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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 15

 

 


Verses 1-39

After the power and grace of the Lord Jesus has wrought so great, refreshing blessing, the cold, barren criticism of scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem is an example of how the deadening principle of legality is always active in strongly opposing the pure work of the grace of God. They challenge the Lord Himself directly, not simply disciples, but being incensed against Him because He did not require His disciples to conform to Jewish tradition by the washing of their hands before eating. This they considered a binding religious tradition, whether men's hands were clean or not.

For they transgressed the commandment of God by their tradition. He does not refer to the washing of hands, however, for this was a mere empty decree hardly worth speaking of: but He does reprove a tradition of theirs that boldly made void the commandment of God. To honour father and mother was one of the initial ten commandments. Yet the Jews had concocted a tradition that allowed a son or daughter to say that some resource he had by which he could relieve the need of his parents was "Corban," that is, a gift devoted to God, and by this subterfuge to avoid helping his parents. Edersheim says that this was commonly done though the money was not actually given to the temple service at all, and that the Jewish elders had officials ruled that a declaration of this kind nullified one's obligation to his parents.

This was plain despising of the word of God, and the Lord does not hesitate to call the Pharisees hypocrites, quoting from Isaiah 29:13 as to men's mouths and lips outwardly honouring God while their hearts were far from Him. Their warship was vain, for their doctrines were merely the commandments of men. Their insensibility to the seriousness of this condition makes this the more painful.

Yet not only the Pharisees, but the crowd is in need of the word that He now declares. Calling them to Him, He urges them to hear and understand that it is not what goes into a man's mouth that defiles him, but what proceeds out of his mouth. By eating material things, no-one is defiled spiritually. If something is not good for one's physical health, that is a different matter. But the things that come from one's mouth indicate what is actually in the heart: if things morally corrupt come from the mouth, these certainly defile the man.

The disciples report to the Lord that the Pharisees had taken offence at what He had said. But the solemn truth of it is not to be in any way watered down. If the truth offends, it is because one prefers falsehood to truth. The Lord's reply is most decisive and incisive. Every plant which His heavenly Father had not planted would be rooted up. Enemies of the truth are not the planting of the Father. They may be very meticulous about religious tradition, get in heart thoroughly Opposed to God.

"Let them alone." He says,--terrible sentence from the lips of the Son of God! Yet if men want this haughty independence, God may let them alone to indulge the folly of their choice, with no restraining of His wise and loving hand, of which the believer feels the need, and appreciates. "Blind leaders of the blind" is a striking and appropriate designation. They will fall into the ditch, and those who blindly follow them will do the same. This is warning enough not to follow such men. The leaders of course are the most solemnly responsible. but others are responsible for allowing themselves to be led.

Peter however thinks of verse 11 as a parable, and asks for an explanation. This is painful ignorance, as the Lord tells him, but he is not alone, for there are many Christians who consider only externals, and forget that the real index of what is defiling is that which one allows to proceed out of his mouth. For these come from the heart., which is the source of evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. It may not be that every one of these is always expressed from the mouth before the act takes place; but every one proceeds from the heart, which commonly expresses itself in the words of the mouth. If the mouth expresses hatred, this is the principle of murder (1 John 3:15). One who is adulterous will usually betray it by corrupt language. A thief will likely express himself covetously. Wisely indeed does Proverbs 4:23 tell us, "Keep thy heart more then anything that is guarded, for out of it are the issues of life" (J.N.D. trans.). The Lord then closes the subject with the declaration that to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.

Coming to Tyre and Sidon He meets with hypocrisy of a different kind in a Gentile woman of Canaan. Which of us is not afflicted with that terrible disease in some measure? She cries to Him on behalf of her daughter who was oppressed by demon power. But she uses His title as King of Israel, "Son of David," as though she was Jewish. On this basis the Lord could not even listen to her. He will allow no-one to slip in on false ground. Her continual crying induces the disciples to ask Him to send her away, no doubt implying that He should answer her request, for they knew the grace of His heart.

As the Son of David He answers (not the women, but) His disciples that He had been sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The women then gave up her use of His Jewish title, and worshipping Him, said, "Lord, help me." On this ground He could speak to her, for He was her Lord. Yet He must impress on her that, being a Gentile, she was not entitled to Jewish blessing. Still, He does it in a way that not only humbles her, but encourages her. For while He speaks of its being not fitting to take the bread from the children (Israel) and to throw it to dogs (Gentiles), the dogs He speaks of are not the roaming dogs of the street, but he use dogs used as pets. She is willing immediately to take her place as a Gentile dog, for she sees the opening He gave her to request the crumbs that dogs are commonly given from their master's table. This is exquisitely beautiful, and the Lord warmly commends her great faith, assuring her that she is blessed with what she desires. Her daughter is immediately released from her oppression.

Making a lengthy journey to the vicinity of the sea of Galilee, the Lord Jesus ascended a mountain and set down. This is followed by abundance of grace in healing the lame, blind, dumb and maimed, and many others. This dispensational picture is different than in Ch.14:13-21, where the feeding of the five thousand is typical of the present dispensation of grace. For Matthew 15:29-38 follows grace shown to the Gentile (v.27,28), and emphasizes in v.31, "they glorified the God Of Israel." Therefore it pictures the coming blessing of Israel as the world to come is introduced. The great healing of the nation is first indicated, and then the great provision made for them in the feeding of four thousand. For the number four is the number of earth (as its four directions remind us), so that this shows the blessing of God's earthly people Israel.

The similarity of the circumstances between this and the feeding of the five thousand is evident, but the differences are therefore more accentuated. Here He does not say, "Give ye them to eat," for this seems specially the work of disciples in the dispensation of the grace of God. The number of loaves and fishes differs also (seven rather than five, and a few rather than two), while the seven baskets of fragments are larger baskets than the twelve hand-baskets of the former miracle. Do these seven baskets speak of the fullness of blessing remaining for the Gentile nations after Israel is satisfied? This seems consistent, just as the twelve previous baskets spoke of the remaining grace for the twelve tribes of Israel after the church was blessed.

Verse 39 seems to be typical of His leaving Israel again after having established them in millennial blessing, as we know He will personally do, while leaving a representative ("the prince"-- Ezekiel 46:1-18) in charge of the nation. For personally He will have taken His own throne, the church being associated with Him in heavenly glory, reigning with Him over the earth.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Matthew 15:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/matthew-15.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 24th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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