Sermon preached in Rye Lane Chapel, Sunday morning, February 14th.
Then Jesus answered and said unto her, "0h woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee, even as thou wilt;" And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. Matthew 15:28
WHEN we have exhausted our theories concerning the miracles of our Lord, they remain a mystery as insoluble as the records are unshakeable. It is evident that He knew of potentialities in the universe of which we are still unaware and that He was as sovereign over the realm of the supernatural as that of the physical. He did not bequeath the secret to the apostles. The avid efforts of Rome to claim miracles clearly indicate how she would like to prove her apostolic succession by the exercise of powers not granted to ordinary mortals. But the Pope is as helpless as ourselves.
At the same time while our Lord did not disclose how these miracles were performed, He made it clear that we could be linked on with these powers through Him. Just like this woman we may bring a circumstance and situation under His notice, invoke His ministry and so experience freedom. It is possible that many of us are submitting to conditions and circumstances that are intolerable, bearing burdens that are grievously heavy, languishing in weakness when we might experience a new and glorious exhilaration by means of His delivering power. There may be conditions in our hearts, in our family circle, in our daily work and even in our Church life that are grievous, to which we feel we are compelled to submit and yet He could and would transform them and us. A demon possessed girl is made whole from one solitary interview with our Lord.With what joy and gratitude this woman entered her home to find her daughter made whole and in that transformation of the girl to experience a domestic relief altogether inexpressible. For however the world may have made progress there are still many situations that wring the heart with anguish. Demons get within the domestic circle, around the family hearth and turn what ought to he a centre of felicity into an arena of unhappiness. Anybody who, by reason of a father, mother, husband, wife, son or daughter, brother or sister, knows the pressure of the demon world where that pressure causes the most anguish should give careful and prayerful consideration to this incident. Let us look first of all at:
THE WOMAN'S BURDEN
This burden is entirely concerning her daughter. Apparently she
had diagnosed the condition correctly, for she told our Lord she was grievously
vexed with a demon; Some people do not believe in demons, but our Lord cast
them out. Others think they may have been active in our Lord's time on earth,
but with the progress of civilisation either the idea of demons or the demons
themselves have evaporated. What today would be a physical or nervous condition
was in those unenlightened days ascribed to demons. Of course, it is possible
that with our psychiatry and all the rest of it we are ascribing to the physical
and the nervous
what ought to be diagnosed as demonic.How do demons display themselves and reveal their power in persons?
Certainly a person given to bad temper will find it hard to exclude them. Moods are their happy hunting ground. Moods in which we change our opinions, reverse our decisions, without any sound basis of reasoning, are possible evidence of their hold upon us. Obsession, wherein, for example, we have a fixed idea based upon one verse of Scripture, which appears to support what we like, is a vantage ground for their activity. Special pleading wherein we justify in ourselves what we condemn in others can be due to demonic mesmerism wherein we are strangely blind to any truth that withstands that upon which in a rigid way our wills are set.And since Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, demons are experts in supplying good reasons for wrong decisions, leading us away from our strongholds in truth and bewitching us with falsehood that looks to be truth.
Anything that leads us to declare that to be in Christ we must
be in the Church is demonic. Christ is alone the truth and in following after
Him we walk in the Light as He is in the light. To insist that walking with
Him requires that we also are under the aegis of some particular cult or organisation
is not according to Scripture. As we walk with Him we shall find ourselves walking
with all others walking with Him, but the delusion that we must walk with some
specific religious organisation in order to walk with Him is the result of demonic
blinding.In such circumstances mothers might do several things. We should not
if the mother endeavoured to keep her trouble within the narrowest limits of the family circle and if she were a widow living with her daughter and nobody else, such a desire would be both natural and possible. Parents make great efforts to hush up such troubles and will use all sorts of devices to hide their own bitter condition of heart. Or they will endeavour to conceal their anxiety by speaking in eulogistic terms of anything in the daughter's life that is a cause of satisfaction. Such over-emphasis usually indicates a great effort to assuage a deep and tender pain in the heart.
Great hopes are dashed to despair as when Manoah and his wife
sensed unmistakably the trend in Samson's life, his longing
for a woman of the Philistines from which race they had firmly believed he had been brought into the world to deliver Israel. What a demoniacal situation!Hence this alien woman, brought to an end of herself with a real burden, patiently borne for her
daughter, hearing that Jesus was on the borders of her country, resolved to seek Him out. To Him, she believed, she could tell all and from Him, she was sure, deliverance could and would come.
THE WOMAN'S FAITH
Faith is a quality not easily analysed. People tell us to exercise faith, which is about as helpful as urging us to cultivate an appetite. Faith is the simple confidence of a human soul in the Living God whose character is holy and because of this confidence such promises as God has given become achievements in the experience of the one who believes. But how a person secures such a faith or can enter into its possession is another matter. Like the woman with the issue of blood we may be driven to Jesus by sheer failure in every other direction. Or as we get to know more of Jesus, we may find trust comes to birth in our hearts, but ultimately faith is the gift of God and that gift was granted to this woman in her alien circumstances before ever she came face to face with Jesus.
One's standing, of course, is not independent of relationship.
This woman had no previous contact with Jesus; she was a stranger to the covenant
of promise and without any claim upon Him. It was no little disadvantage. A
beggar may present himself on our doorstep desiring help and we know quite well
that if we help him, we have never seen him before and will certainly never
see him again. His appeal, therefore, for a loan is bereft of a good deal of
force. Yet one's wife may approach her husband for a loan and while the prospect
of repayment is just as remote in her case as in the other, yet the relationship
will ensure her success. The Christian knows his position as one redeemed sharing
the Divine nature and sealed with the Holy Spirit, that he enjoys a relationship
as a son that cannot be denied, and yet we may have much to learn from this
woman. If she
had had the privileges, which today are ours in Christ, her confidence in approaching our Lord would have been invincible. She would have marvelled at the easy way in which we conduct our praying with God.
The sharing of the Divine life, the continuity of communion at
the Throne of Grace ought to mean that we should never be content to submit
to any circumstance until in faith we have wrestled the issue with God.See then
this woman in her great need with a faith in her heart which, under the education
of the Lord, will grow until it is as great as the burden on her back. She is
convinced that if she can gain His ear something will be done. She has no idea
how it can be done. She has no plans in her imagination such as Naaman indulged.
All she desires is to come face to face with Jesus, and to cry out to Him for
help. And she believes that for the rest, in His way, by His own methods, whether
by coming into her country and into her house or
by speaking the word, but in the way of His omnipotence, her daughter will be made whole.
You can never deal with Jesus until you have a limitless conviction.
All things are possible to Him that believeth, indicates that when you are asking
the smallest thing of Jesus you must ask it, as one who believes that the largest
demand is as easy with Him as the smallest. If like the woman of Samaria we
think that the well is so deep and Jesus has nothing to draw with that we cannot
expect Him to deal with very large issues, then faith will be straitened. We
must believe there is no well too deep for Jesus. Whether the need is individual,
social, domestic, national or international, it is all alike to Him. If we think
that Jesus can do something for boys and girls in Sunday School but the big
things on the international plane must be handled by the
politicians, that Mission halls are all right for heady evangelists saving souls, but the House of Commons is the Mecca of power for the really big things of mankind, then of course, we shall quickly slump into the pitiful helplessness we see on every hand. This woman believed that an ineradicable demon, enthroned in the depths of her daughter's being, impervious to every psychic approach, would nevertheless be forced and compelled to come out at the command of Jesus, and with this strong buoyant faith she sought Him out. His was the power to do it and although she knew nothing of how it would be done her confidence in
Him was evidently unbounded.
THE WOMAN'S PERSISTENCE
We may think of her at home under great duress, thinking of happy
days before her daughter was gripped by this demon power. At first, of course,
the attitude and action of the girl would be perplexing, but gradually the truth
was forced home upon her. What terrible days she endured and then she heard
of Jesus and the marvellous things He did to be followed by the news that He
was near enough to be reached.It is not without interest that we learn from
Mark of His strict injunction that no man was to know His whereabouts; He was
strictly incognito. Mark adds, however," But He could not be hid".
It was just impossible for the light not to shine and the beauty not enjoyed.
It would seem that this woman was prepared to knock at every door and search
every room in the town before she would surrender her quest. She was convinced
that Jesus and Jesus
alone was the answer to her problem. How right she was! And this might be the opportunity of a lifetime. At last she found herself in the presence of Jesus and the cry to Him came from the depths of her being, but then it was, she found obstacles of a kind she may not have expected and which certainly few who had dealings with Jesus encountered.The first difficulty was His silence. He answered her not a word.;
He Who was the Word of God had no word for her. He ignored her in silence. Nobody likes such treatment and none but He should give it. What would be rudeness in any other was part of His gracious education of her faith. It was an initial test of her confidence and pertinacity. If she felt that any other could cure her child His silence would banish her quickly, but if she really believed that He alone could heal then nothing would dismay her. And so it proved.The second difficulty was the attitude of the disciples. They besought Him to send her away on the ground that she was a nuisance and it appears from His answer that it was part of their suggestion that the wretched demon should be dealt with in order to get rid of her. But a principle was involved. He was come to the lost sheep of Israel and to them alone. His business was not with the great Gentile world; because He was presenting Himself within Judea and Galilee as the Messiah. Not even comfort and expediency, therefore,
could be invoked as a reason for doing what the woman asked. Whether she heard this conversation we cannot tell, but it seems as if there was some change in her tactics. Instead of crying out piteously, as He stood there apparently unmoved
she came nearer. Neither His attitude nor His words dismayed her but she came and worshipped Him.Surely the worshipping heart is dear to the Lord. What feelings must have been stirred within His heart as He saw her offering Him her adoration and pleading: "Lord, help me." Would He be able to resist her plea?
Indeed He would; for it seemed as if He had waited for such a
moment to administer the sharpest blow of all, It is not meet to take the children's
bread, and cast it to dogs. It was a crushing rejoinder that must have surprised
the disciples. Yet it was so designed that if this woman had that insight that
faith gives, it would provide her with the opportunity which in marvellous fashion
she took: "Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table" It was nothing to her whether she was answered as a child sitting at the table with the Lord, as a servant offering her devotion or as a dog under the table, glad of any scrap that might fall. Dog indeed she would be if only her daughter could be healed. And He Who came into the world to be sin for us and to die the death of the Cross, an outcast, a so-called blasphemer saw in the heart of this woman so much that was akin to the depths of His own spirit. She did not know it, but He did, that her faith had brought her into a true spiritual kinship with Himself. Like Joseph with his brethren He could refrain no longer and in the words of the text the blessing was hers
As she went her homeward way she realised the joy of a great faith
made great by His chastisement. Now she could see what He had done for her by
His education. This demon was evidently in strong possession of the girl and
therefore strong faith was required. And Jesus, while He had the absolute power,
designed to use her faith as a fulcrum of His might. There are doubtless situations
in our own lives just as poignant and insoluble. We shall not win through to
victory by despair, by grim regrets, but by faith, a faith that just refuses
to entertain any kind of unbelief and by a persistence that cannot be set aside
by any kind of treatment it receives.What He did for the daughter He will do
for us. God give us the faith, a faith that renounces confidence in all else
and a persistence that increases in tenacity with every obstacle until our faith
becomes by training and exercise of that
quality that overcomes the world.
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