The Children's Bread
March 11, 2017
Christ Lutheran Church
March 12, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
The Children’s Bread
Jesus left there and headed for the region of Tyre and Sidon; he entered a house because he did not want anyone to know he was there, but he could not stay hidden. For when a woman heard about him, whose daughter had an unclean spirit, she came and fell at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenecian by birth; and Jesus said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fitting to take the children's bread, and cast it to the dogs." But she answered back, "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table get to eat the children's crumbs." And he said to her, "For this word, go, the demon is gone from your daughter." And she returned to her home, and found the demon gone, and her daughter in her bed. Mark 7:24-30
The account of the Syrophoenecian woman appears twice in holy Scripture, once in St. Matthew and once in St. Mark. The two versions have similarities, but also some differences which we do well to consider.
The first thing we should learn today is that both were written to teach and inspire the church. Not the church as a vague entity, but the church assembled for holy communion with her God, just as we are assembled today.
Both were recorded so that God’s people should know and believe that Jesus is the one, mighty, merciful Lord; who by his death on the cross, destroyed the works of the devil.
Both were preserved in order to teach us that the love of God is not limited by national origin, or any other factor. But that it extends to all people who confess Jesus as Lord, and call on him for help; as in the case of the woman we encounter today; who lived outside the boundaries of Israel, and was a stranger to the covenants of promises God. But she too is authorized to eat the children’s bread by her faith, and her confession that Jesus is Lord.
We learn, moreover, from both evangelists that Jesus himself is the children’s Bread. Not just spiritual bread, or bread as a religious illustration – the kind that any Protestant would gladly have you believe. But the bread which we break on this altar! The Bread you see with your eyes, handle with your hands, and taste with your tongue. This is Jesus! This is the Bread of Life, come down from heaven, for the life of the world. This is the place where Jesus locates himself for you, and from whence he dispenses his mercy, and answers a mother’s prayers.
But simply to assert, as we do, that our Lord is truly present in the Eucharist, is not saying enough. To be sure it is a dogma that every Lutheran must believe lest he receive the Blessed Bread to his harm. But still we must say more! We must add that Jesus isn’t just casually present. But that in this holy communion he reaches out to you. Calls out to you. Offers to you all that he is, all he does, all that he promises, every good and perfect gift. So that by partaking of this blessed sacrament both you and your children may be rescued from the domain of darkness; and partake in the Kingdom of God’s own Son.
Another similarity is that both versions seem to elicit pity for the desperate woman; and suggest that her daughter was the innocent victim of evil spirits, who randomly chose to torment her; and that might be the case.
But we also know that many young girls choose to dance with the devil. Sometimes against the counsel of their mothers, and sometimes following in their footsteps: the “sins of the mothers” (Exodus 20:5) as it were.
We should also know, and hopefully all young people will learn today, that there are endless dangers and temptations which can ensnare them; and that we all would all do well to hear the word of St. James 4:7 where he says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
But if the age old temptations were not enough to contend with there is a new, and even greater sin today: the sin of “gender identity.”
Young Christians (old ones too) don’t believe the evil spirits that inhabit the culture! It is our faith that God created all people, and did so in only two varieties: male and female. And know, too, that if there is any confusion on the matter that it is in opposition not only to God. But that it is also a sin against reason, nature, and anatomy and physiology as well. It is the fabrication of bad people, of ideologues whose only wish is to harm you! To confuse you, use you, and abuse you for their own gain.
What, then, is our defense against such evil spirits that torment our youth, rob them of their reason, lead them to use their bodies as instruments of unrighteousness; and throw the whole world into confusion?
It is the very thing that St. Mark stresses in his gospel!
While Matthew features the strength of the mother’s faith and her perseverance; St. Mark notes the content of her faith. She knew that “Jesus is Lord”! (1 Corinthians 12:3) She knew that he and he alone could help her. And so she searched until she found the house in which he was concealing himself. And when she found him she went in; she fell down in worship before him; she prayed to him as to God himself, and she believed that he would do this for her.
She comprehended that Jesus does not merely dispense the children’s bread. But that he himself is the children’s Bread who expels merciless demons, and dries the tears of weeping mothers!
The content of our faith is the same!
We believe that Jesus is the Eternal Word of God made flesh for us. Who judged, and expelled the Prince of this World by his death on the cross. We know, too, that what he did then, he still does today.
We believe that he is not hidden away, but that in holy baptism he rescues us from death and the devil.
That in the Eucharist he feeds us to the full with the Food that satisfies us, that pardons our sins, that makes us spiritually alive, that renders us strong, glad, calm, resolute and confident, that with Jesus we will prevail over all our enemies; now and always. For he is our Lord. He is our God. He is our Savior. Who dwells unhidden in the church, so that we might always obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Amen.