Saturday, September 16, 2023

Study of Matthew Handout Chapter 15:10-20

by Stan Feldsine (

Matthew 15:10-11 - What Defiles a Person Parable

Jesus calls the entire crowd to hear a parable that explains that defilement is a heart issue, not a physical issue. In the following passage we see that the Pharisees were only concerned with outward ritual (Mar 7:1-4).

Jesus contradicts the traditional teachings of the Pharisees by stating that it is not what is done ritually that determines if one is "clean" or not, rather, it is the expression proceeding forth from the heart. One is physical cleanliness, the other is spiritual cleanliness. The Pharisees were concerned with physical cleanliness and ignored spiritual cleanliness (Mat 15:11, Mar 7:15).

Matthew 15:12-14 - The Offense to the Pharisees

The people held the Pharisees in high regard, even the disciples respected them, and wanted to know why Jesus was speaking in a way that offended them. The passage that "every plant ... that the Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots" hearkens back to the parable of the Wheat and Tares (Mat 13:24-30, Mat 13:36-42). The righteous are plants the Lord has planted (Isa 60:21), the unrighteous plants that will be destroyed (Isa 5:1-6). The Pharisees are the unrighteous plants.

Matthew 15:15-20 - What Defiles a Person Explained

Peter and the disciples referred to the statement Jesus made in Mat 15:10-11 as a parable. Parables were designed so that no one understood what He was talking about (Mat 15:10-11, Mar 7:14-15). Peter and the disciples asked Jesus to explain this short parable. Even the disciples did not understand what Jesus was saying (Mat 15:15, Mar 7:17).

The Pharisees taught defilement as external. I.E. they ate pork, touched a dead man, associated with Gentiles, they were defiled. Jesus was teaching them that defilement was not something caused externally, but originated internally, in the heart. The law was concerned not about external cleanliness, but regeneration (Deu 10:15-16, Deu 30:6, Jer 4:4). The washing of hands was a worthless ritual that did not deal with the heart.

Mark adds a detail that should not be overlooked (Mar 7:19), "(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)". A part of Jesus' mission was to eliminate the distinction between clean and unclean in the realm of food. Physically Jesus is saying that nothing outside of us can defile us: (Mar 7:15, Mar 7:20-23). Jesus is applying this to foods that previously had been considered unclean to eat. If nothing physically outside a person can defile them, and pork is something eaten physically, then pork cannot defile a person who eats it. Thus, Jesus made pork clean.

Other writers confirmed this the change in the nature of unclean meat. Luke writing in Acts states this: (Act 10:9-15). The context of what Luke is recording here is Peter's rejection of Gentiles. Jesus is teaching him, using the metaphor of unclean meats becoming clean to illustrate that Peter should not consider Gentiles to be unclean. In the metaphor, all meats are necessarily clean, or the metaphor would not be a valid illustration indicating that Gentile were now to be considered clean (Act 10:28).

Paul also shows that all meats are considered clean now:(Rom 14:6, 1Ti 4:1-5).

The "truth" that Paul is referring to in this letter to Timothy is that external things are not the source of defilement, our heart and mind is. Guard our hearts and minds, and our behavior will be protected as well.

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