Matthew ★15: Is a deeply convicting chapter. Once again Jesus is forcing me to re-evaluate what I think is integral to Christianity in by questioning culture and customs in balance of truths, principals and consistency.★15:1Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,”a 6he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the wordb of God. 7You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” Wow. In my original notes (the one’s I take in my bible while reading), I wrote “How does this apply to me now?” I’ll try to answer in a quick thought blurb.
✪ What do you think Christians should do versus What does Jesus think Christians should do, and who’s right? That’s really how this verse is going to apply to us. The Pharisees and scribes approached Jesus to catch him on his failure to meet status quo for those who are called to noble purposes. Jesus (probably frustrated by the politics and legalism) retorts “Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition.“ Ouch! So, I actually feel I can sympathize with Jesus‘ frustration here (yes, I know, how dare I). There are many instances in the daily life of the Western Christian that prove we invest more effort in protecting our cultural tolerances and taboos than we do on advancing the Kingdom of God. Like this: God’s wants us to not steal. (Exodus 20:15) We agree that shop lifting, pocket theft and break/enter robbery is wrong. BUT, when it comes to burning CD’s and DVD’s for the sake of providing a Christian music alternative that God’s desire submits to our desire. That’s because we care more about our traditions that about God’s will. Some other examples are; marrying in the faith, the use of alcohol, the use of money, the use of food, the use of time, the use of entertainment… All of these seem to have cultural tolerances or taboos tied in. And the worst part is this is not (entirely) the influence of secular culture, but the culture created in the… before I go ahead and say the C word, let me make one thing clear. The local Church is the Church when it ultimately functions as the a part of the bride of Christ. A church ceases to be The Church when it becomes just a church, as if there were other churches that they are not connected with. That is the birth of Church culture of Kingdom culture. I believe that is what Jesus is frustrated about in the verse above. And I must be honest, I’m not completely sure because I’m just so frustrated by this dilemma! Whenever I think of it I start losing my cool and get quite fiery!
★15:11it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” 12Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14Let them alone; they are blind guides.c And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?d 18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” Mat 15 is turning out to be a very practical read. Just like verses 1-9, 15-20 forces us to dig a little deeper into the problem to find out the real source of pollution. The key passage here is verses 19 & 20 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” I can see two clear messages here.
- Stop looking at the outside of the cup. Stop looking at the outside of the cup. Stop looking at the outside of the cup. It is the stuff inside that makes the difference. Jesus offends the pharisees by telling them their religiously kept traditions for non-defilement are a silly waste of time, and they have nothing to do with being pure. For us, this means STOP LOOKING AT THE OUSTIDE OF THE CUP. I use bolded capitals to make the message all the more clear to myself! God is looking at the heart, not the certificates, not the droves of poor people around me with smiling faces and full bellies, not the satisfied audience of a relevant, interesting and convicting message. Although these things are good things, the condition of my heart is the trump card that can make of break them all. The outside of the cup–the outward appearance of myself, is the easy part–it can be faked! But the condition of my heart speaks of my deepest desires and motivations and core values. Actually I might even go through my heart right now, to further Jesus’ point. Self image is a big one for me! Constantly looking in reflections to see if I appear the way I would like others to see me. I change myself to create a more appealing image and often that means appearing more like what I think it good/christianly. My self image takes a significant part of my heart – it really does boil down to selfishness. Transcendent pleasure is another one. I confess that when it comes to pleasures I find transcend all of life’s nuances–my selfishness often gets its way sooner or later. Pride. I have to admit–if I am talking about heart issues pride has to take the cake. The thing about it is that it’s almost totally un-noticable to me until it is ruptured, and then all my selfishness flows out like a broken dam. That brings me to clear message number two.
- No-one escapes it–except Jesus. Even as I was writing down my heart issues I started to discuss with myself – “Hey wait a sec, I am pretty bad? How could I ever have a clean heart or am I doomed like the Pharisees to selfishness pride?” What is actually Jesus saying here? Did he offend the pharisees because he singled them out calling them defiled? No, he didn’t exclude them at all. “For out of the heart come evil…These are what defile a person”. Jesus is addressing people with hearts. He graciously enlightens us with a humiliating reminder. (this is important) We are not evil because of what’s around us, we are evil because of our heart. Our core, surges ourselves above God and we ignore his calling and listen to our own selfish and shortsighted ideas for life. The point is – if it is the heart that is defiled, then it is the heart that needs to be replaced. But if I myself am my source of evil how will, I myself, replace my heart–anything I offer myself is defiled! The only answer is intervention from a pure source–HOLY SPIRIT! Christ’s blood bought me the heart even though I was spiritually bankrupt and unworthy. The Holy Spirit does the renovations because I myself am unable to build anything good, only use that which has been worked within me by him.
So that is the two clear messages I see in this passage Matt 15:11-20. I actually really like this passage too. Actually. I really love Matthew! Father, Thank you for your word. When I can almost feel your breath moving past my face–I know that is just my imagination, what I’m trying to say is that I feel close to you when I read the words you’ve given me. Sometimes I don’t understand what you mean and sometimes I feel like you’re taking a blindfold off of my eyes and give me a glimpse of your wisdom. You are so gracious with me Lord. I know it’s not a blind fold you are removing, it’s the pollution in my vision that you graciously clear away. Oh father my heart longs to be with you in purity, worshiping and honoring you without the pollution of my selfishness. Jesus Christ. Son of God and the word of God–you brought this world to be, and you have authority over all things. You died so that my sins would be forgiven and I would know the Father and stand captivated by the entrancing glory of the Trinity…. Holy Spirit, please, I am very impatient. I hate my sin and in-purities. I long to worship God with all my heart and soul and strength and mind. As you are gracious with me as I sin daily, please give me strength and power to overcome my selfishness daily so that people might see me and praise God! And that my actions might be a reflection of selfless faith in God pleasing to him and a offering of love to him.
★15:21And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”23But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. The first time I read this passage I was (ashamed to say it) a little disgusted at Jesus. Did he just call that woman a dog? Surely he did! At the time I was too offended by what he said to see what was actually going on. This time reading it–I was flawed with amazement. Jesus first ignores the Canaanite woman when she first approaches him as was the cultural expectation of the day for two reasons; 1) She was a woman, and Jewish men would usually refrain from speaking to women in public, 2) She was a canaanite and jews avoided canaanites, further Jesus’ ministry was to Israel first and then later opened up to gentiles. So the story goes that she asks that her daughter would be healed of her demon oppression. He says no and then calls her a dog saying “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Her reply is remarkable in faith, boldness and wisdom – she is desperate and she knows who is in charge. She replies “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” And then Jesus says something that we all wish to hear: “great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” This time, I’m dancing in my seat with giddiness from the principal I can see in this passage. What is it about that one line that she replied back to Jesus that made him not only change his mind, but also compliment her on her faith? She realizes what her relationship is to Jesus and, though it is humble – relishes in it. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table” she says. Or to paraphrase; ‘Even I, a humble canaanite woman receive any good thing I have by the mercy of God, my master.’ She surrenders totally to the creator God as her master saying that it is better to be a dog and eat the crumbs from God’s table than to be a dignified/carnal person away from the blessing of creator God. And then Jesus says the most beautiful words anyone could receive, “Great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire”. Be it done for you as you desire. Be it done for you as you desire. Be it done for you as you desire.
Father, how I long to hear the words “great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire”. Now I seek to, so desire the blessings God gives, as to humble myself, low as a dog, to receive what I will from the Almighty God of creation. Thank you God. It is only by you that these words from your scripture have now come to me as food rather than offence. And now that you have been merciful t reveal them to me with grace, please then also give me grace to live out your mercy with obedience and piety. I confess Lord that like I a dog I have gone back to the dirty thing that stained me in the first place. I am so sorry and lay like a crumbled man at your feet. Waiting on you as you are the one who forgives and you are my only source of comfort and hope. I desire to be like JESUS! To know you will and do it. To have faith in God and live for you, as my life is nothing without you. And you have said that your grace is sufficient for me. That’s a lot of grace. But you are a very BIG GOD. As I am forgiven in Christ. May I be filled with the Holy Spirit according to your grace today so that I might live faithfully, laying my life at the service of your will, oh my God. Purify me and make me yours, change my desires toward you that I might live in the joy of the Lord forever.