Home > Lent > Let Us Draw Near With a True Heart. Reminiscere 2014 Sermon. St. Matthew 15:21-28

Let Us Draw Near With a True Heart. Reminiscere 2014 Sermon. St. Matthew 15:21-28

woman-of-canaan2Reminiscere + St. Peter Lutheran Church + St. Matthew 15:21-28 + March 16, 2014

“Let us draw near with a true heart”


Iesu iuva!


The first thing to notice about this Gospel for Reminiscere Sunday is the labor and pain the Canaanite woman puts into her prayers. 


She receives no answer to her petition.  Jesus walks by without saying a word.  But she follows, crying out after Him and His disciples: Son of David, have mercy on Me!  When I was a kid my and my parents would give me some work to do and I would say, “I tried, but I just couldn’t do it,” they taught me that when people really want something they don’t quit so easily.


It doesn’t matter whether she’s embarrassed or whether Jesus is being unfair.  She doesn’t quit.  Tears and sweat and time go into her praying.  Rejection doesn’t stop her.


We see mothers spend this kind of extraordinary energy for their kids all the time, right?  But not always.  And one area where parents often give up pretty easily is when it comes to the spiritual well-being of their children.  It’s easy to see our kids’ need for a good job, their need to stay away from drugs, for an education.


But what about their need for God’s word?  To most parents that seems to be much less of a concern.  It’s not uncommon to wait 6 months, 9 months, a year, two years to bring your children to be baptized.  Then if you bring them to church and Sunday school once a month you’re exceptionally devout.


But if a person doesn’t believe in Christ he belongs to the devil’s kingdom, including little children.  A child that has not been brought to Christ and offered to Him first in prayer and then in Holy Baptism may not be bodily possessed by the devil, but apart from faith in Christ a child is spiritually possessed.  And once baptized, children are subject to Satan’s attacks just like adults.

The only thing that saves us from Satan tormenting us is the breath of Jesus, the Word of God.  Yet we are not very concerned when our children are made targets for this torment and deprived of the protection of God’s Word.


And even where parents are diligent about bringing their children to hear the Word of God, our zeal to carry them to Christ in prayer fizzles out so quickly.


That’s the first thing to meditate on in the Canaanite woman’s prayer to Jesus.  She prays and doesn’t quit even when Jesus seems to reject her prayer.  She is no doubt motivated by love for her daughter, but above all by faith in Jesus.  Faith causes her to pray, and faith keeps her praying.


But how quickly we get tired of praying for others—tired of carrying them to the Lord, tired of worrying about them.  How often we pray once or twice and then are proud of our efforts.  But to pray for years and years and see no answer—that is something we seldom do except when we can do nothing else.  And it is not usually for others that we are willing to bear this burden, but only when we are driven by our own pain and trouble.


This is what faith in Christ does: it draws near to Him.  It comes near to Him for forgiveness and salvation.  But it also comes near to take and receive from Him the gift of the Holy Spirit and daily bread.  Hour by hour, moment by moment.  Not just once, but again and again.


Many people say they have faith in Jesus who don’t see the need to go to church.


What kind of faith is it if it doesn’t make you draw near to Jesus?


Is it possible to believe that Jesus is your Savior and then not draw near Him?


I believe my wife is my wife.  I was there when we said vows.  But what does that belief mean if it never results in me coming near her?


I made vows to her before God and witnesses that I would draw near to her every day of my life.  I didn’t promise that I would just be near her physically, but that I would draw near to her in heart and mind.  That I would seek to live out the reality God established in our wedding—that we are one flesh.


If I depart from her, move away from her—emotionally or physically—I can point to our marriage license all day and say, “No, I really am married to her.  It says so right here.”  But the marriage license won’t prevent the death of the marriage.


Faith that doesn’t draw one near to Jesus is dead faith.  Salvationless faith.  It’s like a marriage without love.  You ask if I love my wife, and I tell you, “Yes, I signed the papers back in 2006.”


The god you really have faith in is the one you draw near to and go to for help, for strength, for good things.


You come near to your god not only with your body and your lips, but with your heart also.  But don’t be fooled when people tell you they draw near to Christ with their hearts even though they avoid Christ’s Word and Sacraments and the members of His body, the Church.


[If you believe in Jesus you love Him.  If you love Jesus you love those who are His (according to Scripture—1 John…)  And when we love someone in our hearts we also want to be near them in the body—to see their face, hear their voice.  Isn’t that what Paul is always saying in his letters?  For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift…Romans 1:12]


Faith draws near.  But it is also very possible to draw near to Christ physically and with words and actions and yet not draw near with the heart.  Jesus just finished saying that to the Pharisees earlier in Matthew chapter 15: Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me…” (verses 7-8)


What if God said this about you?  Does He?


“With their mouths they draw near to me, but their hearts are far away from me.”  God is saying, “They say the words with their lips but not their hearts.  Their hearts are after another lover, another God.”


Examine your own life and your own thoughts and see if the words fit: This people draws near to me with their mouth, but their heart is far from me.  You act like you want to come near to God.  You show up and participate in the Divine Service pretty regularly, and in the Divine Service we all say the words of people who want to come near to God.  But where is your heart?


David sang in the Psalms:

O God, you are my God.  Early will I seek Thee.  My soul thirsteth for Thee.  My body longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is, to see Thy power and Thy glory…(Psalm 63:1-2)

As the deer pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after Thee, O God.  My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God…(Psalm 42:1-2)



People see our actions, but God sees our hearts.  I examine my heart and I find that more often than I want to acknowledge I am talking like a Christian and a pastor and trying to pass myself off as one.  But it isn’t the Lord and His will that my heart wants.  I want to do my will because I think that my will is more likely to bring me happiness than God and His will.


Before confessing our sins, the Divine Service has me say to you, Beloved in the Lord!  Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins to God our Father, beseeching Him…to grant us forgiveness.  The words are from the Bible, from Hebrews chapter 10: Therefore, brothers, having boldness to enter the Most Holy place by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.  (verses 19, 21)


The Canaanite woman draws near to Jesus with a true heart.


That means, first of all, that she comes knowing she has no right to come to Him.  Like the prodigal son came home to his dad.  Not claiming rights, but confessing that he had no rights.  Asking for mercy.


But drawing near to God with a true heart means also coming with boldness and assurance of faith.  The Canaanite woman was so sure that Jesus would receive her that even when Jesus seemed to reject her she was sure that He would accept her.


You cannot draw near to God without first being a sinner.


That’s why she wasn’t put off when He didn’t answer her.  Or when He told her she was a dog.


She agreed.  But still dogs receive crumbs from the table of the children.


We don’t have the right to come near to God and ask Him for gifts.


But Jesus does.  His heart was fixed on God.  He prayed without ceasing.  He obeyed the Father.  He is the beloved Son after His Father’s own heart.


His pure heart was pierced so that our defiled hearts would be purified and cleansed.  He offered His perfect heart that drew near to God for your wicked heart that turns away from Him to idols.  His heart was perfect and pure.  Full of unstained, unclouded, unfaltering faith.  Full with all the fullness of God of selfless and pure love toward God and toward you and all His creation.


He made atonement for our hearts that by nature are far from God.  And by faith in Him we draw near to God with a clean conscience.  Our hearts could only tremble and be afraid of God because we are constantly drawn by them to seek other lovers, other gods.  But through Him we draw near to God.  In Him we have access to God and may call upon Him to grant us out of His fullness everything we need for our soul and body, moment by moment.


And not only are we given confidence to ask for ourselves, but as priests we are allowed and assigned to intercede for the needs of our neighbors.


So we draw near with our hearts sprinkled and our bodies washed.  Our bodies washed in baptism like priests’ bodies were washed.  But our hearts sprinkled with His blood like everything holy in the temple was sprinkled and cleansed with blood.


And we come and draw near and ask and receive.  That is what we have been given the right to do.


That’s what you get to do because you are also priests.  If people you are near can’t or won’t draw near to Christ–if they are vexed by a devil spiritually, controlled by him or being driven away from Christ—we get to go ask for them like she did.


The tragedy is how little we ask Him.  We ask little when He would give so much.  Peter asked Jesus to tell him to walk on the water.  Jesus said, “Come,” not, “don’t ask for so much.”


We don’t ask because we rely on too many idols—ourselves, our own powers.  Our ideas about how things are supposed to work.


How terrible to be of the covenant and promise and yet never use the benefits by drawing near in faith and receiving grace to help in the needed time!  That’s what the Pharisees did.  They were hardened and thought they were already holy and righteous.  They dressed up in their self-made righteousness and blinded themselves to the fact that they didn’t keep God’s law.  If they had seen their need and their poverty, they would have asked Jesus, and He would have given them living water.  He would have said “I am the Lord your God.  Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”


Then we have this lady who was not among the holy people, and she grasped by strong faith what the disciples had grasped weakly (Peter) and what the Pharisees had not grasped at all.


Oh that the Lord would let us see our need and His passion during this short season of Lent, and draw near to Him with a true heart, receiving from His fullness for our need and the people He has given us to serve!


The peace of God…


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