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22: True Cleanliness (Mt 15:1-20)
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22: True Cleanliness (Mt 15:1-20)

I.       The Basics

A.     Setting

We now move into the late Galilean period of Jesus’ ministry. In this lesson, we read of another confrontation with the scribes and Pharisees and the Lord’s subsequent teachings to the multitudes and the disciples on the issue at hand—cleanliness.

B.     Key Verse

            “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (15:11).

C.     Did You Know…?

Traditions of the elders/hand washing (15:2): The “tradition of the elders,” the “tradition of men” (Mark 7:8; Col 2:8), “your tradition” (Matt 15:3, 6; Mark 7:9, 13), and the “traditions of the fathers” (Gal 1:14) refer to the great corpus of oral teaching that commented on the law and interpreted it in detailed rules of conduct, often recording the diverse opinions of competing rabbis. This tradition in Jesus’ time was largely oral and orally transmitted; but the Pharisees, though not the Sadducees, viewed it as having authority very nearly equal to the canon. It was later codified under Rabbi Judah the Prince (c. A.D. 135-200) to form the Mishnah…One entire tractate, Yadaim, deals with “hands”, (i.e., y-ad-ayim), specifying such details as how much water must be used for effective ceremonial purification: e.g. “if a man poured water over the one hand with a single rinsing, his hand is clean; but if over both hands with a single rinsing, R. Meir declares them unclean unless he pours over them a quarter-log or more” (M Yadaim 2:1). 6/348

II.    Observation

A.     Outline





B.     Key Words/Phrases

III. Segment Analysis

A.     15:1-9

1. Where were the scribes and Pharisees from? What does this tell you about what lay ahead of Jesus?

2a. How did the scribes and Pharisees transgress and nullify God’s commandments? How did the example in 5–6 reflect their hypocrisy?

2b. Think of a modern example of transgressing or nullifying God’s commandments for the sake of religious tradition.

3. If the traditions of the elders were meant to help people keep the commandments, then why did they become reasons to break God’s commandments?

4. Are all traditions bad? Under what circumstances do traditions become “commandments of men” and a hindrance in our relationship with God?

5a. What kind of heart does Isaiah’s prophecy in 8-9 reveal? Why would people teach the commandments of men?

5b. In what ways could such hypocrisy creep into our worship of God today?

5c. What is the contrast in verse 8? What is the worship that God desires?

B.     15:12-14

6. Why were the scribes and Pharisees offended? What does this show?

7. Explain the analogy of verse 13.

8. How were the scribes and Pharisees “blind leaders”?

C.     15:10-11, 15-20

9. How was Jesus’ teaching in 11 a response to the challenge of the scribes and Pharisees?

10a. What kind of defilement was Jesus speaking about?

10b. What does this defilement have to do with traditions?

11. In view of these teachings, what must we do to be clean?

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