Matthew 15:1-28 – June 07, 2020
Defiling Words vs Great Faith
Jesus mourns: Back to 14:22-23 where Jesus finally has time to be alone and pray. To turn to His Father and mourn the death of John the Baptist. Recall 14:13a When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Why was He looking for solitude? Remember how He had spoken of John only a little earlier in 11:11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. John was the man who baptized Jesus. While they were in their mother’s wombs, they had a connection as noted in Luke 1:39-44.
Bookends:Matthew 8:23-27 and Matthew 14:24-32 The first incident at sea they were amazed. The second, they finally understood and Jesus is worshipped as the Son of God. John 6:21b says immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
After landing Jesus once again had compassion and now it only takes a touch of His cloak to be healed.
15:1-2 Tradition of the elders. The key word here is tradition often thought of as law, but if it is a law, it is extrabiblical law. The Law of Moses had no commandment about washing one’s hands before eating except possibly for priests who were required to bathe before eating holy offerings (Leviticus 22:6-7) if they had touched anything unclean.
15:3-9 Tradition vs Commandments. God had clearly given a commands (Exodus 20:12 and 21:17) to honor one’s parents and to put to death anyone who curses their parents, but the Pharisees had devised a way around these commands effectively nullifying them. This made it possible for some to claim they could not assist (honor) their parents because they had dedicated a sum of money of sufficient size to God and the priests would approve this. You can imagine the negotiations between the individual and the priests to ensure the offering was large enough to be released from the command to honor one’s parents. Jesus quotes Isaiah in the verses 8-9, appropriate for what the Pharisees are doing here. They were not honoring God, but only going through the motions as they made up rules (traditions) to benefit themselves. There are many Old Testament examples of God being angered by empty rituals without their hearts involved.
15:10-20 What defiles. This is a truth well recognized in the Old Testament as there are many cautions about how the tongue can defile and/or cause trouble or rejoice. There are 35 of these in Psalms and 21 in Proverbs. One example from Proverbs 15:4 shows the range of the power of the tongue The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. Verses 14-15 is reminiscent of the Parable of the Weeds where eventually the weeds would be pulled up and burned. Here is a great caution and warning against following those who would lead you from God’s word to man’s ideas or traditions.
However, it is James 3:3-10 that speaks directly to the need to tame our tongues. Let’s turn there and read what James has to say. Now let’s return once again to what Jesus said in verses 19 and 20.
15:21-28 Great faith. Jesus was indeed sent for the lost sheep of Israel, but as the Old Testament prophets had prophesied He would be rejected – especially as we have seen by those who should have most rapidly accepted Him as the Messiah, the Pharisees. Thus in reality He came for everyone and this is captured by His youngest disciple in John 1: 9-13 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Dogs in the Old Testament were unclean and like pigs detestable, but here dogs would be around the table like a pet. Jesus uses His comments to draw out her faith. To His disciples it might have seemed as if the Canaanite women had won an argument with God, but it was not so. Instead Jesus again wanted to show His incredible compassion and how it extended to the Gentiles, us. He had done the same in 8:5-13 when He addressed the Faith of the Centurion.
BOTTOM LINE: Jesus reveals His healing and Grace is not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles if we too have faith. Faith like that of the Centurion or of the Canaanite woman.