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Matthew 15:1-20

Keeping the Main Thing

  • Rich Jones
  • Weekend Messages
  • February 20, 2011

The Pharisees had their accusation ready. They had discovered that the disciples had not washed their hands according to the tradition of the elders before they ate bread. By the hand of Jesus, many powerful miracles had occurred, but all the Pharisees have to say is that the disciples are not washing their hands according to the tradition of the elders, and they demanded an answer. Well, they were going to get an answer alright, it just wasn’t the answer they were expecting.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Keeping the Main Thing

Matthew 15:1-20 

After the feeding of the 5,000, actually, with women and children it was more like 10 to 12,000, Jesus’ fame was spread throughout all Israel, as you can imagine.

Matthew 15 begins with some Pharisees and scribes coming from Jerusalem to check out exactly what was happening with this man named Jesus up in the area of the Sea of Galilee. You can be sure they didn't come to celebrate his popularity, they were concerned about his growing fame because people began speaking of him as a great prophet and there was even talk of finding a way to make him their king.

No doubt, their hope was to find a way to knock him down several notches and perhaps even find a way to accuse him so the people would not think so highly of him. You can imagine them following him and the disciples, watching their every move, ready to pronounce their judgment and condemnation over him.

Finally, they had their accusation ready. They had discovered that the disciples had not washed their hands according to the tradition of the elders before they ate bread. It was probably a good thing those Jewish leaders weren't around when Jesus fed the crowd of 12,000 people.

That would've been an interesting scene. Jesus had fed that great multitude with only five loaves and two fish, yet if the Pharisees had been there, they would have condemned the whole crowd, Jesus, and of course the disciples, since none of them was able to wash their hands according to the tradition of the elders.

When you step back and think about it, it really is something amazing. By the hand of Jesus the blind could see, the lame could walk, lepers were cleansed from their leprosy, a legion of demons was cast out by a single word, a crowd of 10 to 12,000 was fed with five loaves and two fish and what is it the Pharisees have to say? The disciples are not washing their hands according to the tradition of the elders and they demanded an answer. Well, they were going to get an answer alright, it just wasn’t the answer they were expecting.

I. The Word of God is Sent with Purpose

  • This whole section is really an answer to the question, "How then shall we live?"
  • What will guide how you live? Many people are guided by their own set of rules and principles they came up with all on their own. They are guided by whatever they think is right, which may change according to the situation and usually is bent in their own favor.
  • The Jewish leaders at that time were guided by what is referred to here as the "tradition of the elders," which they actually held in higher regard than the Word of God itself.
  • The history of this goes back to when Moses received the Law of God at Mount Sinai. Their tradition stated that Moses also passed on oral traditions not written down.
  • These oral traditions of the elders were later written into what is now called the Mishnah and Midrash.
  • A commentary on the Mishnah was later written which was called the Gemara and that was put together in what is called the Talmud. 
  • The Talmud was made up of 22 volumes of 563 books, 65 pages addressed the issue of washing hands. 
  • The problem was that they believed that the authority of the oral tradition was greater than the Word of God itself. In fact, Rabbi Eliezer, who lived in Jesus's time, said, "If anyone expounds the scripture in opposition to the tradition, they would have no place in the world to come.” In other words, they would forfeit heaven. 

A. God’s Word is higher than any other

  • Jesus put his finger exactly on the problem when He said to them, "And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?"
  • The problem is that there's nothing even close to that in the Word of God. They were heaping and adding great burdens on to people, but this wasn't what God wanted at all.

Proverbs 30:5-6, every word of God is tested … Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.

Matthew 11:28, "Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."

  • God gives His Word to us and sends it with His purpose which is higher than any of ours.

Isaiah 55:8-11 The Word accomplishes the purpose for which it was sent.

  • Though the Old Testament was written about ancient Israel, it was given to us with great purpose as well.

1 Corinthians 10:6, 11, Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved… Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction.

  • Back to Matthew 15, Jesus said to the Pharisees in verse six, "Thus you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition."

B. An example; Honor your father and mother

  • Jesus then brought to them a perfect example. Honor your father and your mother is one of the Ten Commandments. In fact, it's the first commandment with a promise.

Ephesians 6:2, Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.

  • And of course that promise makes a lot of sense.

Illus – To quote the famous American philosopher, Bill Cosby, “I brought you into this world and I'll take you out.”

  • Of course, parents want to lay up an inheritance for their children; that's in the bible, but also, children will care for their parents when they are older. This is part of honoring them.

Illus - When we adopted our two boys in Russia, the judge asked them if they would do that. They said yes!

 
Illus – When my mother was alive, I used to have lunch with her every week and later became her advocate. That’s a privilege, not an obligation.
  • But the "tradition of the elders" was such that they could withhold from helping their parents by declaring their estate as Corban - dedicated to God. This, Jesus said, was just plain wrong.

II. Give God Your Heart, that’s true Revival

  • The whole issue of Corban was just a loophole. They had mastered the art of the loophole.
  • For example, by tradition, a man cannot spit on the ground on the Sabbath, but he could spit on a rock. Do we have rules about spitting today?
  • Sure, let's say you're golfing and you're on the green and you don't like your putt…
  • Jesus said the whole problem was their heart. They were hypocrites, actors, people who wear a mask. This is a great lesson for us as well.

A. We are becoming what we love

  • Jesus then said that God had told them in advance in the book of Isaiah that what God wants is their heart, not their tradition.

Isaiah 29:13, Then the Lord said, "Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote…"

  • Why is God so concerned about the heart? Answer; because He knows that's the only way to transform a life.
  • Someone came to Jesus and asked which was the greatest of all commandments and Jesus responded…

Matthew 22:36-38, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment.”

  • Love is transforming and is prophetic of our future, because we are becoming what we love.

Illus – A.W. Tozer wrote a masterful statement about the transforming power of love, he wrote, “We are all in the process of becoming. We have already moved from what we were to what we are, and we are now moving toward what we will be. Not only are we in the process of becoming, we are becoming what we love. We are to a large degree, the sum of our loves; and we will of moral necessity grow into the image of what we love most; for love is among other things, a creative affinity. It changes and molds and shapes and transforms.

What we love is therefore not a small matter; it is of critical and everlasting importance. It is prophetic of our future. It tells us what we shall be, and so predicts our eternal destiny. Loving wrong things is fatal to spiritual growth; it twists and deforms the life and makes impossible the appearing of the image of Christ in the soul. Love is within our power of choice, true spiritual love begins in the will. We should set our hearts to love God supremely and joy is sure to follow.

B. We live by that which fills the heart

  • Jesus then called the multitude and said, "It is not what enters into the mouth which defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man."
  • In other words, it's not what you eat or how you eat it, it's what comes out of your mouth, in other words, it's how you live your life, and that comes out of the heart.

Luke 6:45, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills the heart."

  • We need to pour the Word of God into our heart and then take captive every thought that rises up against that knowledge of Christ.

Psalm 119:11, Your Word have I treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.

2 Corinthians 10:5, We are destroying… every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Illus – Let’s say that we want to honor God by giving grace to those around us.

Ephesians 4:29, Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

  • But the only way to truly fulfill that scripture is by being gracious in the heart, to think gracious thoughts, and then you become a gracious person.

C. Sometimes we need to be offended

  • Verse 12 is classic; the disciples came and said to Jesus, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard that statement?"
  • Don't you want to respond, "No kidding." But they needed to be offended.
  • Sometimes the only way we change is when God gets our attention, shakes up our world, and throws a bit of cold water in our face.
  • Jesus then said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be rooted up."
  • Notice that phrase, "Rooted up.”

Illus - if you just take the tops off of weeds, they'll soon come back again. Jesus wants to get to the root of that which needs to change in our lives.

  • That means that he needs to change our heart for we are transformed from the inside out.
  • Some say, "I'll come to the Lord as soon as I get my act together."
  • But the reason that person’s act is not together already is because that only changes when his heart changes and that's what God does by His Spirit.

Ezekiel 36:26, "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

Illus - I remember hearing the story of an eight-year-old boy who had a congenital heart problem and needed a transplant. It so happened that in the same hospital was a teenager who had suffered a tragic car accident…

Matthew 15:1-20     NASB

1 Then some 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 bread." 3 And He answered and said to them, "Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, 'Honor your father and mother,' and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.' 5 But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God," 6 he is not to honor his father or his mother.' And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
 
8 'This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
9 'But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'"
 
10 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, "Hear and understand. 11 It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man."
 
12 Then the disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?" 13 But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit."
 
15 Peter said to Him, "Explain the parable to us." 16 Jesus said, "Are you still lacking in understanding also? 17 Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? 18 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man."

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