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For New King James text and comment, click here.
Matthew 15; Mark 7:1-8:9 Listen
In these passages, we note the following in Jesus' ministry:
How come y'all don't wash your hands? (Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23)
|1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.
The Pharisees washed their hands...a lot! They acknowledge in this passage that the practice was "the tradition of the elders." Literally, it was part of the oral tradition that had been passed down. This oral tradition is the equivalent of our federal judges issuing opinions regarding applications of our United States Constitution. These oral traditions were finally written down in the second century A.D. into what is known as the Mishnah, a six-volume set of books. By the fifth century the oral addendum to the Mishnah had grown into a 63-volume set of books known as the Talmud. Try reading that through in a year!
This hand-washing ritual before meals, the violation of which the disciples were being criticized, had no basis in the Law of Moses. However, since it was one of those very sacred extra-scriptural observances of these pious Jewish leaders, they were very critical. It was not a question of hygiene, but moral purity as far as they were concerned - all man-made law. Mark goes into more detail than Matthew regarding the background and basis of this Pharisaical practice of ritual washings in verses 2-5 of his account.
How do you answer a stupid question? I say "stupid question" because this hand-washing doctrine had no basis in Mosaic Law. it wasn't a sincere query...just the Pharisees trying to find fault with Jesus and his disciples. Jesus chooses another of their "laws" to show how they blatantly had been using their special supplement to the Law of Moses for selfish gain. On the one hand, they considered it their personal responsibility to care for their parents in their old age. As a matter of fact, Jesus mentions two laws regarding the treatment of parents - the fifth commandment found in Exodus 20:12 (see notes) and the provision which forbids cursing one's parents in Exodus 21:17 (see notes).
But what if you were so selfish that you didn't want to take care of your parents. Here's the loophole - called "corban." That's the Hebrew word for "offering" to God, used 82 times in the Old Testament in the context of sacrificial offerings/oblations brought to the Tabernacle/Temple; 78 of those times are found in Leviticus and Numbers. Mark uses the exact Hebrew word (transliterated) in his account; he wants to make certain his readers understand exactly what loophole these hypocritical Pharisees are invoking. However, they offered their possessions with a little bit of a twist. They would pledge their possessions to God (the temple) at their deaths with full rights to use their own wealth as long as they desired while they were living. However, (as they practiced it) this pledge prevented them from giving away any of these possessions for any reason, including provisions for their parents in their old age (or so they said). "Sorry Mom and Dad - can't help - pledged all my possessions to God." Incidentally, what must your parents have done to you as a child to merit such treatment? What a loophole! Do you think that kind of hypocrisy and legal acrobatics will go unnoticed by Jesus? He immediately points out that Isaiah had prophesied this kind of conduct by a disobedient Jewish nation in Isaiah 29:13 (see notes), "Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men." Jesus quotes Isaiah in Matthew 15:9 when he says, "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Wow! That's exactly what they were doing. And...I'm afraid that many religious people are still doing that today...just like Isaiah said they would...just like the Pharisees. So, what happens when you mix tradition into your doctrine, giving it the same weight as scripture? There's your answer in Mark 7:13, "Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye."
"Hey Jesus! We think you insulted the Pharisees with this one," the disciples reported in Matthew 15:12. Matthew, as an Apostle, would have been on the scene when this exchange took place. He recalls in his account the concern the disciples had with regard to how this conflict seemed to set with the hypocritical Jewish leaders. Does it appear that Jesus' disciples may have thought it better to compromise a little on this one? Obviously, they just didn't quite get it either. Hygiene is good, but moral purity has nothing to do with ritually washing ones hands before eating or the sanitary condition of substances taken into the body. Here's what defiles: that which proceeds from a man. Here's the list of defiling conduct in Matthew 15:19 and Mark 7:21-22.
Jesus uses "heart" (Greek: kardia) in this context the same way we use it in English today, figuratively as the seat of the emotions and as the seat of thought. No educated person in Jesus' day believed that thinking processes literally took place in the heart. Therefore, when Jesus refers to a defiled heart, he is speaking of one who stands in rebellion against God. This defilement is a product of the Adamic nature of man. In other words, these Jewish leaders about whom Jesus was speaking did not have an authentic relationship with God. That's the core problem Jesus is addressing here.
On an amusing side note, the word used for what builders today call the water closet is referred to as the "draught" (Matthew 15:17, Mark 7:19) in the KJV. The Greek word is "aphedron," a compound noun including the preposition for "away from" and "sitting." So, the "draught" of the KJV is a place where one sits away from everyone else.
Now this is one persistent Gentile woman! (Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30)
|21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the childrens bread, and to cast it to dogs.
27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters table.
28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
|24 And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.
25 For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet:
26 The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.
27 But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the childrens bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.
28 And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the childrens crumbs.
29 And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.
30 And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.
Jesus is north of Israel up near Tyre and Sidon (in Syria) ministering. This woman is of Canaanite descent according to Matthew, and Mark reports that she is a native of the Phoenician seaboard up in Syria ("Syrophenician") - probably Greek in religion, and also in speech. She is quite perceptive when she cries out to Jesus, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David." Matthew saw the exact phrasing of this plea to be significant. It demonstrated that she knew who Jesus was and why he had come...his Messianic mission. Jesus points out that his primary ministry is to present himself as Messiah to the Jews, and she's a gentile, not a Jew. She's persistent though - not really interested in technicalities. Could it be that she also understood that the prophet Isaiah had prophesied that the Messiah would also be ministering to Gentiles (Isaiah 54, see notes)? She's a quick thinker too - very fluent with the perfect rebuttal - the dogs-eating-crumbs rebuttal. As scavengers, dogs ate whatever wasn't consumed by the intended recipient. Result: Jesus heals her daughter.
Some folks just can't keep a secret (Matthew 15:29-31 and Mark 7:31-37)
|29 And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there.
30 And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus feet; and he healed them:
31 Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.
| 31 And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.
32 And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him.
33 And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue;
34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.
35 And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.
36 And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it;
37 And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.
Jesus left Syria and is now ministering in Decapolis, southeast of the Sea of Galilee; this area was predominantly occupied by Greeks where Matthew simply reports that Jesus healed a "multitude" of people who were brought to him. Mark, on the other hand, recalls for us on that occasion the healing of one particular man, a deaf/dumb man. Mark gives a detailed account, including the Aramaic word ("Ephphatha") Jesus uses when he commands that the man's ears "be opened." The multitude is impressed and subsequently publish these miracles despite Jesus' plea that they not do so.
Jesus feeds a multitude...again (Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-9)
|32 Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.
33 And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?
34 And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes.
35 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
36 And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
37 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.
38 And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.
39 And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.
|1 In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them,
2 I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat:
3 And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.
4 And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?
5 And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven.
6 And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.
7 And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.
8 So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.
9 And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.
This crowd has been with Jesus for three days, and they're hungry - all 4,000 of them. Matthew points out that the 4,000 was just an accounting of the men present who were fed, not counting "women and children." Look at the questions posed by the disciples in verse 33, "Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?" Hey! Didn't you guys learn anything back in Matthew 14 (see notes) when the 5,000+ were fed? Another feed miracle takes place from only seven loaves of bread and a few small fishes - with lots of leftovers.
At the conclusion of this miracle, we see that Jesus took a ship to the other side of the Sea of Galilee when it is said in verse 39 that he "came into the coasts of Magdala." Magdala was a city on the west coast of the Sea of Galilee (aka Sea of Tiberias). The events of this passage are immediately followed by those of Matthew 16; Mark 8:10-12 (see notes).