Pharisees and Scribes Confront
Jesus Rebukes the Pharisees and
Further Explanations on
Defiled, unwashed, clean,
traditions, hypocrites, lips, hearts, worship, rules, clean, goes into, comes
1a. To question Him (11:27-28); to find fault
so they could accuse Him (3:2); to plot to kill Him (3:6).
1b. In 3:22, the scribes came to accuse Jesus of being demon-possessed.
This time, the Pharisees came with the teachers.
2a. “Why?” The Pharisees and the scribes asked Jesus why He broke God’s
law. They assumed Jesus’ guilt. It is like asking an innocent man, “Why did you
2b. The Pharisees and scribes were very particular about their outward
cleanliness. However, true cleanliness does not come from a godly appearance
but from a God-fearing heart. This is why Jesus later rebuked them for letting
go of the commands of God and holding on to the traditions of men.
3. The disciples were not thinking
about the meaning of true cleanliness when they ate without having washed their
hands; they asked Jesus to explain the teaching to them later (17). Perhaps
they never had a habit of strictly observing the “tradition of the elders” (cf.
2:23). They were not educated like the Pharisees, who prided themselves in
observing every law to the letter (cf. Mt 23:5-7; Lk
4a. They added their own rules to God’s
commands and turned God’s commands into a burden to the people.
5a. Jesus does not condemn traditions in general, but traditions that
take precedence over God’s commandments. Religious traditions are beneficial if
they help us worship God and do good deeds. However, when traditions become
habits without meaning, we are in danger of becoming hypocrites. Worse, the
Pharisees twisted religious rules for their personal advantage, and oppressed
the less fortunate. Jesus rebuked them for the evil that came out of their
hearts. (cf. Matthew Bible Study Guide, Lesson 22, Question
5b. Sometimes we have strong opinions on issues
that have nothing to do with our salvation. If we insist on our views, we are
setting aside the commands of God to love one another. Many controversies arise
in the church because of this. Members argue over the format of worship or
having certain decorations in the chapel. In the apostolic church, there was an
argument over food. In response, Paul wrote that even though the truth is that
all food is clean, he would not eat meat or drink wine if it would cause a
brother to fall (Rom 14:20-21; 1Cor 8:13).
5c. Observing the Sabbath on Sunday; celebrating Easter, Christmas,
Chinese New Year
6. Jesus compared the damage from
food to the damage from the evil in our hearts. While speaking these parables,
Jesus repeatedly said, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”
(4:9; 4:23; 7:16). He urges us to pay attention to the spiritual teachings.
Like before, Jesus explained this parable to his disciples.
The parable of cleanliness is
abstract, not in the form of a story like the earlier parables. While not
everyone had understood Jesus’ earlier parables (4:12), this time Jesus called
the crowd and told them to “understand” (7:14).
7. Jesus said, “Are you thus
without understanding also?” [emphasis added],
implying that the disciples were no better than the Pharisees. They were bound
by their (different set of) traditions just as much as the Pharisees were by
8c. Although the evil things in our hearts
outnumber the fruit of the Spirit, God’s power is more than sufficient to
overcome them. (cf. Lesson 8, Questions 10a-b).
9. Acts 15:29 lists three foods
that we should abstain from. They are forbidden because of their spiritual
Food sacrificed to idols—If we eat it, we are participants with demons (1Cor
commandment was given long before the Mosaic law was given (Gen 9:4); we must
still obey it. It carries spiritual teachings on the relationship between blood
and life. Life is in the blood. Therefore, God has reserved blood for the
purpose of atonement (Lev 17:11). The blood that was shed for atonement was a foreshadow of the precious blood of Jesus, which was
poured out for the remission of our sins.
Meat of strangled animals—Blood of strangled animals has not been let out of
Furthermore, Paul teaches us that
although all things are permissible, not all things are beneficial. We must act
from our conscience and spiritual knowledge. Even in small matters such as food
and drink, we must not cause anyone to stumble (1Cor 10:23-33).