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Men’s Traditions VS. God’s Truth (Matthew 15:1-20)

Matthew: The Book of Kingship, Pastor Heo, Sermons

Men’s Traditions VS. God’s Truth (Matthew 15:1-20)



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Men’s Tradition VS. God’s Truth

Matthew 15:1-20 (Pastor Heo)

Clean and Unclean

15:1-20pp — Mk 7:1-23

1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” 3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ 6 he is not to ‘honor his father ‘ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 8 ” ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'” 10Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 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.’ “12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” 13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” 15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’ “


The Bible says: Truth and Grace came through Jesus Christ. Our Lord’s great concerns are truth and love. In the first part, Jesus is teaching Truth and exposing human hypocrisy. During his time on earth, the main enemy was not the Roman government, but the religious teachers. The Pharisees attacked Jesus with many questions (chp 9: “Why do they not fast?”, chp 12: “Why do they break the Sabbath law?”, chp 15: “Why do they break the tradition of the elders?”)

Today, they want to accuse Jesus of breaking their traditions and culture. (These guys came all the way FROM Jerusalem to accuse him.)

Up to this time, 100s of laws and traditions had been added to the Law (630+ laws in the Old Testament alone – but they also added ON TOP of these – one tradition or law was washing hands before eating).

They thought: “If something is ‘unclean’ – then its ‘uncleanness’ is infectious/transferable – so, if I touch this, or even if it touches me, I will be ‘unclean’ and anyone I touch or who touches me will also be ‘unclean’~! Ahh!~”

The Gentiles were physically, morally, spiritually ‘unclean’ to the Jews at that time. So, they didn’t partake in food with them. Also, the Jews not only ceremonially washed their hands, but EVERYTHING else too! They thought “If I wash my hands, then I’m physically AND spiritually clean enough to approach God and talk to him and be near him. But if I don’t wash, I can’t talk to God.”

mishina = traditions that are more important than the original Law of Moses.

They said to Jesus, “Why do your disciples break the mishina?” They meant, “Why do YOU break the mishina?”

To you, to us, which is more important? Man’s truth (traditions) or God’s truth (commands).

Jesus replied: “Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?”

corba = a gift devoted to God (v. 6)

They nullify the Word of God for the sake of their traditions.

They said to Jesus, “YOU! are breaking the commands of GOD!” (because to them, mishina was equal to the commands of God).

Jesus said to them, “Not I, but YOU are breaking the commands of God!” (because their traditions were stepping on the commands of God).

Example: corba = a gift devoted to God

If a Jew wanted to escape some financial responsibilities (gifts, help for friends or family, etc), he would just say, “Oh! I can’t pay, sorry! ALL my money and property is ‘corba!’ For God only! Sorry!~~~”

In doing this, they are losing the power of God’s Word in their lives, missing God’s blessing, and avoiding the growth of their own character. ‘Corba’ would allow them to disobey God and disrespect parents.

Man’s traditions = to obey men and gain power and respect – deals with ritual – deals with the outward appearance – robs people of the power of the Word of God.

Even now, there are MANY evangelical “traditions” that are practiced and performed as just as authoritative as the Word of God.

v. 7-9

Are you worshiping God truly? Honestly? In vain?

Jesus called them “hypocrites”!

Greek = “actors” – spiritual pretenders “I’m so close to God, but all YOU guys are sinners!” Don’t worship for our own outward appearance. If we claim to worship him while our hearts are far from him, it is meaningless, nothing.

It is not enough to “act religious” or “study religion” or even “read the Bible.” We must RESPOND to God personally.

Yes, it’s EASY to talk about worship.

Worship (William Temple): “To quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind by the truth of God, to enliven the heart with the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”

Jesus continues his teaching:

v. 10-11

What did you eat this morning? (French toast)

Uncleanness (defilement) is not an external matter – like washing your hands, or keeping the “Sabbath” – but keeping the heart.

  • Holiness begins in the heart.
  • Sin begins in the heart.

Jeremiah: “The heart is deceitful above all things, beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

Anything we are doing begins from our hearts. This is the center of our attitudes, passions, desires, and actions.

v. 12-14

Blind leading the blind (Pharisees).

This idea that people were not unclean because of food (or hand washing) was REVOLUTIONARY to the Jews.

Even in our daily lives, we must not offend others because of food – BUT we must also not BE offended by others because of food. Do you eat dogs? Cats? Rabbits? Bison (yummy)? Elk? Cockroaches? Deer?

Eating or not is not a matter of religion, but a matter of health, culture, or habit.

Jesus declares in Mark 7:19 “ALL foods are clean before God.”

Romans “The man who eats everything must not look down on the man who does not eat. Also, the man who does not eat, must not criticize the one who eats. Why? Because God has accepted BOTH. Only God can judge his heart, and only before his own Master he stands or falls.”

Don’t condemn or call “unclean” those who eat.

Romans 14:17 “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but a matter of peace, and joy, and holiness.”


v. 15-20

  • In the mouth -> stomach -> out of the body
  • Out of the mouth <- from the heart

Evil actions from the evil heart (v. 19):

  1. murder – take a person’s God-given life
  2. adultery – have sex with someone other than a person’s God-given spouse
  3. sexual immorality – having sex in a different manner than a God-glorifying and ordained manner
  4. theft – taking something not yours – not given by God
  5. false testimony – lying about something against someone else created by God
  6. slander – badmouthing another person created by God

Sometimes Peter spoke as the spokesman for the disciples. So, Jesus patiently reiterated his message.

Sin in a man’s heart is what makes him unclean.

What is the heart? The center of the man’s passions, dreams, hopes, desires.

It is clear why we sin: it is a matter of the heart.

When we become Christians, Jesus makes us TOTALLY different from the inside-out and he will continue the changing process IF we ask. He will change our hearts, intentions, desires, and actions from the inside out.

It is up to us to help with outward actions, yes, that’s true and good – giving, going to the Bible study, helping and serving. Wow! Great! Nice job! Essential parts of a Christian life. BUT these are NOT religion themselves. This is a path, a means toward true religion.

True religion is inward, not outward – an attitude toward God and others.

IF outward expression was true religion, it would be very misleading and deceiving. Someone may have a perfect, spotless, beautiful “religious” life and may yet be FILLED with bitterness, anger, cursing.

Yes, we know, blessed are the PURE in heart, for they will SEE God. Why? Because God sees YOUR heart. If you heart is pure, He reveals himself to you, you can see him.

It is with the heart that we are saved and are purified and are justified.

We worship God from the heart, sing from the heart, dance, serve, glorify God, give, help from the heart.

May God bless all of us, especially our hearts: the CENTER of who we are and what we are doing.

Let’s pray.

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