Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Season Of Pentecost Proper 15 Sunday August 20th 2017 - / Matthew 15:21-28 / Little Faith Great Faith? How Much Faith Do You Need?
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday August 20th 2017: Pentecost / Matthew 15:21-28 "Little Faith Great Faith? How Much Faith Do You Need?"
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and begged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And He answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Then Jesus answered Her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Last week, Saint Peter, one of Jesus’ handpicked twelve disciples, a child of Israel, a son of the covenant of Abraham, a man who heard the Scriptures read to him in the synagogue of Capernaum, one who celebrated the Passover remembering the awesome deeds of God when the Lord cleaved the depths of the Red Sea so that Peter’s ancestors could walk on dry ground shepherded to safety out of the clutched of the Egyptian Pharaoh who had enslaved them, this, this Peter who was not afraid of water but rather worked on the water as a fisherman had, at the call of Christ Jesus stepped out of the boat in the midst of the storm, in the dead of night, into the waves and everyone holds their breath … what faith, to step out into the waves, to walk on the water to Jesus, even just for a few steps, when they were all so terrified and then at his moment of triumphal faith Peter became distracted … “he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink [Peter] cried out, “Lord, save me.” And Jesus [who had come to them, walking on the sea; who had spoke to them words of comfort when they thought He was a ghost, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”] Immediately reached out His hand and took hold of Peter, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
“O you of little faith” not “O you of no faith” no Jesus says to Peter “O you of little faith” and between last week’s Gospel and this week’s Gospel St. Matthew records how Peter and the rest of the disciples after reaching the other side of the Sea of Galilee witnessed the sick of the region of Gennesaret healed by just touching the fringe of Jesus’ garments. And after tangling with, and winning a spur-of-the-moment debate with, the learned Scribes and the Pharisees from Jerusalem about God’s law and what defiles a person, the disciples find Jesus in another spur-of-the-moment debate with a Canaanite woman. By the end of it Jesus says to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” Her daughter was severely oppressed by a demon, and she was seeking help for her poor child.
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
“O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”
Both the Canaanite woman and Saint Peter have faith in Christ and in both cases we see this faith in action. Now Jesus’ debate with the learned Scribes and the Pharisees from Jerusalem about God’s law and what defiles a person is important to this discussion of faith because in that conversation Jesus teaches them and His disciples who are listening that “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Your heart, dear ones, is not the source of your faith, your faith doesn’t spontaneously spring to life in the recesses of your heart, no your faith like everything else is created, it is implanted in the heart, taking root there, it grows and flourishes by the working of the Holy Spirit. For Saint Paul would later write that, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Both Saint Peter and the Canaanite woman had faith implanted in them as a gift because they had heard God’s Word, the word of Christ. That is how faith comes about.
Today Willow Grudnitzki receives this gift of faith in her baptism, her baptism is not just plain water, a little washing of her outward body, no it is water which includes God’s command combined with His word, “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” the same word of God used to both begin our Divine Service today and to remember our own baptism into Christ, which like Willow’s baptism has always been, and always will be, a gift from God. Likewise today Curtis, Willow’s father, has his baptism confirmed, which is to say it is confirmed that this gift of faith in Christ given to him by the Holy Spirit is alive and well it continues to grow and flourish, it has not been choked by the cares and riches of the world, or snatched out of his heart as a crow pecks away seed on a hard packed path, it has not fallen away in the midst of tribulation and trouble.
But you say, ‘that’s all great for Willow and Curtis by for myself … I too was baptised as a child and my faith today feels weak,’ or ‘I’m not sure if I even have faith,’ or ‘I don’t know if I have enough faith.’ Remember what Jesus said to Peter, “O you of little faith” not “O you of no faith” Jesus is teaching His disciples something about faith in Him, the nature of this faith. On the one hand Peter had no reason to doubt Jesus, like I said Peter was steeped in his religion from his childhood, he would even have been circumcised on just the 8th day of his life after he was born, on the other hand the Canaanite woman had every reason to doubt Jesus, she was a gentile she was not one of the lost sheep of Israel, she was not one of the Children of Israel, she had no obvious claim on Jesus. Peter who had no reason to doubt had doubts, the Canaanite woman who had every reason to doubt had no doubts at all yet in the end both Saint Peter and the Canaanite woman receive what they need from Jesus. Peter is saved from drowning in the Sea of Galilee and the Canaanite woman’s daughter is healed of her demonic oppression. We see here, as we see in other spots in Matthew’s Gospel, that Jesus is actually intended to be the Saviour not just for men like Peter but for all people in the world, Jews and gentiles alike. Faith is distributed by the Holy Spirit via the Word of God and that Word of God is for all people.
I remember a pastor Wayne Jensen years ago asking the simple question, “How much faith do you need to be saved, to in the end go to heaven, and have eternal life?” His answer was like this, ‘it’s not a matter of percentages, there is not tipping point between little faith and great faith where the one with little faith won’t make it and the one with great faith will make it … rather it is the one with faith in Christ that makes it regardless of how much faith or how little faith that person has.’ Being 100% faithful on your part, being 51% faithful on your part doesn’t get you into heaven, it is Jesus’ perfect faithfulness toward His heavenly Father, His true faithfulness toward us in our need that does. And it is the Holy Spirit who then calls and gathers us by the word of God into eternal life, giving eternal life as a gift to all believers in Christ Jesus. This is why the baby with but a seed of faith implanted in them, or even a man like the thief on the cross crucified next to Christ Jesus on Good Friday who came to faith the very day he would die, whose faith would be just like a seed implanted in his heart, can both have “enough” faith in Christ to be saved because it is Jesus who does the saving. Great faith then is great because it is a witness to others, a bold confession of faith in Christ to the world, and such faith in Christ is still a faith in which Jesus is the one doing the saving.
If for some reason you have fallen into the ditch along the way where you think that your faith is your own doing and that you apart from Christ, or even in addition to Christ, have warranted your salvation, repent turn to Christ your true and only Saviour, ask for forgiveness in Him and your will be forgiven. Or if you have fallen into the other ditch and in despair you fear that you lack sufficient faith to be saved, because you fail in faithfulness, take heart, repent, turn to Christ your true and only Saviour, ask for forgiveness in Him and your will be forgiven, remember that His faith is flawless, without fault and the Holy Spirit has given this faith to you as a gift. You may feel like you are eating crumbs under the table but you are not … you are a child of God, a true guest at that table: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” so, whether you are a sheep in the sheepfold with great faith or a lost sheep wandering the countryside full of doubts remember what Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Matthew 14:25-27
 Matthew 14:30-32
 Matthew 14:34-36
 Matthew 15:19
 Romans 10:17
 Matthew 28:19
 John 10:27-28