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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 15

Bell's Commentary on the BibleBell's Commentary

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Verses 1-20

  1. Intro:
    1. What do these phrases have in common? Moderation in all things (Aristotle, Doctrine of the Mean). To thine ownself be true (Hamlet). God helps those who help themselves (Aesop's Fable, Hercules & the Wagoneer). The lion shall lay down with the lamb (Is.65:25). Cleanliness is next toGodliness (John Wesley, quoted in 1 of his sermons, already in existence) People often think they are found in Scripture
      1. They are not. And actually I think we have here in our text today a case that shows the opposite to be true for this last phrase. So, I chose for my Title: Cleanliness is next to Godlessness.
    2. Once when I was in Sophia, Bulgaria I found a wonderful deal on an antique pocket watch. It looked old/rustic/cool…buuut, it only ran for a few days…if that!
      1. ​​​​​​​No matter how often I wound it or how many times I changed the hands…it just didn’t help. [it did have correct time twice a day!]
      2. The most important thing about a watch is to tell time. So, what I learned that day, when it comes to watches...Slide15 what’s most important is...what’s inside!
        1. This morning, Jesus challenges the religious leaders with what’s most important. Inside or outside? Mouth or heart? Washing hands or washing hearts?
    1. Outline: The Delegation; The Degradation; The Defilement.
  2. THE DELEGATION (1,2) Pharisees & Scribes from Jerusalem
    1. ​​​​​​​A delegation of religious leaders from Jerusalem travel about 100 mi to check Jesus out.
      1. Jesus ministry is front page news and has reached all the way down to Jer.
      2. These men didn’t come to see if Jesus was the Messiah…but instead to find a fly in the ointment…& to this end...they were masters.
        1. They could be straining their water & find the smallest gnat, but somehow miss the camel.
        2. They were majoring on minors...straining out a gnat, while minoring on majors...swallowing a camel. And being so busy with small details, they never dealt with the important matters. (Lev.11:4,23 both were forbidden as food)
    2. This was not a matter of personal hygiene but of religious ritual.
      1. They ate w/their hands so of course they’d wash up before a meal, but this was dealing with their prescribed ceremonial washing!
    3. (3) They wash their hands in a special way (Mrk7:3) – literally means w/the fist. (Exact meaning unknown) Some think up to the elbow (Like a doctor, nurse, surgeon scrubs in/up)
      1. We should ask ourselves in what ways do we love tradition more than God?
        1. Maybe when we allow politics replace our dependence on God.
        2. Maybe when we place our dependence on our favorite political party leader thinking they will become the way of accomplishing the kingdom here on earth.
        3. Maybe when we believe living good moral lives can become the way to God.
        4. Maybe when we believe worshiping God is about what we do or don’t consume, rather than having love for God in our Hearts.
        5. Maybe when we believe that how much we have accumulated equals how much God loves us. [be careful of humanmade laws]
    4. Traditions of the elders – The Mishna at the end of the 2nd century said,​​​​​​​ Tradition is the fence around the Law.
      1. ​​​​​​​I think the Law needed protecting about as much as a lion in a field needs protection around him.
    5. During the late 2nd century AD, these oral teachings (traditions) were written down in what was called the Mishnah (a book w/6 divisions: agriculture, festivals, marriage, civil life, crime, & ceremonies)
      1. To this was added a commentary called the Gemara.
      2. Together the Mishnah & the Gemara formed the Talmud.
      3. These contained 248 commandments (thou shalt’s) & 365 prohibitions (thou shalt not’s)
      4. As one Rabbi put it, The Scriptures are water, the Mishnah is wine; the Gemara spiced wine. (David Hewitt, Mark, pg.106.)
    6. The Jewish Mishnah contained no less than 30 ch.’s on the cleansing of vessels.
      1. This Hand washing ritual came from the command for priests to wash their hands (Ex.30:19; 40:12). It was a reminder to come to God clean (i.e. w/clean hearts)
      2. All pious Jews started doing this about 200 yrs before Christ.
      3. So, by Jesus day, it was firmly entrenched as a requirement for those who wanted to be clean.
        1. They completely lost the original idea of clean hearts.
  3. THE DEGRADATION (3-9) When Lips supersede Heart
    1. ​​​​​​​(3-6) Now Jesus gives an illustration of the point He just made.
      1. Jesus will quote from Isaiah in vs.8,9, but 1st He’ll pull from Moses… How can the Pharisees argue with the Law & Prophets?
    2. (5) But you say…
      1. Illustration: You’ve seen many moms place a very thin blanket over their babies in their strollers (keep the sun off). But what would happen if they just kept placing blanket after blanket. It doesn’t matter how thin these blankets are…the baby would suffocate.
        1. Over the years the Pharisees had overlaid the biblical teaching w/vast amounts of spoken teaching blankets & oral tradition blankets.
        2. Though admirable, the original aim of protecting the baby, became its demise.
    3. Corban – Mark explains to his Roman audience this Hebrew word a gift to God; devoted to God.
      1. ​​​​​​​If a son wanted to avoid his responsibility, of caring for his parents in later life, he simply needed to declare his money Corban…dedicated to God.
      2. So, by observing what man allowed they could avoid what God required.
        1. Ps: Jesus is concerned about us taking care of our parents.
      3. And this was just 1 example of many, claimed Jesus.
    4. Note the digression here: 4 layers of thin blankets that smother:
      1. Replacing (8, heart for lips). Neglecting (3,4 God’s commandments). Rejecting (6, God’s commandments). Invalidating (9, in vain you worship Me).
      2. What a false confidence man’s traditions have given to so many sincere people. Sincere, but sincerely wrong.
        1. As if what you do on the outside, will somehow change the inside.
    5. (7) Hypocrites – You folks have turned religion into play-acting.
      1. We are hypocritical when we talk about love but never love; Talk about forgiving but never forgive; Talk about witnessing but never witness.
    6. (8) Honor w/lips, but not heart – Jesus says, I’ll tell you why My disciples don’t keep your traditions – Look what Isaiah said would happen when tradition takes the place of truth.
      1. There is a big difference between tradition & truth
        1. Tradition is outward; Truth is inward. Tradition has to do w/ritual; Truth has to do w/reality. Tradition is something you keep; Truth is something that keeps you.
      2. What a tragedy that religious people would ignorantly practice their religion & become worse for doing it.
        1. Jesus doesn’t say, well as long as you’re sincere!
    7. (8b) Heart is far from me – You can’t think your way into the kingdom of God.
      1. Christianity is a rational faith, a reasonable faith, but you do not get into the kingdom head 1st. You get into the kingdom heart 1st. (Jerry Vines, pg.130.)
    8. What traditions will we hand down to the next generation, yet consider them doctrine?
      1. We shouldn’t pass on Non-Essentials; we must pass on Jesus.
  4. THE DEFILEMENT (10-20) Think Internal not external; Think Potential b4 Actual
    1. ​​​​​​​The issue? Outward religious traditions vs. Inward living faith.
      1. Imagine the disciples requesting of Jesus, Lord, teach us to wash!
    2. Sin is Internal before it is External (10-18)
    3. (11) William Barclay calls this is the most revolutionary passage in the N.T.
    4. Sin is Potential before it is Actual (19,20)
    5. Here Jesus gives us a catalogue of 13 ugly sins. It is an X-ray of the human heart.
      1. All of these sins lurk as a potential inside of all of us.
      2. So Jesus calls for purity/holiness on the inside from a changed heart from God
    6. In the forests of northern Europe & Asia lives little animal called the ermine, known for his snow-white fur in winter. He instinctively protects his white coat against anything that would soil it. Fur hunters take advantage of this unusual trait of the ermine. They don’t set a snare to catch him, but instead they find his home, which is usually a cleft in a rock or a hollow in an old tree. They smear the entrance and interior with grime. Then the hunters set their dogs loose to find and chase the ermine. The frightened animal flees toward home but doesn’t enter because of the filth. Rather than soil his white coat, he is trapped by the dogs and captured while preserving his purity. For the ermine, purity is more precious than life. (Our Daily Bread, April 21, 1997)
    7. Some, like the Pharisees of old, have a very defective theology of man & sin and think that man is intrinsically/inherently good???
      1. And because of this they treated symptoms w/their legalism, rather than dealing w/the root problem!
      2. Yes the bible deals with the fruit of sin; but better…it deals w/the root of sin. It doesn’t only deal w/the flow of sin; but the very fountain of sin.
      3. The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately/incurably wicked; Who can know it? - For the wages of sin (not sins) is death.
        1. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners!
    8. Spurgeon, If sin had not been in you, it could not have come out. All the trouble in the world does not put sin in the Christian. It brings it out.
      1. You might think, My wife makes me so angry! – But no, anger was already there in your heart & this just gave it opportunity to come out.
    9. So, what’s the remedy?
      1. It’s not education, culture change, social reform, nor revolution, but regeneration.
      2. The heart can be purified only by faith.
    10. Wrap up: Your choice: Keep polishing your broken watch; or receive a new mainspring, from The Watch-Maker, for your heart today.
      1. Ezek.36:26 I will give you a new heart & put a new spirit within you.
      2. Any gospel which says only what you must do & never announce what Christ has done...is no gospel at all!
        1. We believe with the heart, love from the heart, sing from the heart, obey from the heart, give from the heart, and pray from the heart. www
      3. We must constantly remind ourselves that true religion comes from this new heart.

Verses 21-39

  1. Intro: Christ Crumbs
    1. Watch this short video of Heather Dorniden of the University of Minnesota as she races the 600m at the Big 10 Indoor Track Championships 2014.
      1. We love stories of those who persevered. Let’s meet another women who didn’t give up, wouldn’t give up, & was rewarded for it.
    2. The brightest jewels are found in the darkest places.
      1. This is the only occasion where Jesus ventures beyond the border of Israel.
  2. PUPPY CHOW (21-28) read
    1. Tyre & Sidon – In the region of Phoenicia. Modern Lebanon.
      1. They were 2 coastal towns on the Med. (30/40 N. of Capernaum)
      2. They were the descendants of the Canaanites (who no longer existed as a distinct people), so it’s Gentile Country. [notice a clockwise circle]
    2. Picture this women as a the bright jewel found in a dark place.
    3. FAITH SPEAKS (22-24)
    4. Does this bristle you the way Jesus treats her? Let it. - But what 1st appears to be rudeness...let’s remember His delays are not His denials.
    5. The Silent Treatment (23a) But He answered her not a word.
      1. Her faith pushes on despite His closed ear & closed mouth.
      2. Now contrast that w/individuals today who say, unless I hear God I will not believe.
      3. She shows incredible Job like faith, which didn’t just say, though he smite me...but instead, though He slay me…yet will I trust him.
    6. The Snubbing Treatment (23) Send her away, for she cries out after us.
      1. ​​​​​​​Her noise annoyed them.
      2. She had many strikes against her: [1] her nationality was against her [2] she was a woman in a male dominated world [3] Satan was against her (1 of his demons took control of his daughter) [4] the disciples were against her [5] and for a time it even looked like Jesus was against her.
        1. Great Persistence: What if Joshua gave up on his 6th lap? What if Namaan didn’t go down on his 7th dip? What if the man at night needing bread stopped knocking? What if the woman quit pestering the unjust judge?
        2. Someone said, Triumph is just umph added to try!
      3. Samuel Rutherford (the saintly Scottish minister) who suffered greatly for Christ, once wrote to a friend, It is faith’s work to claim and challenge loving-kindness out of all the roughest strokes of God.
        1. ​​​​​​​And that’s what this woman did.
      4. Send her away, for she cries out after us…really?...us?
        1. No she never cried after them…only after her Master.
      5. Men shouldn’t treat a lady this way. Disciples shouldn’t treat a seeker this way. Christians shouldn’t treat anybody this way.
      6. They tried to chase away this she-dog with rocks & sticks, but she wouldn’t leave.
    7. The Select Treatment (24) I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Is.
      1. ​​​​​​​This must have felt like an elephant sitting on her heart.
        1. She could have said, well then, He is not here for me. Nope.
        2. Then she came & worshiped Him, saying, Lord, help me. (25)
        3. Press through all obstacles & throw yourself a His feet. Knowing that, the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.
        4. Jesus was creating an opportunity for the complete activity of her faith.
    9. (27) Yes, Lord.
      1. She doesn’t dispute that Gentiles were to Israel as dogs but says, Yes, Lord.
        1. But she wasn’t coming to him on the goodness of her cause, but on the Goodness of His heart. Not on how she presented her plea, but instead on the excellence of His power.
      2. It is our task to simply be empty…so He can fill us. It is our task to confess our filthiness…so He can wash us. It is our task to be less than nothing…so He can be more than everything to us
      3. You’re a dog – Yes Lord, but I will wag my tail, fetch, sit up, even beg for my Master.
      4. You’re a sheep – Yes, Lord, but sheep need a shepherd.
    11. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Faith Pleads but never Disputes.
      1. ​​​​​​​Note: she never says, but or if, not even yet (27 not in orig.)
      2. Faith in God implies agreement with what God says.
        1. You are comparable to a little dog. Truth Lord.
        2. I can’t feed the little dogs before the children. Truth, Lord, that wouldn’t be right.
        3. It’s not your time yet. Yes, Lord, 1st the children at meal time,…but the dogs right after dinner right? :)
      3. God’s Word is sometimes like a salve to a wound; and other times a knife that cuts, or a sword that slays! – Don’t fight against it – Say, Truth Lord!
    12. ​​​​​​​FAITH ARGUES (not argumentative)
    13. Her arguments were correct, strictly logical, & thorough.
      1. The best way to reason with a man is to take His own statements and argue upon them.
      2. She was bold like Jacob wrestling with the angel, who even overcame the angel. The angel said, Let Me go, for the day breaks. But Jacob said, I will not let You go unless You bless me!
    14. Position (27a)
      1. Yes, dog I am, but you have come all the way here to Sidon.
        1. I am not like the scavenger dog out in the street; I am a little puppy under your table awaiting some Christ-Crumbs!
    15. Relationship (27b)
      1. Their masters table –
        1. She could not call him Father. She could not claim the privilege of a child. But she could call Him Master. And Masters feed their dogs (at least crumbs).
        2. The woman, being a Gentile, had no covenant right to come to Jesus and call Him Son of David (22); but she could call Him Lord and have her prayer answered.
          1. Jesus was not rude to her; He was only testing & strengthening her faith
      2. Like the prodigal that came back content with just being one of his fathers hired servants.
        1. She spied out a dog’s relation to his master & made the most of it.
        2. She is the only one we know of that ever answered Jesus’ mini-parables back with a mini-parable.
    16. Children (26)
      1. In the East, as a rule, a dog is not allowed indoors. They are foul creatures that roam about uncared for & half wild (Kosovo 2011/190 dogs).
      2. Adults wouldn’t associate with them, but children knew nothing of this.
        1. They would take them to join in with them in their sports, games, & ultimately be invited under the table. (excellent for getting rid of your Brussels Sprouts)
        2. So for the kids sake, they often were allowed under the table.
    17. Consent (27b)
      1. It is sure to get a crumb from one of its playmates.
      2. The children (Israel) have a full portion in You! (in Your presence; Your Word; they sit at your feet; have obtained all sorts of spiritual blessings.)
        1. I’m sure they can’t begrudge my daughter to be free from this demon; For that would only be a crumb compared to all they have been blessed with.
    18. Abundance (27b)
      1. We’re not talking a poor man’s table who can’t afford to lose a crumb; but a Kings’ table where much is not even accounted for.
      2. If a man gives a dog a crumb he has none the less; If Jesus gives mercy to the greatest of sinners He has none the less.
      3. Since the beginning, it has always been God’s plan that through the children (Israel) the puppies (Gentiles) should get the bread.
      4. And Jesus ended up not giving her crumbs...but the children’s bread.
    19. FAITH WINS (28)
    20. O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.
    21. Persistence
      1. ​​​​​​​Not that she earned Christ’s ear or earned His healing power. Her persistence was only a demonstration that she had faith.
    22. What a great lesson to every mother. Mother’s plead for your daughters & for your sons until you hear, O Woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.
    23. Even a mother bird afraid of human footsteps will remain upon its nest when the intruder comes. [eg. diving birds, scare you walking under tree; then u turn around & watch others freak out]
      1. Parents, be encouraged to pray for your children.
    24. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, spiritual freedom.
      1. In this case, a little girls freedom from severe demonic powers.
      2. In your case, maybe today you need His ultimate sacrifice for freedom for your sins.
    1. ​​​​​​​(29) This was in the Decapolis. [10 cities that were authorized by the Romans to mint their own coins, run their own courts, & have their own armies] Predominantly Gentile Territory
    2. (30) He didn’t go to the Gentiles but they came to Him. And He in no wise casted them out.
  4. FEEDING 4000 (32-39)
    1. ​​​​​​​When you were faced with a crisis, take time to review His past mercies: remind yourself that He does not change. Warren Wiersbe
    2. Ken Gire said, Miracles are the common currency of heaven. The feeding of the 4000 was just a little loose change spilling from a hole in its pocket.
      1. ​​​​​​​(33) Where? Had they forgot about the 5000? - Well, we do! Hasn’t God taken care of a bill of $200 for you, & yet we get anxious over the next one for $100?
    3. Isn’t the bible full of contradictions? I thought it was a feeding of 5000 not 4000???
    4. These are simply 2 different events. I found 8 differences:
      1. Feeding 5000 took place on the Western shore of Galilee;
        Feeding 4000 on the Eastern shore.
      2. Feeding 5000 involved predominantly Jews;
        Feeding 4000 involved predominantly Gentiles.
      3. Feeding 5000 involved 5 loaves & 2 fish;
        Feeding 4000 involved 7 loaves & a few fish.
      4. Feeding 5000 the people had been w/Him 1 day;
        Feeding 4000 the people had been w/Him 3 days.
      5. Feeding 5000 had 12 little baskets of fragments left over; [kophinos; small wicker baskets]
        Feeding 4000 had 7 large baskets of fragments left over. [spuris; large hamper; Acts 9:25]
      6. Feeding 5000 Jesus prayed 1 time;
        Feeding 4000 Jesus prayed 2 times over the bread & fish.
      7. The amount of the 2 crowds were different (5000 & 4000)
      8. Lastly, Jesus says it was 2 different events!!! (16:9,10)
    5. Jesus was quite the preacher to keep them listening for 3 days. (2)
    6. Why is He doing this miracle again? (4)
      1. A different crowd (Gentiles). Compassion on them.
      2. Also, Does yesterday’s miracle necessarily guarantee today’s faith? (no it doesn’t)
      3. And as they say, Repetition is the mother of all learning!
    7. So, Why is He doing this miracle again?
      1. He wants the disciples and you & I to understand...He is the Bread of Life
        1. Jn.6:48-51 Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.
        2. Jesus’ credentials: It explains My Fathers prophesy to Moses in Ex.16:4 Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you (manna/Jesus).It explains My birthplace, Bethlehem, the city of Bread. It explains My person, I am the bread of life; It explains My power, the miraculous multiplication shouted omnipotence. It explains My suffering, the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.
      2. He wants the disciples and you & I to understand...He was not just the Bread for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles.
      3. He wants the disciples and you & I to understand...His supply always meets and exceeds the demand.
        1. Our souls, so to speak, are elastic. The more we eat the more they expand. The more they expand, the more we are able to eat. (Kent Hughes, Mark, pg.188.) [stretchy pants / stretchy souls!]
        2. Christ did not break the bread, so that suddenly there were huge piles of bread and fish. Rather, He kept breaking it & handing out what was needed bit by bit.
          1. We need to be constantly bringing our needs to Jesus, and He will constantly break the bread and give us what we need.
          2. Whatever God has given us, there is still far more for Him to give us.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Matthew 15". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/matthew-15.html. 2017.
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