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The exceptional result

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<<The demands of the Gospel are urgent; but not so urgent that we shouldn't stop and listen.>>

Science. The exceptional result deserved particular attention.

Series of experiments – one result seems not to fit pattern.

  • Either didn't take enough care – sneezed wrong moment.
  • Or challenge our understanding – hypothesis wrong.

Invite you to do the same thing --> bible.

Passage doesn't fit with what we'd always thought – stop and think. May be what we'd always thought is wrong.

Today's gospel reading exceptional in 3 ways:-

1. Jesus in gentile country

2. Jesus is silent at the cry of a needy person

3. Jesus changes his mind


Context – exceptional.

OK Flight to Egypt – young child / occasional passing through

Jesus spent the overwhelming portionJewish state.

Tyre and Sidon to north – Canaanite woman.

v24 “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”

self-understanding of his vocation

Matt 10:5-6 sending out the twelve “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Strange to us – most of us gentile (no claim to any Jewish blood)

Olympic coverage NZ/GB

No getting away from it – Jesus' earthly ministry was almost entirely to his fellow Jews. This is an exceptional story.


v22-23 “A Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, 'Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.' But Jesus did not answer her at all.”

Exceptional – brings us up short

So used to reading gospel passages where Jesus' compassion evident. Touching lepers, feeding hungry, weeping Lazarus.

Gk “not one word”

Even when he does eventually speak to her, short.


Disciples on retreat? Testing her? Joking?

Sent to Israel.

“I was sent...” - interesting – not free agent.

Soldier sent to Afghanistan. Daughter's birthday party.

very specific purpose

Phase 1: to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God in Israel and be rejected by Israel.

Phase 2: after Jesus had been rejected and risen – followers to take message to ends of the earth.

Imagine how it could have been different. Jesus ripe old age/ great career as an itinerant miracle worker/ travelling around the Roman Empire - but would have meant nothing he hadn't died and risen.

Salutary how early on in Luke (9:51) “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face toward Jerusalem.”

heard someone say – if you're unsure what you're aiming for, people who shout loudest will claim most of your attention.

Jesus knew what his mission was – just because someone was shouting loudly wasn't going to be thrown off track


Very few places: John 7 festival. Not go, secret, teach in temple.

Struggling in prayer “not my will, but yours be done.” Gethsem.

Something – makes him stop and change his mind.

v26 “It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs.”

Breakfast: Luke --> Tibby (then Me).

Jews first, then Gentiles.

Then Canaanite says the words make Jesus stop and think.

She takes Jesus' image a step further...

v27 “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.”

Doesn't try to undermine Jesus' calling to the Jews, but she does step out in faith and ask to be included. Jesus sees something not seen before: faith / openness - hadn't seen in many Jews.

v28 “Woman. Great is your faith, let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Jesus was right that his primary purpose was elsewhere.

But he still listened --> and in the process of listening changed his mind about how he was going to react.

Worst things can happen to a religious person is that their own views on a subject become so important that they will not listen.

Illustration - Anglican Communion Lambeth conference

Authority of Bible Sexuality – homosexuality

strong views on both sides.

Media -debates who is going to win.

  • indaba zulu groups.
  • Challenging issues – Listening – not immediately trying to resolve – ensure everyone has a voice – prayer. Hsp.

Nick Baines Bp of Croydon

Are we any further forward than we were before the conference? I think the only answer can be 'yes'. We live in a world in which there have to be winners and losers - a world in which power is gained and lost by either aggressive or surreptitious engagement with the 'other'. The Christian response to this is seen in open arms of the crucified Christ who lays down the power of 'winning' in order to reconcile people (relationship). This conference enabled those who were willing to build genuine relationships, not by avoiding the hard issues, but rather by tackling them head on in a context of prayer, Bible Study, reflection and respect. That, after all, is why we witnessed such moving conversations in the last couple of days where people of opposing views expressed how they had moved in their understanding (if not in their conclusions).

Not what we're used to – Jesus

blend of confidence and humility.


What are we to make of these exceptional results?

  1. Jesus in Gentile Country. While Jesus knew that his earthly mission was to be acted out amongst the Jews, his death and resurrection would usher in an age where gospel --> world

[Right from the start Matthew cameos pointing forward to that glorious truth (Magi)]

Praise God – those of us who are not Jews. By rights no claim on Jesus.

#. Jesus silent at the cry of a needy woman.

Call into question compassion of Jesus?

No. But it does remind us that Jesus' journey was to the cross and not to a lifelong ministry of healing.

#. Jesus changes his mind.

Must be careful not to make too much of this. Think Jesus got things wrong.

He does what is right. But remember even he had to listen.

Who are we, as his followers, to think that we needn't bother listening to people from different backgrounds or with different perspectives to our own?

Loving God thank you so much that through Jesus' death and resurrection you opened us the way for us as Gentiles to be welcomed into your family. Instill in us that same blend of certainty and openness that Jesus had. That we may be confident of who you call us to be, but humble enough to be willing to change when we listen to those different to us.

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