Super Size Me
Because of the 2004 film "Super Size Me," we probably don't have a good view of super sizing fries, drinks, or burgers. But when it comes to faith who among us wouldn't say, "Super size me?"
Where is super size faith found? Not among the Old Testament church. Jesus was born into the OT Church, circumcised into it, raised in it, and came preaching to it. After feeding the 5000, Jesus explicitly told this church He was the Bread of Life which unless a man eats of he cannot be saved. What was the reaction? We read it in John 6, "After this, many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him." Super size faith wasn't found in Israel. They thought the Bread of Life was crummy.
If super size faith wasn't found among the OT church, then certainly it was found among the apostles. Well, they were better than the disciples. In John 6 after "many of His disciples" left him, "Jesus said to the 12, "Do you want to go away as well?' Peter answered Him, "Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed that You are the Holy One of God."
Bravo! There's the right faith, but it's not super size. Last week what did Jesus call the sinking Peter? "O ye of little faith." That's one Greek Word. It's Jesus pet name for the apostles. Only Jesus uses the name and He only uses it of the 12. They didn't think the Bread of Life was crummy, but they were content with just pieces. No super sizing for them.
Super size faith wasn't found in the Old Testament church or among the New Testament apostles. It was found in the Gentile centurion who asked Jesus to heal his sick slave by just commanding it and in this Canaanite woman, a descendent of the ancient enemy of Israel. Jesus explicitly says of the Gentile Centurion, "With no one in Israel have I found such faith." And to this Canaanite woman He says, "Woman, you have great faith!" Great is the Greek word megale. You know "Mega Meal," "Mega Fries," Mega Drinks." Her faith was super size.
My mother's always wanted super size faith. She would talk about the super size faith of Abraham, of Moses, of Paul with a far away look in her eyes. It's okay to do that. Look far away from you when you're daydreaming of super size faith because if you look inside you at your believing, faith withers, or worse it mutates into positive thinking. And then faith becomes your power. If faith is your power, if faith is what causes Jesus to help you, save you, love you, forgive you, then what do you need Jesus for? Just have faith.
That works for a moment. Faith as positive thinking swells the heart, emboldens the soul, strengthens the body. You'll go chugging along like the Little Engine that could. "I know I can, I know I can, I know I can" right up till the time you can't. And it will happen. Positive thinking, which is a human thing, breaks eventually on the anvil of reality, and when a person has misidentified their positive thinking as saving faith when they see it go, there goes their hope and salvation.
Super size faith isn't positive thinking. It doesn't come from within you. A super size faith comes from a super size Jesus, and this is where this text falls to pieces. We seem to meet not a super size Jesus but a super scary Jesus. A Jesus who is stone silent to a mother who keeps crying, "Have mercy on me; have mercy on me; have mercy on me." A Jesus who is less merciful than the apostles. When they say, "Send her away," they mean for Jesus to send her as He has everyone up till now: helped, healed, forgiven. But the pitiless Jesus isn't the worst of it, is it? No, He treats people like dogs. Love incarnate, Love divine, the God who is love calls this mother pouring her heart out for her demonized daughter a dog.
A super size Jesus gives super size faith, but what does this Jesus give? And don't tell me you don't know this Jesus. You know Him in prayer. You pray for help and you get hurt. You pray for solutions you get problems. You know this Jesus in the world. The mother praying for the safe return of her abducted toddler gets a body back. And worst of all you know this Jesus in your fears, don't you? There are so many things that can happen to you. Those fears can run a long way with you, but then you get to your loved ones, especially your kids, and there's nothing to stop that wild horseexcept this text.
I said super size faith comes from a super size Jesus. Jesus says this woman has super size faith, so a super size Jesus must be here. Where? The same place He is for you. The super size Jesus is not found in your prayers. That would be finding Him in your head or heart, and we know that's not the place to look. The super size Jesus isn't found in the world. O people think they find Him in a placid, peaceful Gulf of Mexico, but they quickly lose sight of Him in a tropical storm, don't they? And you certainly will never find a super size Jesus in your fears.
A super size Jesus is known only in His Word. Outside of His Word you not only don't have a super size Jesus, you don't have Jesus at all. It was the Word this Canaanite woman went by. Mark 7:24 says when "she heard of Jesus," she came and fell down at His feet. We know what this woman heard by what she prays. Not only does super size faith but super size prayers come from a super size Jesus. And she definitely sees Jesus as super sized.
She calls Jesus "Lord," that's the Old Testament name of God; that's God revealed in grace and promise. She calls Him "Son of David" that's the Old Testament's Church name for the Christ, the Messiah. Then she asks for mercy not for rights, not for justice, but mercy to deliver her daughter from demon possession.
You know this Jesus, too don't you? This super size Jesus is your Jesus, isn't He? He, not sickness, death, sin, or fear is your Lord, and He is your Messiah, your Christ too, isn't He? He is the One promised who would crush the head of the serpent and return mankind to Paradise by giving Himself up to snakebite. Being in our flesh and blood, He lived the life that you ought to but can't. He never doubted God's promises. Never feared what God might do to Him. Never had anything but super size faith, yet He was given over to the snake as if He was an unbeliever, guilty of everyone of your sins. And He was because He took them on Himself. He took them off your back, off your slate, off your books and carried them away, wiped them away, stamped them in His own blood shed on the cross: "Paid in Full."
This is the super size Jesus the Canaanite woman prayed to, but why does He throw her a curve? Why does a dad throw a curve ball to his son? To strike him out? No, to make him a better hitter. So Jesus throws a curve, but it doesn't break as sharply as the insert translates. Jesus doesn't say, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." There is no hope, no help, no future for a Canaanite in these words, but that's not what Jesus says. Jesus actually says, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." This house is a very fine house indeed, and it doesn't have two cats in the yard but all nations.
That's what Jesus says in Isaiah 56. "For my house will be a called a house of prayer for all nations," the Lord God declares." And don't think for a moment that anyone but your Lord Jesus is speaking. 1 Peter 1 says that it was none other than the Spirit of Christ which spoke through the prophets. So when Jesus says, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," this Canaanite woman can believe, "That's my house too because it's a house for all nations." And that's exactly what she believed. We know she believed this because right after He says it she came and didn't just kneel as the insert translated but worshipped Him saying, "Lord, help me!"
But what's this? Another curve and this one appears to break very sharply. Jesus replied to her worshipful plea for help, "It's not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." Ouch! That ball didn't just curve; it hit her. So it seems, but in reality there is much promise if you take Jesus at His words. The Jews regularly called Gentiles dogs using the word for "street dog" or "yard dog." Jesus doesn't use that word. He uses the word for "puppies" or "house dogs." And the Canaanite woman from these words grasps the super sized promise from her super size Jesus. She says, "Yes Lord and accordingly the puppies eat from their (not masters') but lords' table. It's true. "Lords" is plural, but the woman who three times called Jesus Lord refers to no one but Jesus.
This puppy went by her super sized Lord's words and came away with a super size faith that received all that she asked for. What words does the Lord give to you? In the world, in your prayers, in your fears your Lord can be silent, pitiless, and treat you like a dog, but how does He treat you in His Word? Do you think your Baptism where His word of promise is joined to water becomes sewage when Jesus seems distant? Has Jesus ever mumbled His words when He sent your sins away from you in Absolution? And even after a week of being dogged by illness, worries, fears have you ever came up to your Lord's Table and found anything other than His Body given for you; His Blood shed for you?
And these aren't crumbs that just happened to fall from your Lord's Table, are they? No, He gives them to you personally. He delights in giving you His Body and Blood for forgiveness, life, and salvation just as much as kids love to feed puppies at their table. Get the picture? His Word tells you there's super size love here from a super size Jesus, and that's what produces a super sized faith. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
13th Sunday after Pentecost(20080810); Matthew 15: 21-28