Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 1st, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Matthew 15

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-9

In vain do they worship me - That is, their attempts to worship are “vain,” or are not real worship - they are mere “forms.”

Teaching for doctrines ... - The word “doctrines,” here, means the requirements of religion - things to be believed and practiced in religion.

God only has a right to declare what shall be done in his service; but they held their traditions to be superior to the written word of God, and taught them as doctrines binding the conscience. See the notes at Isaiah 29:13.

Verses 10-14

Let them alone - That is, do not be troubled at their rage.

Be not anxious about it. This result is to be expected. They are greatly attached to their traditions, and you are not to wonder that they are indignant. They lead, also, the blind. They have a vast influence over the multitude, and it is to be expected that they will be enraged at any doctrines that go to lessen their authority or influence. By commanding them “to let them alone,” Christ does not mean that they were to be suffered to remain in error without any attempt to refute or correct them, for this he was doing then; but he meant to charge his disciples not to mind them or to regard their opposition - it was to be expected.

If the blind lead the blind ... - This was a plain proposition. A blind man, attempting to conduct blind men, would fall into every ditch that was in the way. So with religious teachers. If these Pharisees, themselves ignorant and blind, should be suffered to lead the ignorant multitude, both would be destroyed. This was another reason for confuting their errors, or for rooting up the plants which God had not planted. He wished, by doing it, to save the deluded multitude.

God often suffers one man to lead many to ruin. A rich and profligate man, an infidel, a man of learning, a politician, or a teacher, is allowed to sweep multitudes to ruin. This is not unjust, for those who are led are not compelled to follow such people. They are free in choosing such leaders, and they are answerable for being led to ruin.

Verses 15-20

These are the things which defile a man - These are the true sources of pollution in man.

These are what corrupt and degrade. It is not the neglect of washing the body which defiles; it is the deep, inward corruption of the heart. And what a fountain of pollution is the human soul! What an array of crimes to proceed from the heart of man! What a proof of guilt! What strictness is there in the law of God! How universal is depravity!

Verses 21-28

Great is thy faith - That is, thy trust, confidence.

The word here seems to include, also, the humility and perseverance manifested in pressing her suit. The daughter was healed then. Going home, she found her well and composed, Mark 7:30.

Verses 29-31

Sea of Galilee - That is, the Lake of Gennesaret. For an account of the principal diseases mentioned here, see the notes at Matthew 4:24.

Maimed - Those to whom a hand or foot was wanting. See Matthew 18:8. To cure them - that is, to restore a hand or foot - was a direct act of creative power. It is no wonder, therefore, that the people wondered.

And they glorified the God of Israel - To glorify here means to praise; to acknowledge his power and goodness. The God of Israel was the God that the Israelites or Jews worshipped.

Verses 32-39

We learn from this chapter:

  1. That people are often far more attached to traditions and the commandments of human beings than to the Law of God, Matthew 15:1-6.
  2. That people are strongly disposed to explain away the law of God, if possible. It is too strict for them, and too spiritual. They dare not often attack it directly, but they will explain it and dilute it so as to make it mean nothing. Wicked people do not love God’s law, Matthew 15:4-6.
  3. People are prone to introduce foolish rites into religion. They do not love what God has commanded, and they attempt to compensate for not loving his doctrines by being great sticklers for their own, Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:3-4.
  4. All addition to the law of God is evil, Matthew 15:3. All ceremonies in religion which are not authorized by the New Testament are wrong. Man has no right to ordain rites to bind the conscience where God has commanded none, Colossians 2:23. People come the nearest to that which is right when they live nearest to just what God has commanded in the Bible.
  5. Hypocrites should be unmasked and detected, Matthew 15:7. He does a great service to people who detects their hypocrisy. That close and faithful preaching which lays open the heart, and shows people what they are, is that which comes nearest to the example of Christ. It may pain them, but the wounds of a friend are faithful Proverbs 27:6; and we should honor and love the man that, by the grace of God, can show us our own hearts. We always honor most the physician of the body that is most skilled in detecting and curing disease, and so should we the physician of the soul.
  6. We should be exceedingly cautious in avoiding formality in worship, Matthew 15:8-9. It is hypocrisy. God requires the heart. To render to him only the service of the lips is to mock him. Nothing can be acceptable but true piety, genuine love, and hearty obedience; nothing more hateful than an appearance of worshipping God, while the heart is in sin and the world.
  7. The duty of honoring parents, Matthew 15:4-6. Nothing can explain away this duty. It is binding on all. Parents should be obeyed, loved, respected. God requires it and we cannot be free from the duty. Under age, a child is bound always to obey a parent where the parent does not command anything contrary to the Bible; but when the parent commands anything contrary to the Bible, the child is not bound to obey, Acts 5:29. After the child is of age, he is to respect, love, and honor the parent; and, if poor and needy, to provide for his wants until he dies. It is certainly proper that we should do all that we can to comfort those in old age who did so much for us in childhood. A child can never repay a parent for his kindness to him.
  8. We are not at liberty to give to anything else not even to religious uses - what is necessary to render our parents comfortable, Matthew 15:4-6. They have the first claim on us. And though it is our duty to do much in the cause of benevolence, yet our first duty should be to see that our parents do not suffer.
  9. People easily take offence when they are faithfully reproved, and especially when their hypocrisy is exposed; and especially if this exposure is about some small matter on which they have greatly set their hearts some ceremony in worship or some foolish rite, Matthew 15:12.
  10. Every false doctrine is to be opposed and should be rooted up, Matthew 15:13. It is to be opposed by arguments and candid investigation, and not by abuse and misrepresentation. Christ never misrepresented any man’s doctrine. He always stated it just as it was - just as they held it; and then, by argument and the word of God, he showed it was wrong. This is the proper way to manage all controversies.
  11. It is of great importance to search the heart, Matthew 15:19-20. It is a fountain of evil. It is the source of all crime. External conduct is comparatively of little importance. In the sight of God, the heart is of more importance; and if that were pure, all would be well.
  12. The doctrine of man’s depravity is true, Matthew 15:19. If the heart produces those things which are specified by the Saviour it cannot be pure. And yet who is there from whose heart, at some time, these things have not proceeded? Alas, the world is full of instances that prove that the human heart may produce all these things.
  13. In our distress, and the distress of our children and friends, we should go to Jesus. We should, indeed, use all proper means to restore our friends when they are sick; but we should feel that God only can grant returning health and life, Matthew 15:22.
  14. We should not be discouraged that our prayers are not immediately answered. God knows the proper time to answer them, and it may be of great importance to us that the answer should be deferred, Matthew 15:23.
  15. We should still persevere, Matthew 15:24-27. We should not be discouraged. We should not be disheartened even by the appearance of neglect or unkind treatment.
  16. Our prayers will be answered if we persevere, Matthew 15:28. They that seek shall find. In due time - in the best and most proper time - a gracious God will lend an ear to our request, and grant the thing we need.
  17. We should come with humility and faith, Matthew 15:27. We can never think too little of ourselves, or too much of the mercy and faithfulness of Christ. Prayers of humility and faith only are answered.
  18. Christ will take care of his poor and needy followers. We may be assured that he has power to give us all we need, and that in times of necessity he will supply our wants, Matthew 15:32-38.
  19. The great number of poor in the world is no reason why he should not supply them, Matthew 15:38. He daily supplies the wants of nine hundred millions of human beings, besides countless numbers of the beasts of the field, of the fowls of heaven, and the fishes of the sea. It is a small thing to supply the needs of the few poor people on the earth, and He who feeds the world will take care of us in the time of need.
  20. We should be grateful to God for our daily food. We should render to him proper thanksgiving, Matthew 15:36.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 15". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/matthew-15.html. 1870.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile