with the Scribes and Pharisees (15:1-9)
Teachings to the
Multitudes on Defilement (15:10-11)
Reaction and Jesus’ Comment about Them (15:12-14)
Explanation on the Teachings to the Multitude (15:15-20)
tradition, commandment of God, hypocrites, worship, heart, mouth, defile.
confrontation with these religious leaders from Jerusalem
anticipates the opposition from the religious establishment that will culminate
2a. They substituted God’s commandments with rules made by men.
By using gifts to God as an excuse for not honoring parents, they seemed to be
devout but had actually done away with God’s command.
2b. Condoning or
endorsing homosexuality in the name of Christian love.
3. Despite the
good intentions behind them, these traditions placed more emphasis on the
outward observance than the meaning of God’s commandments. These rules of men
often misinterpreted and contradicted God’s word (e.g. forbidding to heal on the Sabbath). As a result, many people used them
as excuses to get away with not keeping God’s word.
4. The passage
does not condemn traditions in general. But the keeping of traditions becomes
dangerous when the traditions become unbreakable rules to abide by or when they
take the place of God’s commandments. Observing religious traditions, including
rules related to our conduct or worship, always poses a potential danger of
hypocrisy and may fool us into thinking that we are close to God when in fact
our hearts are far from Him. What is worst is when the traditions themselves
are wrong (e.g. 5-6); if we observe them, we become breakers of God law.
5a. These worshippers did not have the desire to obey God and
thought that God would be pleased with just superficial observance. Teaching
and obeying the commands of men could also be an opportunity to receive men’s
praise (6:1,2,5,16). All of these intentions show
disrespect for God.
5b. We may sometimes fool ourselves thinking that attending
church service regularly guarantees a close relationship with God when we do
not live to please God in our daily lives. Sometimes worldly values such as
materialism, self-centeredness, or pleasure, may become the standards by which
we think, behave or judge others by. They may surface among us even though we
seem to be worshipping God (e.g. Jas 2:1-4; 1Cor 11:17-21).
5c. Mouth and
lips vs. heart. What God looks for in us is sincerity of heart and a genuine
desire to obey God in our lives (Jn 4:24; Ps 51:16,17; Mic 6:6-8).
6. Jesus did not
hesitate to point out their wrong. They were offended because they took pride
in their position as teachers and in their traditions. Their offense all the
more betrays their guilt because their reaction shows that Jesus had touched
their sore spot (hypocrisy).
7. Whatever is
not from the will of the heavenly Father cannot stand (Acts 5:38). The enemies
of Christ, who were not of God but of the devil, were doomed for destruction,
even though their opposition was strong.
8. They were
spiritually blind in the sense that they could not see their spiritual poverty
and distance from God. Even so, they still played the role as religious
teachers, guiding people into the wrong path (23:15).
9. The Pharisees
placed emphasis on what goes into the mouth (ceremonial washing before meals),
which cannot defile men at all. In other words, ceremonial washing has no
effect on spiritual cleanliness.
of the heart, which leads to sinful acts (19).
10b. In keeping the traditions of the elders, the scribes and
Pharisees had overlooked the necessity of inner cleanliness. In fact, their
practice of religious traditions had become a facade that covered up their
pride, jealousy, and anger. They cannot see such defilement in themselves
because they have been blinded by the traditions.
11. We must
always keep a “pure heart, good conscience and a sincere faith” (1Tim 1:5; Mt
5:8). Instead of deceiving ourselves with some outward observance, we should
constantly be aware of our spiritual conditions and see if we are obeying God’s
commandments from the heart.