by Dr. Samuel Lee   04/26/2000     0 reads



Matthew 15:1-28

Key Verses: 15:10,11

"Jesus called the crowd to him and said, `Listen and understand.

  What goes into a man's mouth does not make him "unclean," but

  what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him "unclean."'"


1. Read verses 1-9. For what did the religious leaders criticize Jesus'

disciples? Why? What good purpose is served by tradition?

2. Why did Jesus rebuke the religious leaders? How did they nullify the

word of God? When does tradition become a hindrance to a life that

pleases God?

3. Read verses 10-14. How is Jesus' view of clean and unclean different

from that of the Pharisees? (11) Why did Jesus not worry about

offending the Pharisees? (12-14)

4. Read verses 15-20. What makes people unclean? What does this mean to

us practically?

5. Read verses 21-28. Why did the Gentile woman come? How did she

address Jesus? How and why did Jesus challenge her? How did she

respond? How did Jesus bless her? How was she different from the





Matthew 15:1-28

Key Verses: 15:10,11

"Jesus called the crowd to him and said, `Listen and understand.

  What goes into a man's mouth does not make him "unclean," but

  what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him "unclean."'"

  In the last passage we learned that Jesus gave his disciples storm

training. In the stormy sea, when the disciples looked at Jesus by

faith, they could walk on the water. But when Peter, while walking on

the water, looked down at the turbulent waves of the sea, he sank into

the water. Thank God that he gives us storm training from time to time,

so that we may look at God by faith, not at the sea ghost. Today Jesus

talks with the traditional Jews.  Jesus rebukes their hypocritical way

of life, which was based on their traditions. In this passage we learn

that we should not be hypocritical and habitual Christians; we must be

Christians who are right with God.

First, the Jews came to Jesus (1-2). At that time Jesus was in some

part of the Galilean district. The Pharisees and the teachers of the

law came to Jesus from Jerusalem to ask a question. Their question

sounds very funny to modern people. Their question was, "Why don't your

disciples wash their hands before they eat? Thus they break the

tradition of the elders!" In view of their history, tradition made

Jewish people survive and spread, even though they were like a "fiddler

on the roof." Because they kept the traditions about how to eat and how

to sleep, covered their heads always and observed the Sabbath, they

could maintain their Jewish identity and remember God's purpose for

them as the chosen people. They could endure any kind of suffering. But

when they forgot the key point of God's word, which is the Ten

Commandments, their traditions gradually made them hypocritical and

ritualistic. Their tradition was good, but when it was not based on the

word of God it became useless. It also distanced them far from the law

of God. When the Jews came from Jerusalem to Galilee, their purpose was

to crush Jesus and his disciples' lifestyle and ministry. They asked,

"Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders by not washing

their hands before they eat?" It was a head-on collision between Jesus

and leaders of the orthodox Jews. Measured by the orthodox Jews'

tradition of the time, the disciples' act of eating without washing

their hands was impermissible. All the Jews were supposed to wash their

hands before eating something. But the region of Palestine didn't

contain much water, especially in the Galilean district. Usually the

traditional Jews used an egg shell of water to wash their hands, then

claimed they had washed their hands; so they were ceremonially clean

and ritually right. Those who did not were branded as rebels who broke

the tradition of the elders.

To the Jews, handwashing was the symbol of being clean in the sight

of God. But Jesus did not think so. He considered handwashing entirely

a ceremonial matter, just a ritualistic procedure; handwashing does not

make a person clean before God. If they kept traditional cleansing

ceremonies, the Jews thought they were clean before God. If they washed

their hands with one cup of water before eating, they thought they were

clean before God. If they didn't touch unclean things, they thought

they were clean before God. For example, a woman was unclean if she had

an issue of blood, even if that issue of blood was that of her monthly

period. Those who touched people with contagious diseases were all

unclean. Measured by their tradition, many Chicagoans are unclean,

because our colorful weather makes most of us catch cold, and many

friends contract a cold from their friends.

Of course, in other countries there have been many examples about

uncleanness. In India, high caste people thought low caste people were

all unclean. In Egypt, all animals were unclean except cats and

crocodiles. But the Jewish tradition regarding clean and unclean had a

political bent. The elders of the Jews demanded people to be clean.

According to Leviticus 11, if ordinary people wanted to be clean, they

had to go through all kinds of rituals. They had to practice rituals at

the time of birth, at the time of marriage, at the time of death, and

especially at the time of getting a job. They were like people in the

Catholic church before the Middle Ages who practiced seven rituals. In

order to keep the tradition, they had to practice rituals and

ceremonies, and they had to pay much money to those who performed the

rituals. In this same way the Jewish elders extorted money from poor

people.  As a result, the Jewish elders made a great deal of money. But

they lost the original concept of their tradition, and they lost the

command of God completely.

Second, Jesus said, "Why do you break the command of God?" (3-9) Let's

look at verse 3. "Jesus replied,  And why do you break the command of

God for the sake of your tradition?'" Their tradition made the people

habitual and superficial, and there was no heart of God in their

tradition. For example, the Bible says, "Honor your father and your

mother," and "Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to

death" (4). This is the fifth of the Ten Commandments combined with

Leviticus 20:9. So they must honor their parents even at the cost of

suffering loss. But most of the traditional Jews made use of the word

"a gift devoted to God" (5). In Mark's Gospel, "a gift devoted to God"

is called "Corban" (Mk 7:11). Corban was one of their traditions. This

tradition of Corban justified not honoring their parents as follows: If

rich children legally registered their property and money to the

elders' community, it was regarded as a gift devoted to God. So, rich

children said to their parents, "Corban, Corban. I gave everything to

God. So I cannot support you." As a result, these rich children did not

honor their parents at all.  Jesus said to them, "Thus you nullify the

word of God for the sake of your tradition" (6b).

Even in Isaiah's time, the people of Israel honored God with their

lips, but their hearts were far from God. They worshiped God in vain.

Their teachings were but rules fabricated by men. Look at verses 7-9.

"You hypocrites!  Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:  These

people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They

worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'"

These days there are many hypocritical Christians and traditional

Christians. There are many people who do not go to church to worship

God. Instead, they watch a TV worship service and say they are saved.

And there are people who regularly attend church and offer tithes. So

they think they will go to heaven. But if they are hypocritical and

habitual like the traditional Jewish elders, they are greatly mistaken.

We must not worship God habitually. We must worship God with all our

hearts and all our souls and all our strength and all our mind.  Third,

Jesus taught his disciples how one can be clean (10-20). Look at verses

10-11. "Jesus called the crowd to him and said,  Listen and

understand.  What goes into a man's mouth does not make him "unclean,"

but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him "unclean."'"

Jesus rebuked the traditional Jews' hypocrisy. But the disciples were

afraid of the Jewish leaders and came to Jesus and asked, "Do you know

that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?" (12) They were

so terrified by the Jewish leaders that they did not listen to Jesus.

How did Jesus help his disciples? Look at verses 13,14. "He replied,

 Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up

 by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads

 a blind man, both will fall into a pit.'" After hearing Jesus'

 courageous comment on the traditional Jewish leaders, the disciples'

 morale came back. Peter said, "Explain the parable to us" (15). Until

 now, whenever Jesus told a parable or spoke a certain teaching, his

 disciples never understood at first. In Matthew's Gospel they always

 asked the meaning of Jesus' words once again. It was because they were

 very fearful of the world and ambitious for their selfish goals. So

 they became scatterbrained. They could not catch what Jesus said to


Jesus rebuked them in verses 16-18: "Are you still so dull? Don't

you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then

out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from

the heart, and these make a man  unclean.'" Jesus explained that

whatever one eats with unwashed hands doesn't make him unclean;

instead, if one's heart is not right, what he speaks from his heart

makes him unclean. Look at verses 19-20. "For out of the heart come

evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false

testimony, slander. These are what make a man  unclean'; but eating

with unwashed hands does not make him  unclean.'" Jesus says that food

doesn't make people unclean, because it goes into the mouth and comes

out of the body; but when one has an evil heart, his heart makes him

unclean with many evil thoughts and wickedness.

When national leaders have evil hearts they can make a whole nation

unclean. The people of the state of Minnesota elected a wrestler as

their governor. It is indeed a funny story that a wrestler became a

governor. A wrestler can be a wrestler; a wrestler is far away from

politics. However, the people of Minnesota learned that people in the

federal government wrestle too much these days. They did not know which

side would win in their wrestling politics. So the people of Minnesota

elected a wrestler as their governor and said, "Hey, we send a wrestler

to you." It is a ridiculous event. But it pictures the present

condition of national leaders. Elected officials must work hard for

this nation as representatives of the people and stewards of God's

world.  They must glorify the name of God. But these days many

politicians are like fighting cats and dogs in dealing with the

President's scandal. It goes on for such a long time, aggravating the

reputation of the United States of America worldwide and making our

nation unclean.

Unclean hearts and evil thoughts are also a problem in the church.

For the last 25 years, CAN members, who are deprogrammers and

brainwashers, have damaged gospel-centered churches and organizations

so much. But American churches have been silent. They have had no

strength to fight against anti-Christians' evildoing. For quite a long

time, the church seemed dead, while anti-Christians were mighty

powerful. In this environment, so many people have begun to suppress

the truth of God and become perverse, and God-haters. They provoke

God's anger. For example, God made man and woman. But many have become

homosexuals or lesbians. In reality, these are all by-products of

hypocritical churches. How can one be clean? He must have a clean

heart. How can one have a clean heart? Let's look at one woman of faith

and see.

Fourth, Jesus admires the Canaanite woman's faith (21-28). Until now,

we thought about hypocritical people, especially traditional Jewish

leaders and modern church leaders who are spiritually dead and have

produced many perverse people in this generation. Now we are going to

think about a Gentile woman's faith. Jesus withdrew to the region of

Tyre and Sidon (21). Jesus intended to go to Gentile territory and have

a retreat with his disciples. But there was no time for Jesus to have a

retreat. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out,

"Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering

terribly from demon-possession" (22). Jesus did not answer a word. So

his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps

crying out after us" (23). When Jesus was silent at her loud cry, his

disciples thought he didn't like her, so they urged him to send her


Jesus' response was surprising. Look at verse 24. "He answered,  I

was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.'" It sounds like Jesus

despised the Gentile woman; but he did not. To say that he was sent to

save only the chosen people was a test of her faith. The woman didn't

retreat, she advanced. "The woman came and knelt before him.  Lord,

help me!' she said" (25). Jesus replied, "It is not right to take the

children's bread and toss it to their dogs" (26). It sounds like Jesus

regarded her as a Gentile dog. Usually women are delicate and

sensitive. So if they are humiliated, they become upset, lose their

reason and become emotional and revengeful. What was her response? She

was not emotional at all. She was not revengeful at all toward Jesus.

Look at verse 27. " Yes, Lord,' she said,  but even the dogs eat the

crumbs that fall from their masters' table.'" What a humble woman! What

a wise answer! She was indeed a woman of faith. Her faith and wisdom

enabled her to pass Jesus' faith test. How did Jesus finally deal with

her? Look at verse 28. "Then Jesus answered,  Woman, you have great

faith! Your request is granted.' And her daughter was healed from that

very hour."

Today we thought about a great contrast. The traditional Jewish

leaders were bigoted, political and hypocritical. They honored God with

their lips, but their hearts were far from God. Through this we repent

the sin of modern American churches' hypocrisy and money-oriented

policy. On the other hand, a Gentile woman was not hypocritical. She

was a woman of faith, and she was full of compassion for her daughter

who was suffering from demon-possession. Jesus tested her faith very

severely because she was a Gentile woman. She never retreated, but

advanced with faith and obtained God's blessing from Jesus. In a word,

she was a woman of heart. She probably did not know about Jesus well.

But she had simple faith. And she had a compassionate heart for her

daughter. Jesus regarded her compassionate heart as great faith, and

admired this Gentile woman, and granted her request.

Today we learned that we should not be hypocritical Christians; we

should be men and women of heart and men and women of compassion. Then

our Lord Jesus Christ will increase our faith.