On Dogs and Mercy

(Matthew 15:21-28)

I don’t want to talk about faith. I’d rather talk about Jesus.

Jesus is your salvation from death, O man. He is your redemption. By His stripes you are healed. He has undone the curse of sin and death and has ushered in the kingdom of grace in which you find yourself in, having been washed by His blood and marked as one of His own.

Jesus is the Son of God, but almost more importantly, He is the Son of Man. He is your advocate and defender against the evil one, against that ancient wicked foe who first tricked our first parents and who has been lying and murdering ever since. Jesus defends you against him, calling you holy though you are not; calling you sons of God though you were born sons of Satan. Jesus defends you against the accusations of the devil, claiming your sins as His own and telling the devil and His heavenly Father that you, in fact, are holy, washed clean and made spotless so that the accusations fall on deaf ears and your heavenly Father is well pleased in you.

That’s Jesus. How much more could be said! There are not enough words and there isn’t enough time to do Him justice in praise and honor. Our speech is woefully shallow in singing His praises and our lives are woefully lacking in living by His mercy and grace.

But then comes sickness and disease. Then comes demons and the hordes of hell to torment you. Then comes failed marriages and sham marriages. Then comes wayward children and faithless children. Then comes ruined reputations and ruined lives. Then comes defilement. Then comes death itself. And in the face of all this who is strong enough to cling to Jesus? Who is strong enough to hold fast to the promises of mercy and grace, life, even abundant life? Who is strong enough to take hold of Him who is the light of the world and the salvation of all men and not let go until He gives a blessing?

Not me. Not you. We are not strong enough. We so often doubt the mercy and goodness of God that we are driven to lie to protect our reputations. We are driven to lie about our marriages. We are driven to lie to justify our sinful wants and shameful desires. We are not strong. We are weak. We have nothing to bargain with, nothing that He wants. If He were hungry He would not tell us. If He were cold He would not come to us for warmth. If He were tired He would not ask us for reprieve. Who is man that He is mindful of him? Who are we that the Lord would take notice? Are we not sinners and vagabonds, all of us? Have we not caused mayhem and chaos in the lives of others for nothing but our own pleasure? Have we not abused others and used them to our ends and then sloughed them off like yesterday’s dirty clothes? Do we not take advantage of others to bolster our reputation, saying this or that but with no intention to follow through or do what we’ve said? Then when we fail on our promises and in our duties we blame others and talk about how they are worse than us and how they have sabotaged us and how if it weren’t for them our lives would be good, our homes would be happy, and our wallets would be fat. Do we not think so often that hell is other people?

No?

Then what of those who have avoided this week? What of those you have looked down on and even slandered with your fair-weather friends? What of those you have rejected because of their poverty, their color, or their sin?

Or are you the lone righteous one in the teeming masses of humanity? Are you the sole good person in the sea of wicked men? Do you alone possess the wisdom of God and are you alone His equal in doing what is right so that He would use you as the standard of righteousness and goodness? Isn’t that what we think? Isn’t that how we treat ourselves? As if we alone hold the key to true righteousness and everyone else is playing catch up? Do we not think of ourselves as good and right and pure, even while we lie and slander our brothers; so accustom to it that we don’t even know we are doing it?

Yes, that is who we truly are. Dogs. Lapping up our own vomit and selling our souls for a warm bed and some scraps of food. That is what we truly are. Dogs. Unable to care for ourselves. Dogs. Beasts of opportunity; shamelessly waging our tails when we are treated well and shamelessly biting the hand that feeds us.

But even dogs eat the Master’s food that falls from the table. Lord, have mercy. Your faith, O Christian, has saved you. Not your goodness and works of charity. Not your pedigree of Lutheran or American or being white or middle class. Your faith. And what is your faith? Is the tenacious grasp you have on the promises of God in Christ that He will save you and forgive you and love you to the end. So that even in the midst of your sin and shame you cry out with full assurance of being heard: “Lord, have mercy!” Even though you feel as though you don’t belong and that others are begging you to be silent and go away, you cry out with tenacity and boldness: “Lord, have mercy!”

You have caught the ear of the Savior. He has turned His attention to you. Here is His mercy. Your faith has saved you. Here is the Master’s table. And far from mere scraps, from it falls the Master’s body and blood for you. No matter your station in life, your income, your pedigree, or your sinful ways. Here His blood is poured out for you and here is Body is given to you that you may be whole; that you may be holy.

For that is why the Son of Man appeared, to undue the works of Satan and to gather to Himself His chosen people who look to Him for all good, crying out, “Lord, have mercy!”