JESUS REBUKES THE TRADITIONAL JEWS' HYPOCRISY
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.