As we continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew, last week we closed out Matthew 14.
Today, we will be looking at some impactful teaching from our Lord Jesus Christ, followed by some more miracles testifying of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and of His compassion and love.
Matthew 15:1-9 (ESV) | Traditions and Commandments
15 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
8 “‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
Did the Pharisees rebuke Jesus via His disciples regarding the Law? No… it was regarding the tradition of the elders. In some places you’ll hear it referred to as the oral tradition. You see, the Pharisees held a dual standard of holiness… there was the Law and the Prophets, what we have preserved in our Bible and then there was the oral tradition (recorded in the Talmud in the 2nd century A.D.) which was said to have been given by God to Moses to explain the written Law. You see, the Pharisees had positioned themselves as the arbiters of the Law, they explained how to fulfill the Law, by their traditions. A useful comparison would be the Catholic Church in Luther’s day… where the people relied on the Church to tell them how to serve God. Like the Catholic Church, the Pharisees had abused the authority God gave them, and failed in their responsibility to shepherd the people of God. They even broke the Law of God for the sake of their own traditions. We discussed this some time ago in a CTT post when we looked at the sin of the Pharisees. Actually, we’ve talked about throwing the Pharisee card out, too… but know that Jesus pointed out the error of the Pharisees explicitly… it wasn’t that they were holding to the Law; rather, that they taught as doctrines the commandments of men. Immediately after the rebuke, Jesus moves onto instruction.
Matthew 15:10-20 (ESV) | What Defiles a Person
10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
In Mark’s Account of this encounter, he explains the impact of what Jesus regarding what defiles a person.
Mark 7:18-20 (ESV) 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.
Given Matthew’s audience, I don’t think it was necessary to add the extra explanation. Ceremonial law was but a shadow of the Christ (Hebrews 8) who was now before them. Now that Christ had come, and the matters of the heart could truly be addressed. Our hearts are not defiled by what our physical body consumes; rather, our body is defiled by what comes out of our hearts.
Matthew 15:21-28 (ESV) | The Faith of a Canaanite Woman
21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 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.” 23 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.”24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
This passage can be very difficult for folks to work through. The biggest impediment for most is the idea of their “precious moments Jesus” first ignoring and then actually saying these words to the Canaanite Woman. Was Jesus being mean to her? Was He being sexist or racist? No, no, and no. This woman knew who He was, and more importantly, she believed. She had faith in Jesus as Lord, the Son of David, despite being a Canaanite. Let’s take a quick look back in Genesis for the significance of being a Canaanite.
Genesis 9:18-28 (ESV) | Noah’s Descendants
18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed. 20 Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,
“Cursed be Canaan;
a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
26 He also said,
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem;
and let Canaan be his servant.
27 May God enlarge Japheth,
and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,
and let Canaan be his servant.”
28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years.
The sons of Canaan would go on to become a wicked and godless people. God promises Abraham all the lands of Canaan. Jesus makes it clear that He had been sent for the lost sheep of Israel. He further tells the woman, it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs… Jesus didn’t come to personally evangelize the world, He came for a specific purpose, to fulfill the Law and the Prophets and to lay down His life as the pure and perfect atoning sacrifice. This woman was undeterred, she acknowledged her place and proclaimed her faith in Him, that she only needed a crumb of His Glory to heal her daughter. Such Faith! and from a Canaanite woman… an outsider… a dog in comparison to the children of Israel. And Jesus healed her daughter, according to her faith. Not her lineage, not her works, but her faith in Him. I am that dog, who by God’s grace has been granted faith to believe that all I need is for the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table. I’m reminded of how Paul references the Gospel in his opening to his letter to the Romans:
Romans 1:16-17 (ESV) | The Righteous Shall Live by Faith
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Amen. Let us continue.
Matthew 15:29-39 (ESV) | Jesus Heals Many
29 Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 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, 31 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.
32 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.” 33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 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. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.
The first thing I’d like to point out is the punch line to Jesus’ healing ministry… it brought glory to God. This went on for 3 days, and the Lord had compassion on them. The second thing is that we see Jesus again charging the disciples to feed His sheep. Jesus is unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way. He is still unwilling, which is why He left us the Apostles and why He sent God the Holy Spirit as a seal of the Promise for all who are in Christ Jesus. This is a theme that John picked up on and expressed in greater detail in his account of the Gospel, even to the reinstatement of Peter.
Until Next Week
Next week we’ll see another encounter with the Pharisees and we’ll also see the fruit of the working of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of His Disciples… the confession of Peter. I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew.
Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,