Jesus discourses about human traditions. (1-9) He warns against things which really defile. (10-20) He heals the daughter of a Syrophenician woman. (21-28) Jesus heals the sick, and miraculously feeds four thousand. (29-39)
Verses 1-9 Additions to God's laws reflect upon his wisdom, as if he had left out something which was needed, and which man could supply; in one way or other they always lead men to disobey God. How thankful ought we to be for the written word of God! Never let us think that the religion of the Bible can be improved by any human addition, either in doctrine or practice. Our blessed Lord spoke of their traditions as inventions of their own, and pointed out one instance in which this was very clear, that of their transgressing the fifth commandment. When a parent's wants called for assistance, they pleaded, that they had devoted to the temple all they could spare, even though they did not part with it, and therefore their parents must expect nothing from them. This was making the command of God of no effect. The doom of hypocrites is put in a little compass; "In vain do they worship me." It will neither please God, nor profit themselves; they trust in vanity, and vanity will be their recompence.
Verses 10-20 Christ shows that the defilement they ought to fear, was not from what entered their mouths as food, but from what came out of their mouths, which showed the wickedness of their hearts. Nothing will last in the soul but the regenerating graces of the Holy Spirit; and nothing should be admitted into the church but what is from above; therefore, whoever is offended by a plain, seasonable declaration of the truth, we should not be troubled at it. The disciples ask to be better taught as to this matter. Where a weak head doubts concerning any word of Christ, an upright heart and a willing mind seek for instruction. It is the heart that is desperately wicked, Jer. 17:9 , for there is no sin in word or deed, which was not first in the heart. They all come out of the man, and are fruits of that wickedness which is in the heart, and is wrought there. When Christ teaches, he will show men the deceitfulness and wickedness of their own hearts; he will teach them to humble themselves, and to seek to be cleansed in the Fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.
Verses 21-28 The dark corners of the country, the most remote, shall share Christ's influences; afterwards the ends of the earth shall see his salvation. The distress and trouble of her family brought a woman to Christ; and though it is need that drives us to Christ, yet we shall not therefore be driven from him. She did not limit Christ to any particular instance of mercy, but mercy, mercy, is what she begged for: she pleads not merit, but depends upon mercy. It is the duty of parents to pray for their children, and to be earnest in prayer for them, especially for their souls. Have you a son, a daughter, grievously vexed with a proud devil, an unclean devil, a malicious devil, led captive by him at his will? this is a case more deplorable than that of bodily possession, and you must bring them by faith and prayer to Christ, who alone is able to heal them. Many methods of Christ's providence, especially of his grace, in dealing with his people, which are dark and perplexing, may be explained by this story, which teaches that there may be love in Christ's heart while there are frowns in his face; and it encourages us, though he seems ready to slay us, yet to trust in him. Those whom Christ intends most to honour, he humbles to feel their own unworthiness. A proud, unhumbled heart would not have borne this; but she turned it into an argument to support her request. The state of this woman is an emblem of the state of a sinner, deeply conscious of the misery of his soul. The least of Christ is precious to a believer, even the very crumbs of the Bread of life. Of all graces, faith honours Christ most; therefore of all graces Christ honours faith most. He cured her daughter. He spake, and it was done. From hence let such as seek help from the Lord, and receive no gracious answer, learn to turn even their unworthiness and discouragements into pleas for mercy.
Verses 29-39 Whatever our case is, the only way to find ease and relief, is to lay it at Christ's feet, to submit it to him, and refer it to his disposal. Those who would have spiritual healing from Christ, must be ruled as he pleases. See what work sin has made; what various diseases human bodies are subject to. Here were such diseases as fancy could neither guess the cause nor the cure of, yet these were subject to the command of Christ. The spiritual cures that Christ works are wonderful. When blind souls are made to see by faith, the dumb to speak in prayer, the maimed and the lame to walk in holy obedience, it is to be wondered at. His power was also shown to the multitude, in the plentiful provision he made for them: the manner is much the same as before. All did eat, and were filled. Those whom Christ feeds, he fills. With Christ there is bread enough, and to spare; supplies of grace for more than seek it, and for those that seek for more. Christ sent away the people. Though he had fed them twice, they must not look for miracles to find their daily bread. Let them go home to their callings and their own tables. Lord, increase our faith, and pardon our unbelief, teaching us to live upon thy fulness and bounty, for all things pertaining to this life, and that which is to come.
Matthew 15:1-20 . DISCOURSE ON CEREMONIAL POLLUTION. ( = mark 7:1 mark 7:23 ).
The time of this section was after that Passover which was nigh at hand when our Lord fed the five thousand ( John 6:4 )--the third Passover, as we take it, since His public ministry began, but which He did not keep at Jerusalem for the reason mentioned in John 7:1 .
1. Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem--or "from Jerusalem." Mark ( Mark 7:1 ) says they "came from" it: a deputation probably sent from the capital expressly to watch Him. As He had not come to them at the last Passover, which they had reckoned on, they now come to Him. "And," says Mark ( mark 7:2 mark 7:3 ), "when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen hands"--hands not ceremonially cleansed by washing--"they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft"--literally, "in" or "with the fist"; that is, probably washing the one hand by the use of the other--though some understand it, with our version, in the sense of "diligently," "sedulously"--"eat not, holding the tradition of the elders"; acting religiously according to the custom handed down to them. "And when they come from the market" ( Mark 7:4 )--"And after market": after any common business, or attending a court of justice, where the Jews, as WEBSTER and WILKINSON remark, after their subjection to the Romans, were especially exposed to intercourse and contact with heathens--"except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups and pots, brazen vessels and tables"--rather, "couches," such as were used at meals, which probably were merely sprinkled for ceremonial purposes. "Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him,"
2. Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
3. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?--The charge is retorted with startling power: "The tradition they transgress is but man's, and is itself the occasion of heavy transgression, undermining the authority of God's law."
4. For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother--( Deuteronomy 5:16 ).
and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death--( Exodus 21:17 ).
5. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift--or simply, "A gift!" In Mark ( Mark 7:11 ), it is, "Corban!" that is, "An oblation!" meaning, any unbloody offering or gift dedicated to sacred uses.
by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
6. And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free--that is, It is true, father--mother--that by giving to thee this, which I now present, thou mightest be profited by me; but I have gifted it to pious uses, and therefore, at whatever cost to thee, I am not now at liberty to alienate any portion of it. "And," it is added in Mark ( Mark 7:12 ), "ye suffer him no more to do aught for his father or his mother." To dedicate property to God is indeed lawful and laudable, but not at the expense of filial duty.
Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect--cancelled or nullified it "by your tradition."
7. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying--( Isaiah 29:13 ).
8. This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, &c.--By putting the commandments of men on a level with the divine requirements, their whole worship was rendered vain--a principle of deep moment in the service of God. "For," it is added in Mark 7:8 , "laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups; and many other such like things ye do." The drivelling nature of their multitudinous observances is here pointedly exposed, in contrast with the manly observance of "the commandment of God"; and when our Lord says, "Many other such like things ye do," it is implied that He had but given a specimen of the hideous treatment which the divine law received, and the grasping disposition which, under the mask of piety, was manifested by the ecclesiastics of that day.
10. And he called the multitude, and said unto them--The foregoing dialogue, though in the people's hearing, was between Jesus and the pharisaic cavillers, whose object was to disparage Him with the people. But Jesus, having put them down, turns to the multitude, who at this time were prepared to drink in everything He said, and with admirable plainness, strength, and brevity, lays down the great principle of real pollution, by which a world of bondage and uneasiness of conscience would be dissipated in a moment, and the sense of sin be reserved for deviations from the holy and eternal law of God.
Hear and understand:
11. Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man--This is expressed even more emphatically in Mark ( mark 7:15 mark 7:16 ), and it is there added, "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear." As in Matthew 13:9 , this so oft-repeated saying seems designed to call attention to the fundamental and universal character of the truth it refers to.
12. Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?--They had given vent to their irritation, and perhaps threats, not to our Lord Himself, from whom they seem to have slunk away, but to some of the disciples, who report it to their Master.
13. But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up--They are offended, are they? Heed it not: their corrupt teaching is already doomed: the garden of the Lord upon earth, too long cumbered with their presence, shall yet be purged of them and their accursed system: yea, and whatsoever is not of the planting of My heavenly Father, the great Husbandman ( John 15:1 ), shall share the same fate.
14. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch--Striking expression of the ruinous effects of erroneous teaching!
15. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable--"when He was entered into the house from the people," says Mark ( Mark 7:17 ).
16. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?--Slowness of spiritual apprehension in His genuine disciples grieves the Saviour: from others He expects no better ( Matthew 13:11 ).
17, 18. Do not ye yet understand that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth, &c.--Familiar though these sayings have now become, what freedom from bondage to outward things do they proclaim, on the one hand; and on the other, how searching is the truth which they express--that nothing which enters from without can really defile us; and that only the evil that is in the heart, that is allowed to stir there, to rise up in thought and affection, and to flow forth in voluntary action, really defiles a man!
19. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts--"evil reasonings"; referring here more immediately to those corrupt reasonings which had stealthily introduced and gradually reared up that hideous fabric of tradition which at length practically nullified the unchangeable principles of the moral law. But the statement is far broader than this; namely that the first shape which the evil that is in the heart takes, when it begins actively to stir, is that of "considerations" or "reasonings" on certain suggested actions.
murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies--detractions, whether directed against God or man; here the reference seems to be to the latter. Mark ( Mark 7:22 ) adds, "covetousnesses"--or desires after more; "wickednesses"--here meaning, perhaps, malignities of various forms; "deceit, lasciviousness"--meaning, excess or enormity of any kind, though by later writers restricted to lewdness; "an evil eye"--meaning, all looks or glances of envy, jealousy, or ill will towards a neighbor; "pride, foolishness"--in the Old Testament sense of "folly"; that is, criminal senselessness, the folly of the heart. How appalling is this black catalogue!
20. These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man--Thus does our Lord sum up this whole searching discourse.
Matthew 15:21-28 . THE WOMAN OF CANAAN AND HER DAUGHTER.
For the exposition,
23. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after
24. But he answered and said, I am not sent but to the lost sheep of
25. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help
Matthew 15:29-39 . MIRACLES OF HEALING--FOUR THOUSAND MIRACULOUSLY FED.
For the exposition,