Matthew 15: Tradition of the Elders

Why did Pharisees and teachers of the Law come from Jerusalem to see Jesus?

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Matthew 15:1–2 Pharisees and teachers of the Law who had come from Jerusalem said to Jesus, “Why do your disciples violate the rules of behavior that were established by our ancestors? When they eat bread, they do not wash their hands.”
King James
Matthew 15:1–2 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.

In what ways did Pharisees manipulate the Law to suit what they wanted?

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Matthew 15:3–6 Jesus said, “Why do you violate God’s commandments by following your own tradition? God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses father or mother must be put to death.’ By your rules, it is all right for a man to say to his parents, ‘I have dedicated all my possessions to God. I am sorry, but the Law will not allow me to help with your need.’ With your tradition, you nullify God’s commandment.”
King James
Matthew 15:3–6 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.

What made the Pharisees’ actions hypocritical?

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Matthew 15:7–9 “Hypocrites! You only pretend to be righteous. You fulfill what Isaiah said about you: “These people express love with their mouths and their lips offer praise, but their hearts are somewhere else. Their reverence for me is nothing but a ritual.
King James
Matthew 15:7–9 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

In what ways might people have interpreted what Jesus said about being unclean? Why were the Pharisees offended?

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Matthew 15:10–12 Jesus called the people closer. “Listen, and understand what I am saying. You are not defiled by what goes into your mouth. It is what comes out that makes you unclean.”
Later, his disciples said to him, “Did you know you offended the Pharisees with your words?”
15:17–20 “You should know that anything you eat simply passes through the stomach and out. But what comes out of a person’s mouth is from the heart, revealing the filth that exists inside. From the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, erotic sexual acts, theft, lies, and cursing. These things make a person unclean. It is not from eating without washing your hands.”
King James
Matthew 15:10–12 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
15:17–20 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

Besides God, who can plant seeds? Why will some plants be pulled?

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Matthew 13:27–28 “The workers said to the farmer, ‘Didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy has done this.’ ‘Do you want us to pull the weeds?’ they said.”
15:13 “Every plant that was not planted by my heavenly Father will be pulled up with its roots,” Jesus said.
1 Corinthians 3:6–7 I planted seeds and Apollos watered, but God is the one who brings spiritual growth and produces the harvest. The one who plants and the one who waters are not people to be idolized, because God is the one who does the miracle. He makes the seeds grow.
King James
Matthew 13:27–28 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
15:13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
1 Corinthians 3:6–7 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

Why did Jesus say to let the Pharisees go their own way?

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Matthew 15:14 “Let them go their own way. They are blind leaders of the blind. When blind people follow blind leaders, they both fall into the ditch.”
King James
Matthew 15:14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

Why should what comes from our mouths be a greater concern than what we take in?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Matthew 15:17–20 “You should know that anything you eat simply passes through the stomach and out. But what comes out of a person’s mouth is from the heart, revealing the filth that exists inside. From the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, erotic sexual acts, theft, lies, and cursing. These things make a person unclean. It is not from eating without washing your hands.”
King James
Matthew 15:17–20 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

Why did Jesus show reluctance in answering the Canaanite woman’s prayer?

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Matthew 15:22–26 A Canaanite woman who lived in the area came, shouting, “Sir, Son of David, my daughter is cruelly tormented by an evil spirit.”
Jesus did not say a word.
His disciples came begging. “Send her away. Now she is crying after us.”
“I was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel,” Jesus said.
The woman knelt at his feet. “Sir, I beg you. Please help me!”
“It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
King James
Matthew 15:22–26 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.

If the mother had not given a valid argument, do you think Jesus would have healed the daughter? Why?

Author’s Thoughts
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Matthew 15:27–28 “That is true, sir. But even dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table.”
“Woman, you have great faith. Let it be done exactly as you have asked.”
At that moment, her daughter was healed.
King James
Matthew 15:27–28 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

If a multitude gathered around Jesus, expecting him to heal their sick, why were they amazed when he did?

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Matthew 15:29–31 After Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre, he walked back toward the Sea of Galilee. He went up on the mountainside and sat down. A large crowd gathered. People brought to the feet of Jesus the crippled, blind, mute, disabled, and those who suffered many other afflictions. And he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute able to speak and disabled people made whole. The crippled walked, and the blind could see. So they praised the God of Israel.
King James
Matthew 15:29–31 And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there. And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them: Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.

Why were the people willing to go home?

Author’s Thoughts
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Matthew 15:39 After Jesus had sent the people home, he got into a boat and went to the area of Magadan.
King James
Matthew 15:39 And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.

After feeding five thousand, why did the disciples doubt what Jesus would do in feeding four thousand?

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Matthew 15:32–38 Jesus called his disciples. “I feel sorry for all these people who have been with me for three days and have nothing left to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they might faint on their way home.”
The disciples said, “In a desolate place like this, where can we get enough food to feed so many?”
“How many loaves do you have?”
“Seven,” they said. “And a few small fish.”
Jesus told the people to sit on the ground. He took the loaves and fish, gave thanks, and broke them. He gave the pieces to the disciples, who distributed them to the crowd.
After all had eaten as much as they wanted, the disciples gathered seven full baskets of leftover pieces.
Four thousand men were fed, plus women and children.
King James
Matthew 15:32–38 Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude? And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full. And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.