Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 20, 2017
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
(Q&A Topic:Obeying Authorities)
Copyright 2017 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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This week on Action in Ministry Q&A MP3
Text: Matthew 15:21-28
Christ has risen. He is risen indeed. Dear Lord, I give thanks that You have loved me enough to sacrifice Your Son to save me. It was not a politically correct thing to do, but because You did I have been given forgiveness and salvation. Grant me gratitude to You, my Savior, and the Holy Spirit, for saving me from my sins and myself. Lord, grant such gratitude to be the response of us all. Amen.
The story begins this way, "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, oh 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's 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's 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 master's table.' Then Jesus answered her, 'Oh, woman, great is your faith. Be it done for you as you desire,' and her daughter was healed instantly." That is the Lord's Word.
There are sermons that are easy to write and sermons that come out like pulling wisdom teeth. Not so long ago, I heard of a TV preacher who was having a difficult time with his sermon. That's because his advisors and proofreaders shot down all of his opening ideas. For example, in his message about Jesus and what we would call "political correctness" or, more accurately, Jesus' lack of political correctness, he was going to begin with an old joke that starts this way: "A rabbi, a priest, and a pastor walked into a bar." He was told he wasn't allowed to tell that story. "Why not?" he asked. They told him it was because some clergy would object to the three clergy going into a bar. Others would be upset because they don't like stories about preachers, and other ministers would be upset because they have no sense of humor.
Well, he scrapped the clergy joke, rewrote his manuscript, and submitted it again. It was returned by his proofreader. Do you know what that proofreader did to that opening story? This is the way the proofreader wanted to preacher to tell it: a redhead, a brunette, and a person of indeterminate hair color were lost in the desert. They found a lamp and rubbed it. A genie popped out and granted them each one wish. The redhead wished to be back home. Poof! She was back home. The brunette wished to be at home with family. Poof! She was back home with her family. The person with an indeterminate hair color said, "Oh, I wish my friends were here."
See, the story's not funny anymore.
Rather doing a lot more work destined to end up in the politically incorrect wastebasket, the pastor made an appointment with his head advisor. He said, "I'd like to begin with a funny story about this dumb person who comes from ..." He didn't get to finish. He was interrupted and told, "You can tell any kind of joke you want, as long as it doesn't involve nationalities, physical and mental attributes, heritage, sex and sexual preferences, poverty and wealth, ignorance, different social strata, the gifted and the non-gifted, religion, jobs and unemployment, abortion, national problems, racism, stereotypes."
"Is that the list?" he asked. His politically correct critic looked at him as if he were an alien. She sighed and said, "Of course, that's not all," and then she began a whole new list, which he didn't listen to.
After 45 minutes, she ran down, and he was able to ask, "Okay. Tell me what is allowed." She smiled and said, "That's the spirit. The only joke we currently find to be acceptable is this one: 'What did one wall say to the other wall?' One wall said, 'I'll meet you at the corner.'"
After that, he gave up trying to introduce his message with some humor. The age of political correctness had ground him down and, I'm afraid, me too. Businesses have replaced all their chairmen with chairpersons. We have police and firepersons, and we can no longer tell jokes about dumb persons who come from anywhere.
Recently, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee decided even the term political correctness is no longer politically correct. As a result, in many places ministers no longer say their particular denomination is the right one, and some are not entirely sure their religion is actually the only one which saves. That is, in part, because they're not even positive that Jesus is the world's only Savior. In our age of political correctness, sin is called anything but sin, and if somebody is going to hell, well, they're not headed to a place of everlasting punishment. No, they're going to Hell, a small town south of Phoenix, Arizona. There's also one in Michigan.
Political correctness has become so much a part of our lives that we just naturally expect that the Savior would be the one Person who would never do or say anything to upset anyone, at any time. That picture of the Savior sounds good, but in light of Scripture, it just doesn't stand up to scrutiny. We say Jesus was always gentle, but the Gospels tell how He made things mighty uncomfortable for the sellers and moneychangers when He overthrew their tables and reclaimed the temple for His Father. We say Jesus spoke gently, but Matthew relates how one day in just a few minutes, Jesus called the Pharisees "hypocrites," "blind guides," "fools," "blind men," "serpents" and a "brood of vipers."
We like to think Jesus accepted people as they were, which He did, but He never left those people as they were. Jesus called them away from sin, out from under the Law's condemnation. Matthew summarized this non-accepting Savior with the words, "From that time, Jesus began to preach saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'"
Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, is a beautiful concept, and there are many times His care and compassion are simply too great for any human form of measurement, but we need to remember that Jesus was always dedicated to the job of saving us, and He remained committed to redeeming and rescuing souls. Not near as high on His list of things that need to be done was trying to be innocuous, inoffensive, and acceptable to everybody around Him.
Matthew's Gospel talks about one of those times. The story begins by introducing us to a Gentile woman, that is, a woman who wasn't Jewish. The woman had a spiritually sick child at home, a child who was possessed. No doubt the mother had in the past taken her girl to numerous doctors and countless exorcists. After examining the child, these wise men would have said something like "Madam, we are deeply saddened to say we are helpless to do anything to help your girl. That will be 50 pieces of silver, please."
Without resolution in the present and little hope for the future, this mother would have been ecstatic to hear that Jesus and His crew had crossed over from Galilee to her own neighborhood. Her mother's hurting heart knew Jesus' arrival had given her an unexpected once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Determined to get help for her daughter, the nameless woman searched for and found Jesus. No doubt her first approach to the important men would have been made with a quiet voice filled with respect.
When her pleas received no acknowledgement, her frequency and volume would have increased. Was she being obnoxious? Maybe. Was she being a nuisance? Probably. What did she care? This was her daughter, and Jesus was her hope.
The woman followed the Savior, endlessly repeating her unanswered petition. Eventually, the Savior's disciples had had enough. "Jesus," they said, "this lady is like a broken record, and she's driving us nuts. Can't You do something to get rid of her?" I can't tell if the woman heard the disciples' words. I can tell you she decided to do a desperate thing. She got in front of the group, blocked Jesus' path, and knelt down, and begged for help. "Lord, have mercy!" she said.
It's the same request that has been put forth countless times by the lost and lonely, the sad and sorrowful, the discouraged, depressed, and despondent. It is the soulful lament which in the past had always moved Jesus to action, but this time was different. Jesus looked at the woman and said, "Sorry. I haven't been sent to you. My obligation is to the Jews, and I can't take the bread off their table and give it to you."
Unless you have missed this politically incorrect rebuke by Jesus, let me share-He just called the desperate lady a dog, and then He implied He wasn't going to help her. In our age, being called a dog isn't so very bad. Consider canines don't have to sit for 20 years in a classroom. They don't meet deadlines, worry about bills, attend meetings, pay taxes, get dressed up for church, or change flat tires.
America has over a thousand animal hospitals, many of which have operating rooms, pharmacies, research labs, blood banks, and 24-hour emergency rooms. America spends more on pet food than it does on baby food. Last year, two billion dollars was spent on dog accessories like gem studded collars, gold-plated license tags, beef-flavored toothpaste, and breath sprays. Some department stores offer beauty products for dogs: things like fashion spas, perfume and doggy nail polish that come in sophisticated shades for sophisticated dogs. You can put your dog up at a hotel where your puppy will enjoy individually decorated rooms and be fed liver and tripe stew under a dietician's supervision.
In our age, being a dog ain't so bad. But in Bible times, dogs were not usually pets. They were fearsome creatures who roamed in packs frightening people, eating garbage on the street, scarfin' up their own vomit-as well as the occasional idle-promoting, prophet-hating queen like Jezebel.
When Jesus spoke to the woman in front of Him and referred to her as a dog, it wasn't a compliment. Of course, Jesus could have said worse. Our Savior lived in an age that wasn't politically correct. His was the time when Pharisees wouldn't eat bread which had been touched by a Gentile. In those long-ago days, if your daughter married someone outside the family faith, you would have a funeral for the lady who was at least to you dead and gone. Political correctness-in Jesus' time if a non-Jew accidentally wandered into the reserved-for-Jews section of the temple, they made sure it didn't happen again by throwing that individual over the cliff upon which the temple had been built.
In the Savior's time, political correctness was a long way off. That's why when Jesus referred to this lady as a dog, the disciples would have grinned because they were sure Jesus had put that lady in her place.
Hearing those words and seeing those grinning disciples, what did that lady do? Did she say, "Jesus, you are a cruel man"? Did she say, "When I came to you I expected better than this"? Did she simply pack up her things and go home to her troubled daughter? Did she say, "Jesus, I suppose it never occurred to You that even though I am a woman in a society which holds women in disrespect, I am still a human being, and as a human being, I expect certain considerations and a modicum of respect"?
Well, the text tells us this lady did none of those things. In a singular act of humility, this lady admitted she was a dog. She confessed she was a mongrel, a low cur, and maybe something not even that good. This remarkable woman says, "Jesus, not for a moment would I suggest You deprive Your children of anything which is their right. Even so, I still state my claim on the crumbs which fall from my Master's table." Then having made this remarkably humble statement of faith, the lady waited. She waited to see what crumbs might be forthcoming.
You know, the Bible is a wonderful book, and it contains all the information the Lord wants us to have. That being said, I must admit there are times when I wish I could have just a bit more than is conveyed by the Scriptures. This is one of those times. What I would like is someone to describe Jesus' face as He looked down upon this amazing lady. Although Matthew doesn't tell us if Jesus' expression changed, I have always believed the Savior's face showed a smile, a very big, a very pleased smile. I think that because this lady had shown the disciples how a sinner ought to act in the presence of the Person who had come into this world to offer His life for their forgiveness and salvation.
This woman had not demanded any honors, had not approached Jesus as an equal. She was what we all are-poor, miserable sinners who are helpless to change ourselves, our lives, our problems, our eternity. Like that woman, like her daughter, and, yes, like the disciples, if we are to be changed, it will only be because our Master makes it happen. Yes, this lady shows us how a suppliant should act, and Jesus did for that lady what He does for all sinners who come to Him saying, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner."
Jesus raised that lady up and He promoted her. No longer was she a dog praying for a few crumbs. Jesus made her into a family member. It's the same thing He's done for billions of other sinful souls who have been brought to Him with faith and a plea for forgiveness. We shouldn't be surprised. Isaiah said it would happen that way when he wrote, "Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Let him return to the Lord that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."
God will abundantly pardon. I am glad that He does. That's because His love and His pardon are the only things which will change our todays and our eternities. You see, like that unnamed lady, we are all misbehaving dogs that should be punished for our misbehavior, shouted at for the havoc we create, banned from God's house for our filthy habits, and kept locked away for our mad fits of rage. We are dogs.
But God does not treat us that way. On the contrary, God does the most politically incorrect thing this world has ever seen. He sacrificed His Son to save the dogs.
Let me ask, if your house was on fire and your children and your dog were trapped inside, and the firefighters could rescue only one, who would vote to save Fido? None of us would do that. It would be unthinkable, unimaginable, but that's what God did. God sent His Son to die for the dogs of the world. When the dogs should have been whipped, Jesus took the lash. When the dogs should have been taken out and shot, Jesus took the bullet or, more accurately, the cross. You wouldn't sacrifice a son to save a dog, but God did that to save you.
No doubt some of you who are listening to my voice today are looking for a God who is more than your equal. You want a God who can love better, know more, care harder, and do what is right for you. Today, I have shared that God-the God who rose above political correctness to sacrifice His Son to forgive and save your soul. If you would like to know more about such a God, please, call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
Action in Ministry for August 20, 2017
Guest: Rev. Ken Klaus
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. This is Action in Ministry, your call to action in response to all that God has done for you in Jesus Christ.
Dr. Greg Seltz: Mark, in honor of Archives August, Pastor Klaus is joining us for Action in Ministry today, picking up on some thoughts from the sermon.
Mark Eischer: Once again, great to have you with us, Pastor Klaus.
Dr. Ken Klaus: Dr. Seltz, Mark, great to be here.
Dr. Greg Seltz: Pastor Klaus, today you had some fun with the notion of political correctness, and someone maintained that all this PC business is really just intended to avoid offending others, but that's not often the way it's used, is it?
Dr. Ken Klaus: As you say, political correctness was originally designed to avoid offending people who needed to be defended. That was a good thing. Unfortunately, like most things in life, the pendulum has swung to an extreme. All too often, political incorrectness is defined as anything which offends or might possibly offend a person who shouts the loudest or sues in court the fastest.
Mark Eischer: Now going back to the story from today's message, you explained a bit how the culture of that day was different from ours. Jesus was comparing this Canaanite woman and her people to dogs that were licking up the crumbs under the table. If a broadcaster talked like that about people of another race, they'd be off the air just like that. How is this comparison to be properly understood?
Dr. Ken Klaus: Well, we don't even have to go back to the time of the Savior. The Lutheran Hour has been on over 85 years. If you listen to the message of the first speaker, Walter Maier, you'll see that he was much more direct in the things he said and the way he condemned sin. The great challenge for us is to use a vocabulary which is faithful to the Lord's Word and, at the same time, not cause people to become unglued.
Mark Eischer: Unglued?
Dr. Ken Klaus: Yeah. You want to bring about repentance in people's heart, not a knee- jerk overreaction to the words which you've used.
Dr. Greg Seltz: Now is it possible then for a preacher to avoid giving offense and still do his job? Is there any such thing as, let's say, a healthy offense?
Dr. Ken Klaus: Anytime a preacher condemns something the Lord says people are doing wrong, he takes them to a crossroad. Either they will reject what has been said or they will repent. While we may strive to make every correction a healthy offense, the ultimate choice of whether the law conveyed is healthy or not comes in the mind and heart of the listener.
Mark Eischer: And in order to receive God's gifts, we first must acknowledge we deserve nothing of what God wants to give us. Why does that teaching meet with so much resistance?
Dr. Ken Klaus: Today there are two common concepts which seem to have captured people's mindset. The first is an unrealistic spirit of equality. Although it defies all logic, people have wrongly concluded human beings are all equal. Wrong. I'm not my wife's equal when it comes to carrying a child through pregnancy. Today, people have extended their misguided belief about equality to the Lord. He's smarter, stronger, wiser, kinder, more just, merciful and gracious than any of us. They resent the idea that the Lord is in control, and they are not. They're upset when He says, "This is right, and that is wrong," and they will be judged by His decisions.
Which takes us to our second area of misunderstanding. That's in regard to many people having a skewed spirit of entitlement. Once people felt that the Lord was their judge, and they were, because of their sins, on trial before Him. An honest examination of their lives had shown them that they should condemned, and it was only through Jesus Christ that they would be spared.
Today, the feeling about such things is reversed. People have put themselves in the judge's seat, and the Lord is the one who has to be justify everything He says and everything He does, everything He decides and rules. In short, the Lord needs to be politically correct like we are, because if He doesn't do that, we're going to ignore Him, at least until Judgment Day.
Dr. Greg Seltz: That's right-at least until Judgment Day. Well, Pastor Klaus, we always appreciate your perspective, and your ability to convey the truths of the Scripture through a good story, or even when you tell a good joke. Thank you so much for being here with us today.
Dr. Ken Klaus: Thank you for having me.
Dr. Greg Seltz: And that's our Action in Ministry segment today-to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.
Mark Eischer: To read, hear, or subscribe to Pastor Ken Klaus' Daily Devotions, go to lutheranhour.org and click on Action in Ministry or call 1-855-JOHN-316. That's 1-855-564-6316. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for August 20, 2017
Topic: Obeying Authorities
Mark Eischer: What would Jesus do if His flight was overbooked? That is more or less our question today for our Speaker Emeritus Pastor Ken Klaus. I'm Mark Eischer.
Dr. Ken Klaus: Hi, Mark. And today's question and answer is based on a letter I received, so I kind of know the direction we're headed.
Mark Eischer: That's right. It comes to us from an individual who listens to The Lutheran Hour, but also subscribes to your Daily Devotions.
Dr. Ken Klaus: Daily devotions are free and worth every penny, I must say.
Mark Eischer: You might recall some months ago, a doctor refused to be bumped off his flight, and he was quite forcibly taken off the plane, in fact, dragged down the aisle like a sack of potatoes.
Dr. Ken Klaus: And he suffered a bloody nose and some other scrapes.
Mark Eischer: Our listener had a thought or two concerning that news story. He does not take the side of that evicted passenger. He says it didn't have to be that way. The airline authorities told him he needed to give up his seat. He refused, and things escalated from that point. Why couldn't he just cooperate with the authorities?
Dr. Ken Klaus: I'm sure quite a few people would agree with that position.
Mark Eischer: Now here's the theological part of this question. Our listener says, "Too many people today want it their way. Who cares what anybody else says. No respect for authority." He contends that is not the way Jesus worked. Jesus obeyed the authorities, especially His Father in heaven, who sent Him into our world to suffer and die on our behalf. Our listener says, "Therefore, resisting authority is not biblical, and it's not the way Jesus lived. Are we supposed to obey those who are in authority because that's what our Savior did?"
Dr. Ken Klaus: It is a fascinating question, and I'm afraid most people are not going to like the answer.
Mark Eischer: I assume you're going to say something like "Yes, sometimes we should obey those in authority and no, sometimes we shouldn't." Am I pretty close?
Dr. Ken Klaus: You're right on the money, and that is what happens when you sit at the microphone with the same person for over 15 years.
Mark Eischer: And now we wait for you to amplify and explain it all for us, so it makes sense. Did Jesus obey those who were in authority?
Dr. Ken Klaus: Our listener was certainly right about that. Jesus was always about doing the Father's work. There was never a moment when He decided to just kick loose and go off on His own. There were also many times when He obeyed the earthly authorities to which He was subject. When He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane He went voluntarily, even though He could have called for and received legions of powerful angels to rescue Him.
Mark Eischer: And He went to that cross voluntarily, gave up His life for us. He could have come down from the cross.
Dr. Ken Klaus: But He didn't.
Mark Eischer: But there were also times when Jesus did not obey those who were in positions of power.
Dr. Ken Klaus: Indeed, there were. At Jesus' trial, the high priest asked Him many questions. Scripture tells us that Jesus remained silent. King Herod demanded Jesus perform a miracle for his entertainment. The Savior declined. Indeed, if Jesus had obeyed the authorities rather than God, He would never have gotten into trouble in the first place.
We need to remember Jesus was crucified because those who were in power considered Him too dangerous to let live.
Mark Eischer: We don't often think of Jesus that way.
Dr. Ken Klaus: Yeah. At times, Jesus disobeyed the authorities, and so did many other leaders whom the Lord appointed.
Mark Eischer: For example.
Dr. Ken Klaus: Moses. He confronted Pharaoh and demanded the release of God's people, or Joshua who overthrew the existing authorities when Israelites came into the Promised Land and conquered it.
Mark Eischer: We could also think of the biblical judges and prophets who found themselves in conflict with authorities, as they spoke according to the Lord's direction.
Dr. Ken Klaus: And then there was young David and King Saul. And we dare not forget the prophet, Daniel, and those three fellows who endured the fiery furnace because they refused to bow down, or Elijah who ran afoul of Queen Jezebel and killed all her idol-worshiping prophets of Baal.
Mark Eischer: Well, how then can we know when it's okay to disobey?
Dr. Ken Klaus: Easy. Peter and the other disciples laid down the ground rules when they said, "We must obey God rather than men." Earthly authorities ultimately derive their power from God. We obey those authorities as long as what they demand does not conflict with what God says in His Word. When and if that happens, we must take our cue from Martin Luther and say, "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me."
Mark Eischer: And with that, we come to the end of our broadcast for another week. Thank you, Pastor Klaus, and we thank our listener for that question.
This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"In Christ There Is No East or West" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"Oh, That I Had a Thousand Voices" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)