, in our movies; it even gets more real when we see this truth not only on the page or on the screen, but in our lives. Be honest, there is plenty of evidence of our brokenness and sin, there is plenty of data that we aren't the human beings that God created us to be, and this world isn't what God intended. That's a truth that's hard to hear and that's why Jesus' dialogue with the Canaanite woman, it cuts deep.
We don't want to hear that we've turned this world into a place that is unjust and unmerciful. We don't want to face facts that the sin we deplore is in our hearts and minds, do we? But that's the world we've created when we are the masters at the table. Rather than come to Jesus, though we'd rather take our place at the helm of our own Starship Enterprise; we'd rather do a Gene Roddenberry and put our faith in our efforts, our technology, in new worlds, new planets, new life forms. We'd rather put our faith in our reason, our rationality, our communal resolve, as if all of our problems would go away if we just gave it our best shot!
But this woman stood humbly before Jesus, with great courage and even greater faith, not in herself but in Jesus alone, illustrating clearly that only Jesus can go where no man has gone before; to rescue, to heal, to save us all!
When Jesus hears her testimony, He then exclaims, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted. You get it. That's who I am and I am this for you, for all."
What a refreshing change for Jesus. Instead of being constantly confronted by the conniving of the religious and secular leaders of the day, people who were trying to thwart His work at every turn, instead of facing the attitudes of so many, people who were fair-weather followers for their own agendas; now, here was this lady in essence saying, "Whatever you say, Jesus, that will be enough for me and for my daughter."
See with me the power of faith in an amazing Savior. Watch the faith of this incredible woman in action. It will teach you much about her, but it will teach you even more about Jesus and who He is for you!
But, let me confess again, that every time I read this lesson, I admit I get a bit uncomfortable. I don't like Jesus comparing the situation of this woman to that of a dog. Women were already treated poorly in the ancient world. And Canaanite women were treated even worse than that by Pharisaic Jews. But that's not what Jesus was doing. He references the bigotries of the day, the brokenness of their society, to make an even greater point for her and for all.
This was another event that demonstrated the fullness of Jesus' love for those who didn't think they deserved it. Here was a love, His love, God's love, willing to come all the way to wherever this woman was for the healing of her daughter and the confirmation of her faith. If she was in the land of the dogs, if she was classified as an idolater, as an unbeliever by others of that day, Jesus was willing even then to journey there for her blessing and peace. Even more, the Bible proclaims that Jesus was willing to go even further than that for all, even to hell and back so that all people, all sinners, could have an eternal life that was beyond their sinful grasp.
So, Jesus turns her situation all around. Referencing this common social description is not merely Jesus eliciting social standing or exposing sinful human barriers, it is much more. And when she responds to Jesus' conversation about children and dogs, saying, "But, Lord, oh what a joy to be in the house of a master who loves me, loves my daughter, and really cares for us no matter what." Suddenly Jesus' point comes alive for all to see. He confirms her as a child of God, an heir of His kingdom.
Suddenly we see the very lengths and depths that Jesus will go for people in need, to save, to heal. He covers her with His gracious Word. And, if this world has gone to the dogs, then how amazing it is to know that He is willing to go to that place of those in need for His grace. He enters into the degradation of our world, and in spite of its sin; He isn't thwarted by our brokenness or stymied by our walls of separation. He brings real blessing to those who trust in Him.
What a day for this Canaanite woman, right? But, the more important question for you is: is this such a day for you? Are you feeling the struggle of the Canaanite woman, the pain of a loved one in need? Are you experiencing the struggles that come in this dog-eat-dog world, are you feeling that all alone feeling that God is ignoring you; but more, are you ready, like her, to be blessed today, no matter what your circumstance, with the same power of faith in Jesus who not only hears your prayers, but answers them?
It's Jesus who invites you and me to learn from this Canaanite woman.
She trusts in Him, her Savior who was willing to cross the tracks for her, to bring real hope to her in the midst of her despair.
She trusts in Him, her Lord who would not let sinful humanities' boundaries get in the way of granting her grace, even healing, to those she loved.
She trusts in Him, her Savior, who even when He allows temporal struggle or pain in this world, she knows that He ultimately does what is best for her, for us, for all! God comes to our faraway places of sin and despair to bring us near to His grace!
We love movies and books about heroes who, against all odds, come to save those in need. We love stories about people sacrificing for their loved ones, their families, their countrymen to thwart the intentions of the bad guys and save the day. My favorite show is back on for one final run. That's the TV show "24," where Jack Bauer does whatever it takes to save the day, to defend the just, to keep the terrorists, the bad guys, at bay. He's willing to pay the price for that. It is compelling, griping to say the least.
But our text speaks of a love and justice that is infinitely more powerful and more compelling. It speaks of a love that would do whatever it takes to save even the enemy. It speaks of a justice that holds sin accountable, not to wipe sinful humanity off the face of the planet but to really redeem and restore those who deserve nothing but wrath and judgment. The Bible says in Romans 5, "God's love is this that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save us sinners." It speaks about God coming for sinners; dogs that don't even belong at the foot of His table, and He does all of that not merely to grant them scraps, but to make possible again the opportunity for all to dine at His table as sons and daughters.
When you hear this Word today, the Canaanite woman is telling you, "Put your faith in Jesus Christ." He comes for all. He is the Giver of abundant life; He is the Bread from heaven, not the crumbs of this world. Live in the strength and hope that faith in Him can provide. His crumbs are better than this world's finest cuisine.
Yes, preaching this text is hard because none of us likes thinking of the dogliness of our lives due to sin; but I also wish the text more fully described the joy of Jesus at the moment of this woman's confession of faith. I wish we also had the movie version of what happened. Because there you would have seen the steely eyed confidence that this woman had in her trust in Jesus amidst all of her problems and you would have seen the smile on Jesus' face from ear to ear, His joy concerning her faith, His joy in being her Savior, her Lord, her source of strength and life as well as her help for her daughter in her time of need.
That's who Jesus is for the woman in our text. That's who He is for you today too. Her public confession of Him in spite of her problems and difficulties, allows Jesus to demonstrate the power of faith in Him for you as well. That's what He wants for each of us today.
So I invite you to have faith like this Canaanite woman, and pray persistently like she did with Jesus. Frederick Buechner wrote, "According to Jesus, by far the most important thing about praying is to keep at it." Because, at the moment, you may not fully understand what Jesus is doing in your life, but the One who lived, and died, and rose again so that you might have abundant life and salvation now and forever; He is the One to trust in all things! Learn from this Canaanite woman because the Word Jesus spoke to her can be your Word too. Be confident in Him no matter what, for those who put their faith in Jesus, they will one day all hear this word too, "O child, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for August 17, 2014
Topic: What's the Original Ending of the Lord's Prayer?
ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, one of our listeners recently attended a wedding and he noticed that they used a 'shorter version of The Lord's Prayer.' It didn't have that part at the end where it goes, 'For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, Amen."
SELTZ: I'm so glad that The Lord's Prayer Sermon series has been a blessing to so many. About this question then, the answer is two-fold. The first answer has to do with The Lord's Prayer and its use in Christian worship services down through the centuries.
ANNOUNCER: Okay, and the other part?
SELTZ: The other part has to do with different translations of the Bible and the Reformation's return to using early copies of the original Greek Bible for their translations.
ANNOUNCER: That sounds like it's pretty in-depth.
SELTZ: Well, it's not so much really. But it is important for Christians to understand how this all works because people want to know, "Did Jesus really say that?" and should we say it too?
ANNOUNCER: When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, did He include that part about the kingdom, the power, and the glory?
SELTZ: No, it almost certainly wasn't something in the original text. For many years, the Western Christian church was using a Latin translation of the Greek text that had a few anomalies in the copies as compared to the original; but, they wouldn't have known that because they did not have the original Greek texts to compare their translations to.
ANNOUNCERS: So, actually, one the blessings of the Reformation is that it brought about access to better and more faithful translations of the New Testament.
SELTZ: That's correct, and while this "longer ending of the Lord's Prayer" wasn't something in the original teaching of Jesus in Matthew 6 or Luke 11, it's important to realize that even with some of the copy errors or incorrect insertions that had historically crept into the Bible, none of those occurrences change any major teaching of the Bible.
ANNOUNCER: Okay, using this issue as an example, could you explain that further?
SELTZ: Yeah, I sure can. While this ending wasn't in Jesus' teaching on The Lord's Prayer, it surely was a biblical sentiment about prayer.
ANNOUNER: And what does that mean?
SELTZ: Well, first, this phrase is actually elsewhere in the Bible almost verbatim. In David's prayer with God's people in the Old Testament concerning the Temple and temple worship, he says in the prayer, "Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth are yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all."
ANNOUNCER: So it wouldn't be unusual for the Church to have had this as part of their worshipful response to what Jesus taught us regarding The Lord's Prayer?
SELTZ: No, in fact one would probably expect it because it expressed a very biblical response to Jesus' teaching about praying to God as our Father.
ANNOUNCER: All right. Now, where does that leave us then today as to whether we should say the shorter version or the longer one?
SELTZ: Even though it's not part of the text in Matthew 6 or in Luke 11, it is very much a part of the spirit of the Bible in how one should pray. And, it's important to note that Jesus wasn't teaching a formula for prayer but giving a thematic emphasis for one's prayers to God.
ANNOUNCER: Could you explain that more?
SELTZ: Sure, as we said in the sermon series, Jesus is emphasizing key aspects for our prayer life with God. He wants us to pray in faith towards Him, namely as our Father. And He wants us to focus our attention on our relationship with Him, His Name, His kingdom; and then even ask for things that focus on our spiritual needs even more than our physical ones.
ANNOUNCER: Because our heavenly Father provides for our physical needs even before we ask for them.
SELTZ: Right, Jesus says "He cares for the birds of the air, the plants of the field...how much more will he care for you." But, even more importantly, Jesus' emphasis on spiritual things helps us realize which is ultimately most important.
ANNOUNCER: Because God wants us to be with Him eternally and not just to be supplied with daily bread here and now.
SELTZ: Well said. And Satan would like nothing better than for us to want earthly things while forgetting about those eternal things with God. So in that Spirit, focused even more on your spiritual needs....pray away....and whether you end the prayer with the long version or the short one, that ending is very much the spirit of how to pray The Lord's Prayer!
ANNOUNCER: All right, then. In closing, God desires our prayers, He teaches us how to pray, and God has the power and the glory not only to hear those prayers but also graciously to answer them.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. And we thank our listener for that question. We hope you'll join us again next week. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"What Wondrous Love Is This" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.
"When I Behold Jesus Christ" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)