True Relationship (Matthew 15:1-20)
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True Relationship (Matthew 15:1-20)

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Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.” Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’” Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?” Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.” Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.” “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”

The Kingdom of Heaven is a spiritual reality that changes HOW I SEE EVERYTHING.

Overall Commentary: 🌎

Jesus has an epic battle with the sharpest minds in Judaism. He doesn't back down in fighting to keep our eyes open to what a true relationship with God looks like.

Jesus shows us that His Word reveals what TRUE RELATIONSHIP LOOKS LIKE.


Verse 1-9

  • Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem- These were likely sent to discredit Jesus. They were on a mission.
  • Traditional handwashing- After the Jewish people started returning from Exile during the time of Nehemiah and Ezra, they started writing down extra oral traditions intended to keep them righteous before God. Some called them "fences." These were intended to keep them far from sin. Unfortunately, they started taking them more seriously than the Law itself. The result was a burden too heavy to bear. In this ceremonial cleaning, you had to wash your hands multiple times. This was all about the ceremony and not about cleanliness. Actually, they would sometimes use pots made with hardened cow manure. It was all about the look and not about the clean.
  • Corban- (Not honoring their parents) A loophole was formed to get greedy people out of helping their families. They could dedicate land or sums of money to God upon their death. The loophole was they could use it until they died. They could not give it away because it was now given to the Lord. This gave them a "holy excuse" not to be generous and miss the law's intent.
  • Jesus was NOT passive- Jesus was endlessly gentle, but He was not always nice. He did not let the Pharisees get away with this and called them pretenders... or hypocrites.

Verse 10-14

  • Did Jesus do away with Jewish Dietary Laws?- While Jesus uses a metaphor here, the answer is also yes. This would be something His Jewish disciples would struggle with even in the book of Acts. Jesus is telling them the goal of the Jewish Dietary Laws in the Old Testament was always about keeping them separate from other nations. It was about keeping their heart pure, not about the food.
  • Why should Jesus care about offending the Pharisees?- The disciples were still likely confused about Jesus' ultimate mission. They still saw Him as a conquering political leader. This is how most Jewish people saw the coming Messiah. Making an enemy of the Pharisees would make His ascent to power even more difficult.
  • Leave them alone- Jesus was content to keep separate and let them be the source of their own ruin.

Verse 15-20

  • Jesus reveals what is truly going on- Jesus reveals that it has always been about the heart. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, so His work starts on the inside and works its way outside.

Top Takeaway- A true relationship is an inside job.

This section is one of Matthew's most controversial passages and would have been one of the most volatile of Jesus' ministry. These Jewish people had heard from a young age all about the dietary laws, extra commentaries, and how to keep far away from even thinking about sin. It was something that was started as a guide but became a burden. Jesus is taking this burden off, but they don't realize what it will lead to. Sometimes, we can follow people who will teach us things that put additional burdens on us. Some people call this legalism. This has caused many people to walk away from the Lord. They mistake true holiness for other people's legalistic ways. Jesus is interested in relationships. He wants our hearts pure and our lives holy, but He does this by setting us free. We walk in freedom because we are loved, not so we will be loved.

Further Resources for Deeper Study