Saturday, September 16, 2023

Study of Matthew Handout Chapter 15:1-9

by Stan Feldsine (

Matthew 15:1-3 - Traditions and Commands

Jesus continues His ministry, having fed the 5000, walked on water to the the disciples boat, Peter had walked out to Jesus on the water, after which Jesus entered the boat and they all found themselves in Gennesaret. The lesson was that the disciples would need to depend on and trust Jesus for every aspect of all of their needs.

As He continued, He was confronted by some Pharisees that had come up from Jerusalem. The opposition to Jesus as the Messianic King is increasing and the Pharisees are traveling to where Jesus is now to try and bring doubt regarding His authority.

In addition to recording the parabolic discourse by Jesus on physical versus spiritual defilement, Matthew reveals the contrast between the faith of the Pharisees and that of a Canaanite (Gentile) woman in this chapter. Jesus would again marvel at the unbelief of the Jewish people, and the belief of the Gentile Canaanite woman.

Significantly, the Pharisees accused the disciples of breaking the "tradition of the elders", not of breaking the Law of Moses. The "elders" were great rabbis of the past, and their oral teachings had come to be viewed as almost equal in authority to the Law of Moses. These Pharisees were quite aware that what they were accusing Jesus of was breaking their traditions, not the actual law.

The oral law (traditions of the elders) regarding the washing of hands is not a matter of hygiene, but spiritual defilement. The purpose of the "washing of hands" was religious purification. The synagogues provided supplies of water for this ritual. Omitting this ritual would lead to temporal destruction and poverty, and the departure of God's divine presence. Pharisees elevated the study of the oral law above that of the Law of Moses, and it was the Pharisaical method of maintaining control of the Jewish nation.

Jews who contradicted the Law were not considered rebels, but those who contradicted a rabbi were, hence Jesus' charge against them was because their traditions invalided God's law.

There were other traditions based on ritual washings, including that of cups, pitchers, kettles, etc. (Mar 7:3-4). Jesus counters that they are elevating their traditions over the law (Mar 7:9).

Matthew 15:4-9 - Honoring Mother and Father

What Jesus is bringing up in His counter argument is that the Pharisees were more interested in honoring their traditions than they were about being obedient to the Law of Moses (Mar 7:6-9).

The example that Jesus brings up to illustrate their error involves the 5th commandment (Exo 20:12, Eph 6:2-3). This is a part of the Law of Moses, not a tradition. It states that children, adult or otherwise, should "honor" our parents. "Honor" means to "place value upon", "revere", "show the value of someone or something". This law was serious enough that it provided for the death penalty for insolent children who cursed their parents.

Although the Law stated that we should honor our parents, the oral law provided ways to "opt out" of this care. It stated that giving money to the temple was more important than caring for ones parents. The term "corban" meant "a gift set apart to God". If a person had a parent in need, the child could escape from the responsibility to care for their parents by declaring the gift set apart to God (Mar 7:10-13).

In this way the traditions of the elders conflicted with the Law of Moses and the people had to choose which to follow. The Pharisees were rightly called hypocrites and rebuked.

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