Scripture reading – Matthew 15; Mark 7

Our study of the Synoptic Gospels continues with Matthew and Mark recording the same events in the life and ministry of Christ. Though it is doubtful either author could have read the writing of the other (this was 14 centuries before the printing press, and there were few handwritten copies of the Scriptures), we once again marvel at the proof of the inspiration of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21). As you will see, Matthew and Mark complement one another in their unique perspective.

In earlier devotions we have considered the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-43; John 6:1-14). Today’s Scripture reading present a similar miracle known as the Feeding of the Four Thousand or TheMiracle of the Seven Loaves and Fish (Matthew 15:29-39; Mark 8:1-21). Because the miracles are so similar, I will focus instead upon the confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 15:1-20, and Mark 7:1-23).

The Accusers and Their Accusations (Matthew 15:1-2; Mark 7:1-5)

Matthew and Mark report the scribes [experts in the Law and traditions] and Pharisees came to Jesus, and accused the disciples of transgressing “the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread” (15:1-2). Those religious leaders were offended the disciples did not practice the ritualistic washing that was a tradition in Israel.

Jesus Condemned Hypocrisy (15:3-9)

These pious leaders were focusing on their own traditions as though they were commandments of God, while ignoring what the commandments actually said. Yet, those leaders were no different than religious leaders of our day who replace commandments with traditions. Jesus ignored the premise of their question, and asked, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” (15:3)

What a powerful response! Rather than waste precious time debating their ill-founded criticisms, Jesus admonished them. They usurped the authority of the Scriptures, and Jesus charged they were guilty of breaking the fifth commandment which dealt with honoring father and mother (Exodus 20:12). The LORD warned, “He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death” (15:4b; Exodus 21:17).

Lip Service vs. Heart Service (Matthew 15:7-9; Mark 7:9-13)

The scribes and Pharisees had not only failed to instruct the people, but encouraged them to dismiss their obligation to care for the physical needs of their fathers and mothers. By their traditions, they disavowed an adult child’s responsibility for his parents’ welfare. They taught, declare “Corban” (meaning, it’s a gift; Mark 7:11-12), and saying one could dedicate his wealth and possessions to the LORD and be under no obligation to father or mother (Mark 7:12).

Jesus condemned them as hypocrites (Matthew 15:7), and quoted the prophet Isaiah: “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, And with their lips do honour me, But have removed their heart far from me, And their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13). Because they masked their hypocritical hearts with external rituals, Jesus warned their worship was in vain (Matthew 15:8-9).

Watch Your Mouth, and Your Heart (Matthew 15:10-20)

Our devotional study will conclude with a brief examination of things that defile a man. After confronting the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (15:7), Jesus called on the people to give Him their attention, and said, “Hear, and understand: 11Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man” (15:10-11). While the Pharisees put their emphasis on whether or not a man ate with clean or unclean hands, Jesus warned it was not what a man put into his mouth, but that which proceeded out of his mouth that defiled (in other words, deemed oneself sinful and unfit before God, 15:11).

The disciples came to Jesus, but rather than express concern for the false doctrine of the Pharisees, they voiced alarm He had offended the Pharisees (15:12). Jesus rebuked His disciples, and warned God would uproot that which He had not planted (meaning the false teachers and their doctrines, and traditions of men, 15:13). Leave the spiritually blind teaching the blind, for “both shall fall into the ditch” (15:14).

Peter, often the spokesman for the Twelve, asked, “Declare unto us this parable” (15:15). What parable? The one Christ taught when He said, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man” (15:11).

The disciples were slow learners, and missed the point: Physical food goes in and out of a man, and does not defile (15:16-17). Yet, the things which come out of a man’s mouth reflects the spiritual condition of his heart (15:18). What is the heart? In the Scriptures the heart of man is the seat of his inner thoughts, feelings, and emotions. What sins lie in the heart of man? Matthew wrote, “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (15:19). Mark added, “covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (7:22).

Closing thoughts – The Pharisees focused on whether or not a man’s hands were ceremonially clean, and ignored the condition of a man’s heart (15:20). What is the condition of man’s heart? The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus confirmed the same, for evil arises within the heart of man and defiles him.

Don’t be beguiled by spiritual blindness or piety! The LORD knows your heart, and He alone can purge your heart from the filthiness that lies within.

1 John 1:7–97But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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