Traditions and Commandments
15 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
What Defiles a Person
And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
The Faith of a Canaanite Woman
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, O 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 is 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 is 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 masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Jesus Heals Many
Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.
Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand
Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.
Matthew 15 Commentary
by Hank Workman
We spend a lot of time and money investing in making ourselves look good, feel better about ourselves. From the makeup industry to fashion lines to all the gym memberships and latest fads out there to look ripped, we are bombarded with new products continually that supposedly lead us toward a better us. We all want to look our best. We want to feel good about ourselves.
This mindset has been part of religion for thousands of years. People follow the rules to look good. They make sure they do this and don’t do that and put up a good front. It’s sometimes monitored by church attendance or the way one dresses and acts. It can be found in the “conference guy” who goes to every Christian conference out there, or possibly every Christian concert that comes into town. It can be found in the “mercy gal” who invests all her time and energy in helping the needy, giving her last buck to help someone in need.
And there’s not one thing wrong with these things. Not one – but where the problem comes is when nothing is changing on the inside. None of these things matter if our hearts are not being transformed by the Spirit of God.
This was the Pharisee’s issue. It is still an issue today. They had rules and regulations that in the end made them look good. But their hearts were still darkened. They were still lost. They were so steeped in their tradition. The latest argument found in Matthew 15 dealt with the disciples not washing their hands before they ate. Yes, you read that right.
Jesus cuts to the chase. It’s not what goes into the mouth that’s bad. It’s what comes out. He was speaking of the heart. What is in our hearts comes out eventually. These people worked so hard to look good but ultimately were corrupt deep within. The crazy thing is they knew a lot about God – they simply didn’t know Him.
There are too many today who are working toward their outside presentation and neglecting the movement of the Spirit in their lives inwardly. Eventually, the truth of this comes out. Sadly for the Pharisees, they were so blinded by this they couldn’t see how truly lost they were.
Matthew 15 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
It’s the worst feeling that any human can experience in this life. It’s the realization that I wasted my life.
I can’t imagine a more horrifying reaction than those who thought they were living for God, possessed good works, stood for justice, mercy, and love and believed that they knew God only to find out that God did not know them. Those who have deceived themselves will not listen to anyone. It’s ironic how many Christians still get into deep arguments and debates with those who have hardened their heart to God considering that when Jesus himself stood before the Pharisees they refused to acknowledge their own sin.
We hate our sin. We hate to acknowledge it, let alone repent of it. It’s completely unnatural. We could go on living just as we are, in that natural state, and the majority of people would have no problem with us. In fact, most would applaud our feelings of “that’s just who I am.”
If you believe Jesus came to set the captives free, then you must believe He actually meant it. To embrace what Jesus stood for and continue down the same path makes no sense whatsoever.
This is what happened to the Pharisees.
“But you teach that if people have something they could use to help their father or mother, but say, ‘This belongs to God,’ 6 they do not need to honor their father. In this way you disregard God’s command, in order to follow your own teaching.”Matthew 15:5-6 GNB
You disregard God’s command in order to follow your own teaching. What, specifically, was Jesus talking about here?
“Jesus was referring to a practice whereby people would dedicate their possessions to God so that they could use their finances for themselves and not for others. For example, if parents needed money, the children could excuse themselves from helping because their resources were already “dedicated” to God. This ruse kept people from honoring their parents by taking care of them in their old age.”Nelson’s New Testament Commentary
I want to be clear. This wasn’t just a Pharisee thing. This is a human thing. There’s definitely a little Pharisee in all of us, myself included. I have been so convicted over the past year or so as to how much I justify my own actions and behaviors. We have become experts at taking bits and pieces of Scripture and mixing it with our own ideas of what is “right.” Without even knowing it, we transform into people who misrepresent God and His ways.
Jesus understood that the standard He called people to was impossible. He intentionally calls us to that standard because He knows the only way we will be able to fulfill His plan is to abandon ourselves and regenerate our dead bodies with faith birthed from His grace. Jesus was going to the cross to provide a new life for all who would lay down their own will.
Unfortunately, the Pharisees wanted to keep their old life and represent God at the same time. People today might read these verses and think, “What’s the big deal? It’s my money and I can do whatever I want with it.” But the attitude of a changed heart doesn’t see it that way. When we understand what has been done for us at the cross, we hand our lives over to the gentle authority of Christ. It’s all His.
The Pharisees couldn’t see it, and in the end, most of them didn’t want to. Are you disregarding God’s commands in order to follow your own teaching? Most likely we all are in one way or another. This is why our faith journey is a continual process of “working out our Salvation with fear and trembling.” We must continually revisit the cross and what has been done for us so that out of love and gratitude, we are able to give more of ourselves over to King Jesus.