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.
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:
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.
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.”
- In the mouth -> stomach -> out of the body
- Out of the mouth <- from the heart
Evil actions from the evil heart (v. 19):
- murder – take a person’s God-given life
- adultery – have sex with someone other than a person’s God-given spouse
- sexual immorality – having sex in a different manner than a God-glorifying and ordained manner
- theft – taking something not yours – not given by God
- false testimony – lying about something against someone else created by God
- 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.
1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread–which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.
- Next Sunday is the Resurrection (Easter) Sunday.
- 40 days preceding this is called Lent (40 days to receive Jesus’ resurrection through prayer, meditation, etc). The first day of Lent = Ash Wednesday (March 1, 2014). This is to remind us that we are ash, and will return to ash. If we remember this, we will be humble – we must be humble.
- Today is Palm Sunday. Today, we remember the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey. Palm branches were on the road under the feet of the donkey. This is fulfillment of Daniel 9:27~56? 77th prophecy.
- This coming week is called Passion Week. We remember Jesus’ willing suffering to go to the cross for our sins – as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John 2:2 “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins – not only ours but also those of the whole world.”
- Today’s story is NOT the story of Palm Sunday, but it MATCHES the story of Passion week.
v. 14 “But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.”
In this story, we see this as a series of crucial events in his life.
Of course, in everyone’s life there are crucial moments on which much is hinged/depends. This is one of those moments for Jesus.
This was the final decision (rejection) of the Pharisees – they wanted to see “how can we kill him?”
Jesus deliberately violated the Sabbath “rules” and traditions multiple times to let us know that these “rules” cannot make us holy. Only our hearts can make us holy. The Pharisees thought the absence of work was true holiness. But Jesus shows that true rest (Sabbath) is found only in him. True rest, true sabbath can be found in worship to God. Have you ever sometimes been tired of worship? Be careful answering.^^
At that time, the fields were laid out by the roadside without fences. According to tradition, any hungry traveler was allowed to pick some grain and eat – the disciples were not stealing. The Pharisees don’t criticize the picking of grain, but the fact that *GASP* It’s Sunday!~
The Creation story says God worked for 6 days and rested on the 7th. He did not need rest, but he rested to give us rest in him. He blesses us by acknowledging him as God, and having a relationship with us.
Over time, the Pharisees lost the true meaning of the sabbath. They tried to define the sabbath very very theologically. There were 39 actions declared as “work” that must be done the day before and not be done on the Sabbath.
- Picking = harvesting
- Opening = threshing
- Preparing = Winnowing
- Getting ready to eat = preparing a meal
Jesus appeals to
- the priests
- the Prophet
in his answer to their accusations.
#1 Appeal to David v. 3-4
The picture of the Tabernacle at that time, there were 3 divisions.
- Temple court
- Holy place
- Most holy place
Every week, 12 pieces of bread were placed in 2 lines of 6 on a table – representing the 12 tribes of Israel and showing God’s provision. This bread was changed into new bread every week. This bread was then given to the High Priests every week to eat (as salary kind of).
BUT 1 Samuel 21:1-6, David and his soldiers entered the Tabernacle and gave David and his soldiers this holy bread. God did not punish David and his soldiers. Why? Their need for food was more important the priestly rules.
Jesus, “If David could break the ‘rules’ in a special case, how much more could not I do so?” Jesus says “haven’t you read?” Of course they’ve read it – but this reveals their true ignorance of the story. They didn’t understand clearly and didn’t apply the true meaning of the Scriptures. John 20:9-14? “You study the Scriptures thinking that by them you have life, but you do not know that these Scriptures testify about me. And you do not have life because you do not come to me.”
The true meaning and purpose of the Scriptures (in their entirety) is to see and find Jesus.
#2 Appeal to the Priests (v. 5-6)
Yes, the people were not to “work” but rest on the Sabbath. But remember true worship is true rest.
On the Sabbath day, worship services were doubled, offerings were doubled. Many things had to be done.
- Making fires
- Preparing animals
- Lifting them on the altar
- Carrying the animals
- etc, etc
If “ordinary” people did it – it would be illegal. But because they were PRIESTS, it was “legal.” Why? Because they were priests and worship MUST be done. Even the same things can be seen as right or wrong depending on who does it.
The topic of Hebrews = Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (in becoming our merciful High Priest). Hebrews 4:15-16? “We do not have a High Priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but a HP who was tempted in every way as we are, but was without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with confidence to find mercy in our time of need.”
- The priests had to sacrifice animals first for themselves, and THEN for the people.
- But Jesus was without sin, so he offered sacrifice DIRECTLY to God.
- Humans offered animals, tried to show the way to God.
- Jesus offered himself, and IS the way to God.
- Human priests are mortal – cannot pray for people permanently.
- Jesus is forever alive and still NOW is interceding for us at the right hand of God.
#3 Appeal to the Prophet (v. 7)
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” – this is one KEY verse of the Old Testament (Hosea 6:6) – “I” = God.
God wants love, not legalism.
Rituals and even keeping the Law can be valuable ONLY when carried out with an attitude of LOVE for God and men.
If our hearts are far from God, then ANY Law keeping is USELESS – no more than empty mockery.
What God desires more than sacrifice = mercy, compassion, answering the call of human needs – this is the greatest service. To worship rightly is to love each other. (1 John? “A new command I give you – to love one another just as I have loved you. By this all men will know that you are my disciples.”)
#4 Appeal to the Lord of the Sabbath (himself) v. 8
This sentence means “I” Jesus is the Creator of all creation, the true rest, the true blessing, the true object of all worship. He is the provider of all needs. Phil 4:19 “My God will meet all your needs according to the glorious riches …”
- If Jesus is the center, all is well.
- If something else is the focus of your worship, something is wrong.
Next, Jesus shows practically that he IS the Lord of the Sabbath.
This same Jesus is still with us here and now.
Jesus entered the synagogue, not the market.
To the Pharisees, synagogue is like the church room. We know what we are doing in this room. This is a room for worship, Bible study, prayer, religious education, holy fellowship – for themselves, with God.
In this synagogue, they had no love, no concern, no mercy on him. Their only concern was “the rules.” They used this man to find fault with Jesus.
Remember, we are like in a synagogue – we are here to learn, to pray, to love each other. If in this room, we are not kind, hate, ignore, despise, then we are no better than they are. Sometimes in this room, we need to look around and see the person next to you. If someone next to you looks lower than you, don’t ask, “Hmm, is THIS guy worthy to worship in here?” NO. Be kind, be merciful. He is created in the image of God – he is worthy.
Jesus questioned the Pharisees in response.
Mark (same story) – Jesus says, “Is is more lawful to do good or do evil? To save life or kill life?”
Doing good fulfills the intention of the sabbath. If we do not do good (as children of God), it is evil.
If they were truly children of God, they would have said, “Lord, have mercy on him! He needs your touch, your healing!”
Let me say more about this story next time.
Jesus wants mercy, not just ritual sacrifice.
May God bless all of us with his wonderful promise and covenant.
Genesis 43 is an interesting look in to the change that has taken place in Joseph’s brothers. Judah – the one who originally convinced the brothers to sell Joseph into slavery – tells his father that he will bear the blame for Benjamin’s possible harm for the rest of his life if the boy is harmed. Reuben (the oldest) had already offered his two sons to Jacob in the previous chapter as a guarantee for Benjamin’s safety.
Now when they go back, they take not only double the silver (since Joseph had returned their silver to them on the first journey), but also gifts for Joseph, to try to “butter him up” a bit and allow Simeon and Benjamin to return safely with them.
Begins the story of Sodom and Gomorrah when Abraham receives the Lord and two angelic visitors and pleads for the Lord to spare Sodom and Gomorrah from destruction (his nephew Lot lives in the city and he is obviously concerned for him). Abraham talks the Lord into sparing the city for the sake of just 10 righteous people (down from 50). The Lord agrees – likely because he already knows that there are far less than 10 righteous people in the city – but Abraham leaves it at that, and lets the matter rest – depending on the just judgment of the Lord after his own prayers for mercy.