For an introduction to this series, click here.
Dec. 22, 2006This chapter starts out with Jesus against the Pharisees once again. Matthew pays more attention to the Pharisees than the other Gospels; that's probably because he was writing to Jews and they would have been influenced by the Pharisees' teachings. If you've never read "Extreme Righteousness" by Tom Hovestol, you need to. It is an easy read and chronicles a lot of Jesus' conflict with the Pharisees and gives a lot of background on their teachings. It's very convicting as well - once you begin to read you begin to see that we all fall into the traps the Pharisees fell into.
This time the Pharisees were questioning Jesus because His disciples did not wash their hands before they ate. The Pharisees had all kinds of rules for ritual cleansing. Jesus answered their question with a question, and then provides a scathing answer:
"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.'"(15:3-9)
The P's did have a rule that a person could set aside a portion of money for God (it goes without saying that this was an easy way to line their own pockets) and be free of any other obligations on the money. The money did not have to be given right away. It could be kept by the person even until he died. Nowhere is such a provision found in Moses' law. It was something the Hebrews of the intertestamental period came up with. Jesus said this rule was in actuality enabling people to disobey one of the 10 Commandments: honor your father and mother.
Then Jesus attacked the rules about handwashing directly, saying that it is not what people eat that defiles them. What defiles them is the sin that comes out of their own hearts. When I was a kid I used to use that verse when someone said I should wash my hands before I ate. That's not really the point of what Jesus was saying.
Next we have a very strange story, at least I have always thought it was strange. Jesus comes upon a Canaanite woman who begs Him to heal her daughter, who was possessed by a demon. Jesus abruptly refuses, saying, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." (15:26). The woman responds: "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." (15:27, ESV)
What an example of determined faith! This lady was a Gentile, a Canaanite and a woman. In the Jewish playbook, that was three strikes against her with God. And Jesus kind of treats her that way at first. But this lady is not going to take no for an answer. She knows Jesus has the power to heal her daughter and she is willing to do whatever it takes to get that done.
At the end of the chapter we have the feeding of the 4,000. This story doesn't get as much attention as the 5,000, but it was just as miraculous. I guess a lot of people were like me - they're out of time.I'm going home this weekend, so I won't be writing anything until Monday. Have a wonderful Christmas.