THE HEART OF THE PROBLEM
Gracious God, I turn to you today for the light and truth I need to follow you.
Read Matthew 15:1–20
That Which Defiles
15 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’[a] and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[b] 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’[c]”
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides.[d] If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectHow do your words and conversation reflect what is going on in your heart? Trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in you. Allow yourself to have a teachable spirit.
The highest ranking religious elite from Jerusalem directly oppose Jesus’ disciples’ lifestyle – for which, as their rabbi, he would have been responsible (vs 1,2). The Pharisees were following their own interpretation of the Law, which focused on specific rules of conduct to the detriment of compassion and integrity: they were keen on ritual hand-washing, but neglected vulnerable parents (v 5). Jesus’ response to their faulty reasoning is a challenging question (v 3), combined with his understanding of the Law (see Exodus 21:17). He tackles their faulty, hypocritical teaching head on, exposing those who are trapped in a rigid adherence to tradition and surface-level purity (see also Colossians 2:8).
In contrast, Jesus’ words dig deeper and reveal the dark reality of the human heart (v 19; Matthew 12:33–35). At the center of jostling crowds as many touch his coat (14:34–36), he is not made unclean. Instead, he heals. Working in tandem with his teaching, his actions point people to God: kingdom righteousness works from the inside out, on contact with Jesus. With his radical and compassionate ministry, Jesus restores people to wholeness (14:36). Where do you need this today?
Have you ever gotten caught up in some religious details that took you away from the big picture of God’s redeeming, saving grace? Confess any hypocrisy in your life, and receive the freedom of God’s lavish love and forgiveness.
Dear Lord, may my outward profession always be a true reflection of my heart. Today I put on the belt of truth.
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