Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.
What Does this Passage Say?
- Our reading today comes on the heels of Jesus feeding of the five thousand. The crowds are growing and Jesus has begun taking on the Pharisees. They are now ready to kill Him. They come to Jesus looking to entrap Him.
- They have observed His disciples and realize that they do not wash their hands before eating, a lesson they have undoubtedly learned from Jesus. There are two elements on the table here … the Law of Moses (God’s Law given through Moses) and the Oral Law of the Pharisees. The Oral Law takes the Law of Moses and builds upon it often making things so extreme that it is hard to follow. The Oral Law stated that all good Jews must wash in a ceremonial fashion before any meal. Jesus and His followers are not doing so … this is a perfect example for the Pharisees to try and entrap Jesus.
- Jesus does not directly answer their question. Because His disciples were breaking the Oral Law and not the Law of Moses Jesus saw no basis for their challenge. However, He knew that their Oral Law caused them to offend the Law of Moses which was a serious offense. We find that in His question about their mother and father. Honoring your parents, no matter your age, was a requirement of the Law. But the religious leaders had found an out.
- We can turn to Mark 7:11 for a better understanding. In this same discussion Jesus says you dishonor your parents by declaring something Corban. Declaring something as Corban meant you devoted and object … a house, a cart, or any type of resources … to God once you died. When doing so you could not give it to someone else. You could not loan it to someone else. You could not take it from God and give it to another, but you were allowed to use it until you died. This was often done when you did not want someone to have something of yours.
- So say you had a parent in need. Selling your possession for the finances or giving that possession to your parent in need would be a terrific idea. But if you had labeled it Corban then you could not do it. By not being able to help your parents with the Corban piece you were putting the Oral Tradition above the Law of Moses. Which one offends God? Breaking the Oral Tradition, or breaking His Law?
- With this discussion Jesus has gotten at the heart of the problem. They are more concerned with their Law than God’s Law. His disciples were not breaking God’s Law by not washing their hands. Filth on the hands does not make you ceremony unclean … it might not be the most hygienic thing to do, but that is not what is at question … what makes you unclean is the filth you allow to fill your mind. What comes in that way is what comes out through your words and actions. That is what offends God. Jesus reminds that God will one day judge based on their fruits!
- Matthew follows this discussion with a story of Jesus leaving the area and healing the daughter of a Canaanite woman. Canaanites were considered a Gentile. Gentiles were vile people because they did not observe the Law of Moses or the Oral Law. Not only were they unclean, but she was a Canaanite … a long despised people group of the Jews. Jesus mission during His time on earth was not to the Gentiles, but here this woman’s faith in Jesus is huge. What a sticking contrast to the previous discussion … one where Jews were considered unclean by other men for not washing their hands. Here is the great faith of a woman who was genuinely unclean but Jesus helped anyway. This shows the heart of Jesus mission to save all people.
- Matthew then shares the story of the feeding of the four thousand. This is a similar occurrence to the time where He feed five thousand. Here Jesus heart breaks and He has compassion on the people who have been following Him. I love Jesus. He is willing to go toe to toe with the religious elite of the day and confront their “wrongness,” while at the same time having compassion on those who desperately want to see Him at His core! Where do you find yourself?
What is this passage teaching?
- The bulk of our reading today deals with the rules and regulations put on the people by the religious leader and religious observers of the day. They had all sorts of rules that controlled life. Jews evaluated other Jews by their religious observances rather than the condition of their heart. They watched how they observed the Sabbath. They watched their observance of their clean verses unclean lifestyle. They followed that up by observing a strict dress code. What this can lead to is feeling justified by observing Oral Traditions all the while missing God’s expectations like helping the poor, feeding the hungry, and rescuing those who are perishing without God.
- It’s funny how things really have not changed in the church age. Do we not do the same thing? We observe peoples attendance at church, especially Sunday mornings. We say they are super Christians when they are in attendance on Sunday and Wednesday nights. We teach and preach a healthy diet of all things Christian, and avoidance of things that are not; alcohol, nicotine, and R-rated movies. We too judge people by what they wear … especially to church and church functions. We are no different, and the results are no different. Now by themselves keeping these things are not wrong. But when we feel justified in our following of Jesus by keeping these things, but are neglecting the needy, or hungry, or not winning souls to Jesus then our focus is in the wrong place.
How can I apply this passage to my life?
- Have you spent your life as a Christian strictly observing the churches rules and neglecting the needs of man? If so there is one thing you must do … repent. You are forgiven if you have been saved by Jesus. Repent and begin focusing on the needs of men. I used to attend a church in North Carolina that had as their mission statement connecting the heart of God to the hurt of men. I think that is a very applicable lesson for us. God wants us to follow Him and live righteous lives, but He also has given us, the individuals who make up the church, responsibilities to carry out. Live righteous but do not neglect the hearts and hurts of your family, your communities, and your church.