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Summary: Jesus’ encounter with the Syrophoenician woman admits several interpretations, all of which teach us: give what is needed rather than what is wanted; teach others rather than do for them; watch your motives.

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Just when you think you have your life routines down pat, settled and secure, something comes along and upsets the whole pattern.

Just when you think you have your life all organized, something comes up to discombobulate it!

Just when you think you know the rules by which you govern your life, somebody brings in another point of view, and the old rules don’t work any more.

I am a very task-oriented person. I begin each day compiling a priority list of things to be done. I make lists. That’s who I am! Have I ever told you this before?

Yes. I know I have. I read it right there on my list of things to do. "Tell the congregation about the list of things to do!"

But, the trouble is, the list won’t stay put! It won’t always work. I have to break my own rules, quite often. I have to bend my otherwise rigid plans, because other things clamor for attention, things I didn’t expect.

The phone call that comes in the early hours. Pastor, I need you. The person who stops in the office while I’m writing another of my famous five-page memos to the deacons, and says, "I don’t want to bother you, but ... "

Just when you think you have your life’s routines down pat, settled and secure, something comes along and upsets the whole pattern.

Just when you think you have your life all organized, something comes up to discombobulate it!

And, most of all, just when you think you know the rules by which you govern your life, somebody brings in another point of view, and the old rules don’t work any more.

What a surprise to find out that the same thing is true with Jesus! We think we know Jesus, but even Jesus seems to break the rules! We think we know what to expect of Jesus, but He surprises us! We love to quote the Scripture that speaks of Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, today, and forever; but there are times when even the eternal Jesus appears to break the rules.

What else do you make of this passage?

Matthew 15:21-28

What a monkey-wrench this incident throws into our works!

We think we know the rules. We think we know Jesus’ rules.

We think we know that Jesus’ rule was to extend compassion to all people, regardless of their race or creed. We know the story of the Samaritan woman at the well; we have memorized the Great Commission about going to all nations. But here Jesus seems to reject a woman just because she is from Syrophoenicia and she isn’t Jewish. What do you make of that? He broke His own rules!

We think we know that Jesus’ rule was to be caring of women and children in distress. We can recall the woman who had hemorrhaged for twelve years; we can see Him rebuking the disciples for turning away children. But here Jesus at first does not even answer a woman who is crying out for mercy for herself and for her daughter. What do you make of that? He broke His own rules!

We think we know that Jesus’ rule was to treat people with respect. He is the one who taught us that even to say "You fool" to someone is to be in danger of punishment. But here, in this passage, we hear a testy nastiness. We hear a snarl! Can you believe it, that He would imply that this woman is like the dogs that prowl around picnic tables, grazing for scraps? How is it that in this story, the lord Jesus, compassion incarnate, seems to break all of His own rules?


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