About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

Home Page.

This Section - Chapter 15

Previous Section - Chapter 14

Next Section - Chapter 16

ch. 15:1-20    ch. 15:21-28    ch. 15:29-39

Clean And Unclean (ch. 15:1 - 20)


In verses 2 and 3 the Pharisees come to Jesus with yet another question.  They’re constantly asking Jesus questions in the hopes of finding fault with Him.  This question concerns matters of the Rabbinical Laws, which is not the Law of Moses, but their own Laws set up to help the Jews better understand and obey the Law of Moses.  The problem with this is that they have burdened the Jewish people down with so many laws that weren’t established by God in the first place that their religion has become mostly humanistic in nature.


The Law in question here as noted by the Pharisees’ question concerns the washing of one’s hands before eating.  This was a Jewish tradition based on Rabbinical Law, not God’s Law.  Jesus’ disciples apparently were caught eating without washed hands.


In verse 3 Jesus responds by saying, “why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition”.  Verse 4 tells us what Commandment the Jewish leadership disregarded because of their own humanistic laws which in one sense of the word were merely laws to get around God’s Law.   The commandment that Jesus is speaking to is the fourth commandments that tells the Jews to honor their father and mother.  Yet this command is elaborated upon in Ex. 21:17.  This verse tells us that a child is worthy of death if he disobeys this fourth command.


The Jewish leadership came up with some of their own laws to help soften this command.  They had a law wherein if parents needed help from an adult child they’d say the word “corben”.  When they said this, the child was supposed help the parents out in whatever way he could.  Yet if the child wasn’t on speaking terms with his parents, he wouldn’t really want to help his parents out. The Jewish leadership came up with a law that said if a parent calls out “corben” then the children could give money to the priests instead of helping their parents, something they said would be acceptable to God, but something Jesus says is actually disregarding the fourth command, and certainly God would not be pleased with that.


This shows us how Jesus feels about the traditions of men when they come in conflict with the ways of God.  He is not happy with this in the least.  This is something we should think seriously about as the church.  Do we allow any of our traditions to nullify the things God would want us to do?


In verse 7 Jesus calls the Pharisees “hypocrites”.  Jesus is not afraid to call people for what they really are. 


It’s interesting that Jesus refers to Isaiah 29:13 and says that it refers to these Pharisees that were presently alive in that day.  Without going into detail, this shows us a bit how Jesus viewed and used the Old Testament prophecies.


So in verse 8 Jesus uses Isaiah’s words when He says, “this people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me”.  This was exactly what the Pharisees were doing.  They were merely giving lips service to God.  What they were really doing was following their own ways, their own laws, and leaving their God out of their lives.


There’s much talk about God in our society today but most of it is simply lips service.  People’s lives do not reflect a life of dedication to Jesus.


Jesus goes on to say in verse 9, as He quotes further from Isaiah that they worship God in vain and their rules are just traditions of men.  If we only offer lip service to God, and not follow through with a godly life, then in the eyes of Jesus, all we do in the name of our religion is in vain, is worthless.  It has no significance to God.


Beginning in verses 10 and  11 Jesus begins to take what just happened with the Pharisees and turned it into a teaching lesson.  He calls the crowd to Himself and tells them that it’s not what goes into a man’s mouth that defiles him.  It’s the words that we speak that defile us.  


Jesus is actually shedding some light on how God His Father actually thinks concerning clean and unclean foods that were well established in the Law of God from the Old Testament.  What Jesus was in fact saying is that all along the real thing that defiled a man in the eyes of God was not that which he ate, but that which he said. And the Pharisees were saying many things that were defiling them in the eyes of God.  The  things that were coming from their mouths were purely hypocritical.


Verse 12 is a little humorous to me.  The disciples come to Jesus in private and ask Him if He realized that the Pharisees were offended by what He told them, as if Jesus might not have known this.  I’m sure Jesus knew that the Pharisees were offended by His words, but that did not matter to Him.


The very fact that the disciples came to Jesus with questions tells me that they were a little taken back by Jesus’ words.  They themselves probably did not want to offend the Jewish leaders.  The average Jew benefited greatly from the social Jewish system that had been set up.  If for some reason the Jewish leadership felt that they should expel you from the synagogue, this would mean that the you would lose the social welfare privileges associated with the synagogue.                         


In verse 13 Jesus responds by saying that “every plant that my Father has not planted will be pulled up”.  We’ve seen from Jesus’ parables that plants that are pulled up are burned in the fire, as in the fire of God’s judgment.  Jesus is saying that the Pharisees and the traditions that they’ve established among the Jews were not planted by God and that one day all of this would be pulled up and burned.


In verse 14 Jesus tells the disciples to “leave them”, meaning, “leave their leaders”.  He says that they’re just blind guides leading blind people, and both the guides and the people would fall away at some point.  In simple terms Jesus was telling the disciples not to worry about the Pharisees. He was telling them to ignore them and to forget about them, and not to waste their time with them.  They were a helpless cause.  The disciples had better things to do.


This tells me that the systems of men eventually fail.  They don’t last forever, and if some do reach to the end of this age, they’ll be burned in the fire of God’s judgment at the appropriate time.


In verse 15 we see that Peter asks Jesus to explain the parable to them.  You can see by this, that they did not understand the parables of Jesus as clearly as they could have. 


Jesus responds in verse 16 by asking, “are you still so dull”.  That is to say, “is your ability to understand so dull and clouded that you need to ask me what I’m talking about”? 


It’s understandable to me why Peter would ask such a question.  They were used to thinking in terms of certain food being clean and oaky to eat, while other foods were unclean and not fit to eat. 


In verse 18 to 21 Jesus explains what he is talking about when he refers to what comes into a man’s body and what comes out of his mouth.  It’s simple and logical.  Any food that a man eats gets put into his mouth and the residue is expelled.  But the things that come out of a man’s mouth, as in his words, don’t come from his stomach, but his heart.


In verse 19 Jesus lists a few sins that come out of man’s evil heart.  We also know from what Jesus says elsewhere that what is in a man’s heart will sooner or later come out of his mouth.  Therefore you can tell what is important to people by what they say.


You note here that Jesus is basically saying that our hearts are evil, something that God through the prophets has said all along.  Jesus does not view us as okay, as in the tile of the book, “You’re Okay – I’m Okay”.  He views mankind as being far from okay.


In verse 20 Jesus just comes out and says it. Eating food really doesn’t make you unclean.  What people say and do makes them unclean.  This would be very hard for the Pharisees to take, and hard to for the disciples to get their head around.  Jews were so engrained to think that certain foods were wrong to eat.


The Faith Of The Canaanite Woman (ch. 15:21 - 28)


In verse 20 Jesus leaves for Tyre and Sidon .  These two cites were on the Mediterranean Sea coast, west of where Jesus had been.  These two cites were valuable sea ports for the Romans.


In verse 22 we see that a Canaanite woman came running up to Jesus and crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me.  My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession”.  This lady was not a Jew, but Jesus did not turn away anyone because of their nationality.  We know that Jesus’ main purpose of ministry was to the Jew, but He certainly had compassion and love for all people. 


This lady called Jesus both “Lord” and the “Son of David”.  The title Lord would associate Jesus with the one and only true God, the God of Israel.  The Son of David is a Messianic term associated Jesus to the lineage of David from which the Messiah would come to redeem Israel .  This lady knew exactly who Jesus was.


In light of what I’ve just said you might think that Jesus’ reply to this lady doesn’t correlate.  The fact of the matter is that He did not reply to her.  He ignored her. 


In response to the woman’s constant crying out, and Jesus not paying attention to her, some of the disciples urged Jesus to send her away as if she was bugging them unnecessarily. 


Verse 24 confirms the fact that Jesus was sent mainly to the Jews when Jesus said that He “was sent to the lost sheep of Israel ”.  We see two things here.  The first being to whom Jesus’ ministry was directed to, and the second to the people of Israel were as lost sheep.   They were lost in the sense that at some previous time they’d not been lost, and that they were in God’s fold.  But their wandering habits led them astray from the fold and Jesus was sent out to find them and call them back to the fold.


In verse 25 the woman falls at Jesus’ feet and begs for help.  She is desperate.  I’m sure she had to push her way past the disciples to even get to Jesus.


Jesus finally responds in verse 26 by saying that it wasn’t right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.  We need to understand something about dogs here.  The Greek word used for dogs is actually “little dogs”.  There were two types of dogs in those days, little dogs that were pets, and big dogs that roamed the streets as scavengers. 


Jesus was saying that it wasn’t right to take food away from children and give it to their pet dogs who sat by the table.  A side note here is that the Jews viewed Gentiles as big dogs, meaning scavengers who roamed the streets. 


Jesus didn’t come right out and say what He was thinking.  He disguised it somewhat in this analogy, something this lady understood.  It is clear that this lady understood Jewish thinking because in verse 27 she replies by saying, “yes Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table”.  In her desperate humility she came to Jesus.


In verse 28 Jesus recognizes her “great faith”.  Great faith here doesn’t mean lots of faith as is if faith is some kind of commodity that you can get more of.  Great faith means simple trust.  This lady trusted that Jesus had the ability to heal her daughter and  she kept asking for His help. 


So although Jesus came to the Jews, He certainly didn’t turn Gentiles away, and my guess is that He had a reason for the delay in helping this woman.  I think Jesus was trying to make a point here.  He wanted those around to understand the priority of His mission was to the Jews, but not at the expense of the Gentiles.  And even healing this woman’s daughter gives us a hint of better things to come when Gentiles would be welcomed into the family of God.


Note that Jesus healed the daughter.  There’s no reference to Him casting a demon out of her.  This would suggest that demons leave when they are cast out and they leave at the word of healing.


Jesus Feeds The Four Thousand (ch. 15:29 - 39)


In verse 29 we see Jesus leave the coast and go back to the Sea of Galilee .  Depending on the rout He would have taken, this could have easily been a 50 to 100 mile trip.  We don’t know why Jesus went to Tyre and Sidon .  We don’t know why He went to any particular place other than Jerusalem at the end of His three year journey. We can only conclude that wherever He went was in obedience to His Father’s will.


Jesus goes back to a mountain-side over looking the sea.  This might well be the same mountain-side that he fed the five thousand.  It appears that Jesus liked this particular mountain-side. Once again, when people knew that He was there, the crowds gathered around Him.


In verses 30 and 31 we see the crowds bring all kinds of sick people to Jesus for Him to heal.  Once again, we assume with good reason, that Jesus healed them all.  The crowds were amazed as they normally were and praised God as a result. 


It is clear to me that Jesus healed all those that came to Him whether they had faith or not.  Many of these people, if not most, were simply coming to Jesus for what they could get from Him.  He had compassion on them anyway.  The only time when He would not perform a miracle is when the Jewish leadership demanded Him to.  He would not bend to the pressure from hypocrites.   The masses of ordinary people were different though.  Jesus had compassion on them because He viewed them as sheep without a shepherd.   Their shepherds were the Jewish leadership but they weren’t shepherding the people as they should, and  that’s another reason why Jesus wouldn’t submit to their pressure.


Verse 32 specifically says that Jesus had compassion on this crowd.  It also tells us that the crowd was there for three days.  This meant that Jesus had been teaching and healing people for three days straight.  Any food that anyone might have brought, including the disciples was now gone, and like the time with the feeding of the five thousand men. Jesus did not want to send these people away hungry.  I can well imagine that Jesus is not impressed with starving people throughout the world when there’s lots of food to feed these people. 


In verse 33 the disciples respond to Jesus by asking him where they might get enough food to feed these people.  It was most likely an impossibility.  The disciples might well have been suggesting that Jesus was asking or suggesting an impossibility, and why even think about feeding them. 


So in verse 34 Jesus asks the disciples how many loaves of bread they had and they replied that they had seven loaves and a few fish. You might wonder at this point if the disciples would not have clued in on what was going to happen since not too many days earlier they had gone through a similar event.    


From verse 35 to 39 we have the exact same situation as we did with the feeding of the five thousand men plus women and children.  Jesus had the people sit down. He gave thanks to God for the food, and the disciples distributed the food and had seven baskets left over.   Then Jesus sent the crowd on its way and Jesus got in a boat and crossed the sea.  This time there were four thousand men, plus women and children.

Next Section - Chapter 16

Previous Section - Chapter 14

Home Page