Matthew 15 – Defiled by Unbelief

That Which Defiles

The pharisees yet again come to question Jesus, probably to trap Him. This time they question Him about His disciples, as to why they break the tradition of the elders by not washing their hands before eating? Just like always, Jesus knew that the pharisees did not actually seek an honest reply and put forward a counter question.

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’

Matthew 15:3-4

Traditions were extremely important to the pharisees come what may. Jesus questioned them about the fulfillment of the commandment given by God and how they chosen to ignore that for the sake of their tradition.

They twisted the laws and deceived people into giving every resource to them which they might have used otherwise for the care of their parents.

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 merely human rules. ’”

Matthew 15:7-9

Jesus told them how Isaiah’s prophecy pointed towards them as they honored and worshiped using their lips without any intention of the heart. For the pharisees, rules and traditions were their only concern, they were so blinded by the human teachings that they had forgotten the source and what God had intended.

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Matthew 15:10-11

Jesus addressed the crowd with another parable about defilement that the disciples could not understand. Yet, the disciples seemed more concerned about the pharisees getting offended as they came to Him asking if He was aware that He had offended the pharisees.

We are much similar to the disciples, we care more about not offending others, even when we know they are not right. Our life revolves around what do people think of us, but seldom do we think about what Jesus thinks of us and how we keep offending Him through our acts.

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 the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

Matthew 15:13-14

The pharisees who had access to the Old Testament were expected to teach the love of God to the others but sadly, they were blinded by their traditions and were deemed unfit to lead by Jesus.

Peter then asks Jesus to explain the parable to which Jesus says “Are you still so dull?” Despite being with Jesus for so long, they couldn’t understand Him as the spiritual connection was missing. Again similar to us, we have both known and experienced His works in our lives, yet we miss out on understanding Him.

However, Jesus goes on to explain the parable that it is what is inside that matters. The outward appearance could be deceptive, like the pharisees but what is of importance is our heart.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.

Matthew 15:19-20

Our words reflect the thoughts of our heart and if we do not have God to guide our hearts, we will be giving way to the evil one to take over and defile us in the process.

The Faith of a Canaanite Woman

From Gennesaret, Jesus went to the region of Tyre and Sidon, a predominantly gentile area. A Canaanite woman came to Jesus, desperately seeking His mercy for her daughter. She seems to have known Jesus or at least heard about Him as she addressed Him as ‘Son of David’.

A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

Matthew 15:22

Jesus did not answer which seems weird. Why would Jesus do that? His disciples surely did not have any interest in her distress and wanted Jesus to just send her away.

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

Matthew 15:24

What did Jesus mean when He said the above verse? Why would Jesus come to a gentile city if He didn’t bother about them. The woman did not lose hope but was persistent in asking for help.

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

Matthew 15:26

Seems like a rude reply especially when addressing someone desperate for help. The Canaanite woman did not give up, and what she said next is something unimaginable for us.

“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Matthew 15:27

Jesus commended her faith and granted her request. What was Jesus trying to do? Was He testing her? No, Jesus already knew her response and knew how much faith she had on Him. Jesus did not try to insult her or put her down, but His visit to this place was so that the people surrounding Him would see how great her faith was, including the disciples who probably found her to be a mere nuisance.

The woman had such great faith that nothing could break her and she was determined to receive what she wanted from Jesus. Oftentimes, we feel God is not responding to our requests even when we ask with a pure heart. We know that Jesus would not stay silent without a reason but are we patient enough to have faith in Him and wait for Him to work in our lives?

Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand

Jesus then went along the Sea of Galilee to a mountainside where a large crowd came to Him for healing. The people were amazed at His works and praised God.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”

Matthew 15:32

Jesus, out of compassion wanted the crowds to not go away hungry but the disciples even after seeing Him feed five thousand plus people, did not expect Him to provide for the people.

His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”

Matthew 15:33

This time they had seven loaves and a few small fishes, which Jesus took, gave thanks and fed the four thousand men in addition to the women and children, and seven basketfuls were leftover for the disciples to take home. Jesus then sent the crowd away and left the place. The disciples seem quite ignorant and did not seem to have any compassion for the people nor could they remember Jesus’s works done only a few weeks ago.

This reminds us of when we don’t remember His works in our lives and seem to go down the wrong path. Though we might be in a situation which looks impossible to pass through, let us always remember that nothing is impossible for God and His way of work is something we can’t comprehend.

The lyric of a song I love says, ‘faith makes a fool of what makes sense’, which is apt in this context. We cannot find sense in a meal insufficient for a small family to feed four thousand plus people with seven loaves and similarly, we cannot understand the way God works in our lives. We must have faith like the Canaanite woman had and not get distracted by the evil one who defiles us.

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