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Matthew 15:2 . Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? The cabala, or unwritten law, was counted by the pharisees of equal authority with the law itself. Rabbi Aquiba says, he who eats with hands unwashed is worthy of death! Rabbi Jose is rather more mild, in saying, the sin is the same as though he cohabited illicitly with a woman! They alleged in defence of those censures, that a man might have touched unawares something unclean. Surely the Lord justly called those men “blind guides.” Traditions may be respected so far only as they tend to health of body, to purity of mind, and to the peace and edification of the church.
Matthew 15:5 . It is a gift. Δωρον doron, or “let it be a gift.” Hebrew קרבן corban, as St. Mark reads. It signifies a gift devoted to God, according to the law of Moses. Leviticus 1:2; Leviticus 7:14. Here it is most unnaturally abused, when a young man told his parents that instead of assisting them he had made a vow of a gift to God, and therefore he could not do both; so that now, they must look to God, and languish with hunger. So Origen, Theophylact, Erasmus, Beza, Heinsius, Lightfoot, Hammond, and the Synopsis, where copious notes may be found.
Matthew 15:10 . He called the multitude, who are often the best judges in questions of common sense. Food cannot defile the mind, which is unconscious of any defilement; the main question is, whether it hurt the conscience of another, who is weak in faith.
Matthew 15:13 . Every plant, φυτεια , plantation, or garden, which my Father hath not planted, and such are the sects of the pharisees and the sadducees, shall be rooted up. But while they sink as the associations of men, the righteous shall flourish as the palm tree, and grow as the cedars of Lebanon.
Matthew 15:19 . Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, wholly evil and devoid of good, for in our flesh dwelleth no good thing. Whatever good is found in man emanates from the wisdom which descends from above. These thoughts or evil surmisings, altogether unconnected with meats clean and unclean, are the sources of all outward sins, which are named in a scale of turpitude. Murders, the first sin against our brother, for which an avenging providence pursues the guilty. Adulteries, which pollute both body and mind, and defile the whole stock and race. Fornications. The Saxon forliggian, to forelie, is more expressive. The crime of bastardy was rare among our Saxon fathers, for the young man who committed it must either marry or fight. Thefts, which are connected with every crime of idleness and concealment. False witness. This is setting God at defiance, and is directed against the life or property of a neighbour. Blasphemies, whether against God, or against divine revelation, or the soul of our neighbour. In my travels and labours I have known half a dozen instances of blasphemers struck dead with the oaths in their mouths. The conclusion is, that all sin has its seat in the mind, but where that is pure, the body is preserved to God, a living and a holy sacrifice.
Matthew 15:21 . Tyre and Sidon. The kings of these two cities are thought to be comprised in the kings of the Hittites. 1 Kings 10:29.
Matthew 15:22 . A woman of Canaan cried unto him, saying, have mercy on me. This woman was a Greek by birth, as Mark says, though living in the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. A general has his eye on campaigns, battles and sieges; a merchant calculates on his gain, and a scholar is fraught with discoveries in science; but the Lord Jesus has his eye on whatever in man is found to resemble God. While the jews gloried in the divine presence, resident in their temple, he declared his purpose to dwell with the man who was poor and contrite, and trembled at his word. Thus while many in Israel, who received miraculous cures, are passed over in silence, here is a poor Canaanite, having apparently neither husband nor friend, who has enrolled her name in the annals of the gospel; for she had faith which would have honoured the first of prophets. And as Christ has improved his feeding of the multitude, John 6:27, and his raising the dead, John 11:25, with a spiritual gloss, so ought we to do in the prominent case of this woman.
Observe then, that afflictions are useful to the soul. They enable us to see the insufficiency of worldly comforts, and the unavailing aid of physicians; they repress the confidence we are apt to indulge in the time of health and prosperity; and they discover, in a manner which theory can never do, the infinite need we have of divine support and protection.
In our troubles we are here taught to go directly to the Lord for counsel and comfort, with persevering prayer. Whether we groan under trouble of mind, or under the rod of affliction, the Lord alone can save in the day of trouble. Without his blessing, other means are destitute of effect. This woman cried for mercy, addressing the Saviour by faith, and with his proper titles. Delays in answering prayer are not to be interpreted in any unfavourable way. The silence of Jesus is wise and good. This woman cried at first for her daughter; ultimately she said, Lord help me. Perhaps, when we first cry, we are but half awakened; we pray for afflictions to be removed before our sins are removed, but David never fell into any temporal trouble without always remembering his sins.
Though good men should pray for us, and apparently be denied, we are not to be discouraged. Jesus denied, as was thought, the disciples, by saying, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel; yet the gentiles were to follow Israel in the covenant. He had reasons of a hallowing character for deferring the blessing.
We must persevere in prayer till every sin is confessed, and till the soul is impressed with the most humiliating views of its lost condition; for dogs are more worthy of bread than sinners are of pardon.
The frowns and apparent denials of Christ are tokens of a blessing. While he gives us a heart to pray, let us never despair of success. When he said, it is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to dogs, all the company thought this woman’s to be a lost case. But she, drowning in sorrow and trouble, saw one twig which brought her safe to shore: even from the name of “dogs,” she read her fairest claim to the crumbs. Here was heroic faith; faith resolved either to obtain the blessing, or to perish at the feet of Christ. Here was great faith, which attracted a great encomium. “Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” Here the waters of grace flowed with the greater force for a momentary obstruction. This case is set before us to encourage perseverance in prayer, that we may rise the higher in importunity whenever the blessing is apparently delayed.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 15". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany