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the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 15

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

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Verses 1-20

Mat 15:1-20

Opposition of Scribes and Pharisees,
Matthew 15:1-9. (Mark 7:1-13)

J.W. McGarvey

1. were of Jerusalem.—The career of Jesus in Galilee, together with the two visits which he had made to Jerusalem (John 2:13; John 5:1), had arrested the attention of the leading minds in that city. The scribes and Pharisees here mentioned were in all probability sent up by their associates in Jerusalem to counteract his influence. They expected to put him to a severer test than had been applied by the less cultivated scribes and Pharisees of Galilee, and they entered the contest with confident hope of success.

2. transgress the tradition.—Not being able to find any ground for denying the miracles of Jesus, or any violation of the law in either himself or his disciples, they make the best attack in their power by charging the latter with transgressing the tradition of the elders. (For a statement of their doctrine on this subject, see note on Matthew 3:7.) The tradition that a man should not eat without first washing his hands, was an extension by human authority of the Mosaic law of uncleanness. Other traditions belonging to the same category are mentioned in Mark 7:3-4. It could not be denied that the disciples transgressed this tradition, and as the accusers held the traditions to be equal in authority to the written word, they thought they had certainly convicted Jesus of sin in allowing this transgression.

3. transgress the commandment.—Tacitly admitting the charge, Jesus defends his disciples by attacking tradition itself; not this particular tradition, but all tradition. He charges that they, by their tradition, transgressed the commandment of God, and that the tradition itself was therefore sinful.

4-6. For God commanded.—In order to sustain his charge, he specifies their tradition in regard to the support of indigent parents. The commandment, "Honor thy father and thy mother," requires a son to support his parents when they become dependent. And the statute, "He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death," required the death of any son who would practically curse his aged parents by casting them off into beggary or starvation. But they had taught that a son could say of that part of his estate by which his parent might be profited, It is a gift; that is, a gift to God (Corban, Mark 7:11), and thereby free himself from the obligation. Thus the commandment was made of no effect by freeing from it every ungrateful son who was mean enough to desire such freedom. This example did not touch the quid pro quoquestion of uncleanness, but it proved that tradition was an unauthoritative and mischievous guide, and as the objection of the scribes was based on the authority of tradition, it destroyed the force of the objection. The particular tradition about eating with unwashed hands is discussed on its merits in the next paragraph: principles are settled first, and details afterward.

7. Ye hypocrites.—There was hypocrisy in the device of the traditionists, because in proposing to honor God by vowing to him what should go to the poor parent, there was the false pretense of doing for his honor what was really done to gratify avarice. All similar substitutions of human expedients in the place of God’s appointments are prompted by some improper desire, and are therefore liable to the same charge. (See on Matthew 15:9.)

7, 8. prophesy of you.—To prophesy is to speak by inspiration, whether of the future, the past, c the present. Isaiah did not prophesy these words with special reference to these particular persons; but he spoke primarily of the Jews of his own age. (Isaiah 29:13.) In prophesying of them, however, he spoke what is equally true of all others who are guilty of the same hypocrisy, and on this account Jesus applied the words to his accusers.

9. in vain they do worship.—This verse is rather a conclusion than a quotation. The words of Isaiah are, "Their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men." Fear toward God, if pure and rightly inspired, springs from the word of God, and not from the commandment of man. So far, therefore, as a man’s worship of God is the result of human authority, it springs from an improper source, and is vain. Every human addition to the commandments of God, so far as it induces any worship at all, induces vain worship, and there is probably not one such addition which does not, to a greater or less degree, make some commandment void. Thus the tradition of infant baptism, to the extent that it is adopted, makes of no effect the commandment concerning the baptism of believers, by baptizing persons in their infancy; and if it should become universally prevalent, by the baptism of all persons in their infancy it would bring to an end forever the only baptism commanded of God.

Christ’s Law of Uncleanness, Matthew 15:10-20.
Mark 7:14-23)

10, 11. he called the multitude.—In the preceding paragraph Jesus did not touch the question of uncleanness raised by the Pharisees, but performed the more important task of showing the want of authority and the mischievous effects of all tradition; in this, he defends the conduct of his disciples by stating that a man is defiled, not by that which goes into his mouth, but by that which comes out. He gives this explanation, not to the Pharisees, who were captious objectors not willing to hear any defense, but to the more teachable multitude; and he makes the statement on the naked authority of his own word, relying on their good sense for its acceptance. Such appeals to the common sense of mankind, when the proposition affirmed is true, are often more effective than a process of reasoning, and they were often employed both by Jesus and the apostles.

12. Pharisees were offended.—The disciples were pained at the offense given to these highly respectable strangers from Jerusalem; for, like many Christians of the present day, their respect for the feelings of men was greater than their zeal for the truth. The "say ing" (λογον) which had given offense was the entire speech. He had proved that by their tradition they were nullifying the word of God; he had charged them with hypocrisy; he had declared that all of their worship based on the authority of tradition was vain worship; and he had swept away the entire fabric of their traditionary law of uncleanness, by declaring that a man is not denied by that which goes into his mouth. He had not only defended himself, but he had turned their own weapons with irresistible effect against them, and it is not surprising that they were offended.

13. Every plant.—In reply to the modest complaint of the disciples, Jesus compares the Pharisees to plants in a garden that were not planted by the owner of it, and declares that they shall be rooted up. They were teaching without divine authority or approbation; and what he had said was intended not to please them, but to root them up.

14. Let them alone.—Let them alone, not in the way of ceasing to expose their errors, but in the sense of making no effort to appease them. The disciples were to be regardless of them as Jesus was, making no change in either the matter or manner of discourse for their sake. Sometimes the best way to move men is to be totally indifferent to them; and when men stand opposed to the truth from corrupt motives, the only possible chance to do them good is to offend them, for when you please them you only confirm them in their wicked ways.

both fall.—It is sometimes thought, that if a man is misled by his teacher, he will be excused for going astray; but Jesus here teaches that the blind man who is led will fall into the ditch with his blind leader. This is clear enough in reference to the literally blind, and Jesus asserts it in reference to the spiritually blind. If a man, knowing himself to be blind, allows another blind man to lead him, he deserves to fall into the ditch. He should choose a leader who can see, and as there is no leader who can see all the way that we have to travel except Jesus, let us take his word as our only guide, going only as it leads us. The word of God must be our pillar of cloud by day, and of fire by night; we move when it moves, and stop where it stops.

15, 16. the parable.—The disciples were themselves so much under the influence of tradition, that they supposed the remark about that which defiles to be a parable. They had been blindly led by the blind guides.

17-19. they defile the man.—Here the Christian idea of uncleanness is fully stated, and the disciples were the better prepared for it by the gradual manner in which it was approached. In this entire paragraph Jesus treats of that which the uncleanness of the law typified, and not of legal uncleanness itself. Although, according to the law of Moses, eating with unwashed Lands did not defile a man, yet some things entering into the mouth did have this effect. (See Leviticus 11:40.) But the Pharisees, confounding the type with the antitype, taught that the soul was defiled by that which caused only legal uncleanness. Jesus corrects this mistake, and in giving the true significance of the type, gives the true conception of uncleanness under the Christian dispensation.

Argument of Section 11

Several arguments for the claims of Jesus are involved in the facts of this chapter. First, it is made manifest that the opinions adverse to his claims originated either in envy, as in the case of the Nazarenes; in the workings of a guilty conscience, as in the case of Herod and his courtiers; or in the prejudices which resulted from hypocritical practices, as in the case of the scribes and Pharisees. Opposition arising from such sources argues, with strong probability, the righteousness of the cause against which it is arrayed. Second, it is made to appear that all attempts to justify the opposition by condemning the conduct of Jesus were foiled and made to recoil on the heads of their authors. The two examples recorded are those in which the opposition was most likely to be successful if success were possible; the first being an attempt of the 12

Nazarenes who had been familiar with his conduct from his childhood; and the other, that of a company of scribes and Pharisees from the religious capital of the nation, who visited Galilee for the purpose, and who were supposed to have the best qualifications for this task. Third, it is also apparent from the section, that even those who held opinions adverse to the claims of Jesus, either admitted the reality of his miracles, or made no effort to deny it; and that it was on account of his oft repeated and wonderfully varied miracles, wrought under such circumstances that men could not be mistaken about them, that the disciples and the multitude believed in him. His claims, then, were unquestionably sustained by miraculous evidences.

Clean and Unclean - Matthew 15:1-20

Open It

1. What traditions have special meaning to you?

2. Why do people value tradition?

3. If you had to rank the five worst sins, what would your list include?

Explore It

4. Who came from Jerusalem to see Christ? Why? (Matthew 15:1)

5. What complaint did the Pharisees and teachers of the law level against Jesus? (Matthew 15:2)

6. What did the Pharisees and teachers of the law value more than the Word of God? (Matthew 15:2)

7. What did Jesus cite as examples of the Pharisees’ disobedience? (Matthew 15:4)

8. How did the Pharisees get around the requirements of the Law? (Matthew 15:5)

9. What was wrong with the Pharisees? (Matthew 15:7-9)

10. What Scripture did Jesus apply to the Pharisees? (Matthew 15:8-9)

11. How did Jesus shift the emphasis away from external issues like unclean and clean foods? (Matthew 15:10-11)

12. How did the Pharisees like Jesus’ statements? (Matthew 15:12)

13. What advice did Jesus give to followers of the Pharisees? (Matthew 15:14)

14. Why did Jesus explain His statements to His disciples? (Matthew 15:15)

15. How did Jesus redefine "unclean"? (Matthew 15:17-20)

Get It

16. How is it possible for us to be "religious" and yet be far from God?

17. In what ways are we sometimes like the Pharisees?

18. What are some ways we "go through the motions" of the Christian life?

19. Why do we sometimes use loopholes or rationalizations to avoid doing the right thing?

20. What matters more: how people behave or their motives and attitudes?

21. In what way do Christians get bogged down in unnecessary rules?

22. What advice would you give a Christian friend who is far away from God?

23. In what ways have you allowed man-made rules to obscure the spirit of the law (and the work of the Holy Spirit in your life)?

Apply It

24. What is one step you can take to develop a pure heart this week?

25. How can you nurture your love for God through your actions at work and at home over the next few days?

26. This week, what could help you keep your focus on Christ rather than mere outward conformity to rules?

Verses 21-28

Mat 15:21-28

Section XII.
Tours to Tyre and Sidon and to Cæsarea Philippi,
Matthew 15:21 to Matthew 17:27

J.W. McGarvey

The Canaanite Woman’s Daughter, Matthew 15:21-28.
Mark 7:24-30)

21. coasts of Tyre and Sidon.—The term rendered coasts (μρη)—more literally parts—means those parts of the country which belonged to these two cities. Jesus was now on Gentile soil, in Phoenicia, northwest of Galilee. He was remote from his usual places of resort, and among & people to whom he was a stranger.

22. a woman of Canaan.—The Canaanites were the founders of Sidon (Genesis 10:19), and the Phoenicians were their descendants. (For another designation of this woman, see Mark 7:26.)

O Lord, thou son of David.—These words in the mouth of a Gentile woman on Gentile soil are remarkable. They show that she was acquainted with the Jewish idea of the Messiah, and they indicate the spread of Jewish ideas and hopes among surrounding nations. Jesus had never been here before, nor had this woman, in all probability, ever visited him in Galilee; but his fame had spread through all Syria (Matthew 4:24), of which Phoenicia was a part, and she had doubtless longed for an opportunity to bring his healing power to bear on her child. Her great need of him caused her to know of his presence, though "he would have no man to know it." (Mark 7:24.)

23. answered her not.—Contrary to his uniform custom hitherto, Jesus appeared to be deaf to the woman’s entreaties, until the disciples, annoyed by her cries, and pained by his apparent indifference, besought him to send her away. They did not mean that he should dismiss her without granting her request; but that he should send her away by granting it.

24. I am not sent.—This answer was made to the disciples, not to the woman. It was the response to their request that he should send her away. It is true that his ministry was limited to the Jews, and that to extend it beyond them, except in extraordinary cases, would be going beyond his general plan. This limitation was imposed, because, in the wisdom of God, it was seen to be the very best method for the final evangelization not only of the Jews, but of the Gentiles themselves.

25. and worshiped him.—Still persisting in her efforts to arrest his attention, and determined, notwithstanding his apparent indifference, to extort from him a response, the woman now comes near and prostrates herself (προσκνει) before him, as if to block up his path, and utters the piteous cry, "Lord, help me."

26, 27. Truth, Lord.—The woman’s faith was put to a still severer test, when, with unfeeling look and tone, as if his heart were made of adamant, he at last looked down on the pleading face and said "It is not meet to take the children’s meat and cast it to dogs." Many a woman, at such a speech, would have risen in despair, and gone away in anger. In her inimitable reply, "Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table," we know not which to admire more—the readiness of her wit, or the depth of her humility.

28. great is thy faith.—The chilling silence of Jesus had gained its purpose in drawing out from the woman this admirable expression of her faith, and now his tone and manner undergo a change. He is like himself again. We can readily see that her humility was great; but where is the evidence of her great faith? Men who have no faith in Jesus, look on him as beneath themselves. Those who have little faith in him, regard him as only a little their superior; but an faith increases, he goes up and we go down, so that the greatest humility before him is one evidence of the greatest faith. He looked into the bottom of her heart, and commended that which was the source of all of her humility and her perseverance.

even as thou wilt.—The earnest perseverance of the faithful woman gains its point, and her. mother’s heart is made to rejoice. Less love for her child, or less faith in Jesus, would have caused a failure. The entire scene is often repeated in pious households. How often a pious mother, with a child previously vexed with the demon of sin, cries piteously and long to the blessed Savior, saying, "Lord, help me." And how often does Jesus appear, for awhile, to give no heed to the cry, until even a cold world begins to pity the wretched petitioner. But finally, when a mighty faith has been developed out of sorrow and weeping, the unheard answer comes, "Be it unto thee as thou wilt." The story of the Canaanite woman is a type, and it is written for our admonition on whom the ends of the world have come. It is another illustration of the Savior’s doctrine, that "men ought always to pray, and not to faint." (Luke 18:1-8.)

The Faith of the Canaanite Woman - Matthew 15:21-28

Open It

1. What is it like to be on the outside of a group looking in?

2. What behavior on the part of others absolutely drives you up the wall?

3. What is your greatest success (in the sense of pursuing a goal for a long time and finally reaching it through persistence and determination)?

4. What is the most desperate feeling and/or situation you have ever experienced?

Explore It

5. To what place did Jesus withdraw? When? (Matthew 15:21)

6. Who approached Jesus when he reached Gentile territory? (Matthew 15:22)

7. What frantic request did the Canaanite woman make of Jesus? (Matthew 15:22)

8. What was Jesus’ response to the Canaanite woman’s request? (Matthew 15:23)

9. What did the disciples urge Jesus to do? (Matthew 15:23)

10. How did Jesus answer His disciples? (Matthew 15:24)

11. How did the discussion between Christ and His disciples deter the woman in need of help? (Matthew 15:25)

12. What reason did Jesus give for being reluctant to help the woman? (Matthew 15:26)

13. What quick and insightful reply did the woman make to Christ? (Matthew 15:27)

14. How did Jesus praise the woman? (Matthew 15:28)

15. What happened in the end? (Matthew 15:28)

Get It

16. In what ways do you tend to be insensitive to those who are different?

17. Why do you think Christ responded to this woman as he did?

18. What kinds of lessons do we learn from waiting?

19. How does our persistence in prayer show God’s character?

20. How persistent are you in your prayers to God?

21. What would Jesus say about your faith today?

Apply It

22. What long-term, unanswered prayer request do you need to continue bringing before God on a regular basis?

23. What encouraging principle from this passage can you share today with a Christian brother or sister?

24. What individual in need of help do you need to assist today?

Verses 29-39

Mat 15:29-39

Cures near the Lake Shore, Matthew 15:29-31.
Mark 7:31-37)
J.W. McGarvey

29. came nigh unto the sea.—Jesus is now again near the lake of Galilee, and as we learn from Mark (Mark 7:31), near the southeastern shore, having come through Decapolis. The last paragraph located him northwest of Galilee, and the present locates him on the opposite side of Galilee, without noting the route by which he had made the transit.

30. great multitudes came.—Only once before, when he cured the man with the legion of demons, had Jesus been in this district; and then the people had requested him to go away. (Matthew 8:34.) But now, influenced partly by their own reflections, and partly by the preaching of the demoniac (Mark 5:19-20), they flock around him with their "lame, blind, dumb, and maimed."

31. glorified the God of Israel.—This was naturally the first effect of witnessing the miraculous cures, after fear of him who wrought them had passed away. The people saw clearly that the power by which Jesus worked was the power of God; but being Comparatively ignorant in reference to the Messiahship, they formed no definite conception at first of his person and office.

Feeding the Four Thousand, Matthew 15:32-39.
Mark 8:1-9)

32. three days, and have nothing to eat.—The statement is not that they had been three days with nothing to eat, but that they had been with him three days, and now had nothing to eat. His compassion was excited, not because they were now suffering, but because, if he sent them away fasting, they would "faint in the way."

33. Whence... so much bread.—The disciples had forgotten the feeding of the five thousand under similar circumstances; or, at least, they did not expect a repetition of the miracle.

34. How many loaves.—It was only when he sent the disciples out on their first hurried mission, that they were told to carry no scrip with them (Matthew 10:10); ordinarily, as on the present occasion, they had more or less food about them. (Comp. Matthew 16:5.)

37. seven baskets full.—The baskets were different from those used when the five thousand were fed, the two kinds being called by two different names in Greek (κοφινους, and σπυριδας). It is probable that the latter, the kind used on the present occasion, were the larger, as it was one of them in which Paul was let down from the wall of Damascus. (Acts 9:25.)

39. into the coasts of Magdala.—Magdala was on the western shore of the lake and when Jesus reached its vicinity, he was again in his former field of labor, having completed his tour to Tyre and Sidon, and his return through Decapolis. The points named in the tour are places which he had seldom or never visited before.

Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand - Matthew 15:29-39

Open It

1. At what kind of restaurants do you like to eat?

2. What is your favorite food?

3. What recent news regarding hunger or poverty have you heard?

Explore It

4. When Jesus left the region of Tyre and Sidon, where did He go? (Matthew 15:29)

5. At what specific place did Jesus set up His "doctor’s office"? (Matthew 15:29)

6. How many people came to Jesus? Why? (Matthew 15:30)

7. What are some of the diseases and ailments that Jesus cured? (Matthew 15:30)

8. How did the healings affect all those who watched? (Matthew 15:31)

9. What note of concern did Jesus share with His disciples after He healed the people? (Matthew 15:32)

10. How did the disciples respond to Jesus’ desire? (Matthew 15:33)

11. Where did Jesus turn to feed the crowd? (Matthew 15:34)

12. How did the disciples’ resources at that moment compare with the food at their disposal the last time they fed a hungry crowd (see Matthew 14:13-21)? (Matthew 15:34)

13. What instructions did Jesus give the crowd? (Matthew 15:35)

14. What procedures did Jesus follow in feeding this large crowd? (Matthew 15:36)

15. How much food was left over? (Matthew 15:37)

16. How many people participated in this all-you-can-eat meal? (Matthew 15:38)

17. Where did Jesus then go? (Matthew 15:39)

Get It

18. Why do you think the disciples failed to remember the previous instance of Christ feeding a large crowd?

19. How do you think you would have responded if you had been with Jesus on this occasion?

20. How can we remember God’s past actions?

21. What feelings do you have toward the less fortunate?

22. Why do you think God works through us when he could get things done better and faster by doing miracles?

23. How can we develop love for Christ so we avoid taking his blessings for granted?

24. What small thing or resource can you offer to God?

25. What experience from the past reminds you of God’s work in your life?

Apply It

26. What can you do today to feed someone spiritually?

27. How does God want you to meet the physical needs of someone in your life?

28. For what specific blessings do you need to express your gratitude to God today?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 15". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/matthew-15.html.
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