I would like to share with you this morning, a brief description of a Charlie Chaplin movie, “City Lights.” Chaplin plays a little vagabond tramp who opens himself to anyone who opens their door to him. He becomes a vehicle for salvation for both a poor blind girl and a rich man. The rich man is bent on drowning himself. Charlie befriends him and the rich man, who is drunk at the time, takes the little tramp home with him for dinner. When the rich man sobers up he rejects the little clown and even accuses him of stealing money which the rich man in his drunken stupor had given him. Fleeing the police, the little clown manages to get the money into the hands of a poor blind girl for an operation she desperately needs to restore her sight. Then, he is arrested and imprisoned.
After serving a sentence in prison, the little tramp emerges shabbier than ever. The blind girl had imagined the one who thrust the money in her hands to be a handsome, wealthy young man. Now that her sight has been restored via surgery she does not recognize him.
As the little tramp forlornly shuffles by the window of her new floral shop, which she had bought with his money, she ridicules him. The pathos and tragedy become intense as the shop owner heaps scorn on the very one who had gone to prison for the money which had made her what she is. Only in the final scene of the film does she discover that the shabby little tramp was her benefactor. She touches his arm and his face once again exactly as she did in that moment of blindness. As she realizes what has happened, she whispers, “You!”
Love comes in all kinds of different packages. Love comes in all kinds of different shapes, color, people and situations. The little blind girl imagined that the love extended to her was from a rich and handsome young man, not a tramp an ex-con, a bum.
This was the kind of person, “the little clown tramp” was, that deserved the scorn of people, not the praise, not the thanks. He was only a tramp, a no-gooder, but in fact, he was really the one who brought grace, love, salvation and hope into at least two people’s lives.
The rich man was saved from drowning and the blind girl for whom he sacrificed years of his life in prison, so that she might be able to see. Love does indeed come in many different ways.
When the blind girl was restored to sight, at first her love was prejudiced, when she realized that this little clown tramp in his black suit, funny hat, and black cane was her rescuer, she praised, she thanked, she began to love him in return.
Our gospel lesson for today is about two people with love in their hearts, Jesus and the Canaanite woman. At first glance this seems to be a harsh account in the life of Jesus, but when we look closely at this story, it is really a story about love, the love of a mother for her daughter and the love of Jesus for a worried mother and a sick daughter.
Jesus had left Jewish lands to go into Gentile lands to be alone, to regroup his thoughts, to prepare his disciples for the coming events of the cross. He needed time alone, to rest, to teach, to pray to gain strength. So he went into Gentile lands north of Galilee, because the Jewish people would not follow him there.
But while in this land, a Gentile woman come to him begging him to heal her daughter. Jesus’ fame must have even spread into lands that he had not even visited. This woman had so much faith in a man that she had never met that she was pleading him to say the words and her sick daughter at once would be made well.
At first Jesus ignores her. He says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus knew he was sent to the Jews first. He knew he would have to first convince them he was the savior of the world before he could work in the Gentile lands.
The woman responded. She came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” The woman falls at Jesus’ knees in an act of worship, calling him Lord. She declared her brief confession of faith. Her heart flew to Jesus the Lord, the Messiah, the chosen one of God.
Then comes the most perplexing statement that Jesus makes when he says; “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Sound like an insult, for the Jewish people considered these Canaanite people to be like dogs, so Jesus was saying is it fair to take what was supposed to be given to the Jews first and give it to the Gentiles.
Maybe Jesus said this harsh statement with a smile on his face and in a quiet tone, really only to test this woman’s faith. Our translation does not include it, but some translations have the word “pet” before the dogs in our text. Jesus was trying to say she wasn’t like the dogs that roam the streets, but she was like the family dog. He was including her in the family of believers.
The Canaanite woman caught Jesus’ subtle hint and says: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” She was saying again, “Yes I understand who you are, but even though I am not Jewish, I still believe you are the Christ, the chosen one sent from God to save the world.”
So Jesus says: O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And the last verse of the text says as if we needed to read that. “And her daughter was healed instantly.” By the way, Jesus only says this same sentence one other time, and that is also to a Gentile. To his own, he is talking about their little faith.
Jesus praised this woman’s faith and devotion. Her faith in Jesus, her blind faith, her unwavering faith, her persistent faith. And Jesus praised her devotion, her love for her daughter that gave her the courage to come to Jesus in the first place, to be persistent, to not take no for an answer.
This is a great story about love and faith. A mother’s love for her daughter and a mother’s faith in a savior she has only met this one time, but a faith that allowed her to act.
Even though Jesus was subtle in his acknowledgement of her and her faith at the beginning of the conversation, she had faith. And that faith drove her on.
“A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20.00 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?” Hands started going up.
He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you, but first let me do this. He proceeded to crumple the $20 dollar bill up. He then asked, “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air.
Well, he replied, “What if I do this?” And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. “Now, who still wants it?” Still the hands went into the air.
“My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what was done to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20.
“Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless.
“But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who DO love you. The worth of our lives comes not in what we do or whom we know, but by WHO WE ARE.
“You are special – Don’t EVER forget it.”
Who are you? A person of faith? A person who believes in the saving grace of Christ through the cross of Calvary? Do you feel special because of Christ in your life?
Would you have had the faith of that mother to keep after Jesus?
Soren Kierkegaard said “The object of faith is not the teaching but the Teacher.” And this woman understood who Jesus was by falling on her knees and worshiping Him through an act of faith.
She probably heard about Jesus, and had faith enough to be willing to put the life of her daughter on the line.
A closing story from World War II tells of this kind of faith.
During the terrible days of the Blitz, a father, holding his small son by the hand, ran from a building that had been struck by a bomb. In the front yard was a shell hole. Seeking shelter as quickly as possible, the father jumped into the hole and held up his arms for his son to follow. Terrified, yet hearing his father’s voice telling him to jump, the boy replied, “I can’t see you!”
The father, looking up against the sky tinted red by the burning buildings, called to the silhouette of his son, “But I can see you. Jump!” The boy jumped, because he trusted his father.
The Christian faith enables us to face life not because we can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known.
Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”
This message from Tim Zingale is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project