Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral virtue, and in your moral virtue,
knowledge ;

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Matthew Chapter 15

At the end of the previous chapter Jesus is being thronged by people who either needed a healing or had a loved one that needed to be healed. I can imagine what an amazing moment in history this must have been. Hope of healing for people desperately ill and people suffering from afflictions that had plagued them their whole lives . Verse 14:36 says "and they began to entreat Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak and as many as touched it were cured" I pray that all of you can see the humanness of this moment. I cry out to the Lord daily for the healing of my little daughter. 

And in such a moment, we start Chapter 15. One thing I want to point out here before we really get started in this chapter is the tone and the way Jesus now speaks to the Pharisees and rulers of the day. If you look back in the preceding chapters, you will notice that His replies  to them have changed. They have become gradually  harsher and less patient since chapter 12. (reread  chapter 12 and you will see what I mean).
 In the first verse of Chapter 15 , we see Pharisees and Scribes coming from Jerusalem to confront Jesus. They ask Him why His disciples are breaking the traditions of the elders by not washing their hands before they eat. Jesus does not answer their question directly. Instead He asks them a question back, and in that question He is able to set aside their complaint against Him and ask them why they transgress the law of God for the sake of "their" traditions. By saying to them "your traditions" He is saying that the  transgression that they are complaining about is not against the "elders" (Moses, ect.) But that the tradition they speak of is from the Talmud, a set of rules and laws that expounded on God's word. The Talmud is the labyrinth of, directions, solutions and opinions that the contemporaries of Ezra wrote  to try to keep the nation from falling away from God again after the great exile.  The  rules and regulations set up in the Talmud became more important than what the word of God actually said. That is why in verse 15:9 Jesus quotes Isaiah and says that "in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines of God the teaching of men". To the Jews of the day, the law, lived out by adhering to the Talmud,  was an impossible burden to live under. In Luke 11:46 He said," Woe to you,teachers of the law as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers"
Jesus knew this burden. There is no doubt that He had been raised to carefully keep the law

I know that this is getting long, but there are some very important things in this chapter that are easy to miss if we do not  carefully look into what Jesus is trying to say here. In verse 15:4 He goes on to point out the hypocrisy of what pharisees and scribes taught the people. In this passage He points out how they have set aside the law of God for their traditions. He quotes the 5th commandment," Honor thy father and thy mother " and Lev. 20:9. The word "honor" here is not just"to respect"which is the way we use the word in our language, it also means to support, in every way. Including, providing for there basic needs, food, housing ect. The same word is used in 1st Tim. 5:3 when speaking of the widows. In verse 14:5, He contrasts the word of God with what they were teaching on this subject. Their law said that anything they devoted to God was considered "Corban" . According to Unger's bible Dictionary, the pharisees taught that as soon as a person said to his father or mother, "It is Corban" whatever is mine that would profit you, is now devoted to God."  He was absolved of helping his parents in anyway. As a matter of fact, according to the law, he was forbidden to now give anything to his parents. That is why in verse 6, Jesus says "He is not to honor them", or they were "forbidden" according to the way the law was taught, to help them. Which Jesus points out, is a direct contradiction to what the law of God teaches. 

In verse 15:7-9 he openly calls them hypocrites and goes on to use the word of God to tell them that they honored God with their lips but that God knew that their hearts were far from Him. They worship  in vain because they teach the people religious precepts thought up by men.

Then (15:10) He calls the crowd to Himself, they had obviously been standing back to give some privacy to the His discussion with these important people from Jerusalem. He says "hear and understand" Then He says that it's not what a man eats that defiles him but what he says because what he says reveals what his true feelings and desires are.

The next three verses are incredible. In verse 15:12 the disciples ask Jesus if He knew that He had offended the pharisees.  Jesus answers by to comparing the Pharisees to a plant that the Lord did not plant, (read Jer. 2:21) and the blind leading the blind. 
In verse 15:15, Peter asks Jesus to explain the parable about the heart of man. It is verses like this, that encourage me in my short comings. As I have said before, the disciples were people with faults and frailties, just like us. I wish I could hear the tone of Jesus's voice in verse 15:16. I like to think that His answer was kinder than the text leads us to believe. 
Jesus goes on in verses 15:16-20 to explain about our human hearts. All of our sins come from our heart. Meaning, our deepest being. It is where we store our feelings and our loves, good or evil. Our truest motives for whatever we do or say, are there. Sometimes I think we don't even realize what our true motives are, but God does. When we pray, I believe, He is weighing our true motives with every prayer.  In Luke 6:45 it says" out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" That is why King David said "Search me, O God, and know my heart" (psalm 139:23-24) (read the rest). 

Next, in verses 15:21-28, we read of the precious Canaanite woman who crossed the border from her land into the land of the Jews and began to cry out to Jesus. "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David, my daughter is cruelly demon possessed." What impresses me here, is that her daughters pain was her pain, her child suffers, so she suffers. She knew she needed divine intervention. Only the Lord, the coming Messiah, the Son of David would be able to heal her daughter . She knew the power and importance of the person the Jews were waiting for and now, here He was. He was her only hope.  We get the impression that she followed them for a little while and did not give up, even though it says that Jesus did not even acknowledge her. The disciples asked Him to send her away. 
Verse 15:24 does not deter her.
She came and began to bow down before Him and plead with Him for help. Here he makes the famous statement about the "children's bread being fed to the little dogs" She knew that the Jews referred to the non Jews as dogs. She knew that this was an insult. She didn't care. She was a desperate mom and she knew who Jesus was. She goes on to say the next famous statement that we all know "yes Lord, but even the little dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters table". I think we miss a lot if we do not pay close attention to the words in this passage. Jesus uses the word for a small dog or a puppy and she uses the same word and adds the word "their" masters table. Not "the" masters table. No wonder Jesus says that her faith was great. I think she was saying, Yes Lord, all You are saying is true but, You are the master of all and all my "little one" needs, is a crumb.
In that small statement she makes it clear that she knows His power, she knows He can heal her daughter with the slightest thought , "a crumb".
 In verse 15:28 Jesus tells her that her faith is very great. "be it done as you wish". And her daughter was healed from that hour.  Notice, no where in the passage does it say that her daughter was present. She knew that Jesus would not even have to touch her daughter to heal her. Her faith was great, even before she met Jesus. 
We finish in verses 15:32-39,  with Jesus feeding another 4,000 people. I think that verse 15:33 is interesting because the disciples act like they had never seen Jesus feed a large number of people before. 

So, we are finished with chapter 15. I had to pray for a long time to come up with a way to remember this chapter. Many of the memory tools for the other chapters were easy to associate with the content of the chapter but this one was very difficult.  


 Remember to keep reading! Re-read the chapters over and over again until you feel familiar with them. Pray for remembrance . I hope by now you feel that you have a pretty good minds view of the book of Matthew. Keep practicing your tools for remembering. I know that this one is harder than most but God will bless your efforts to remember what you have read. Go on to chapter 16 if you haven't already!!! 
I am praying for everyone of you! 
God Bless

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