Matthew 15

The Tradition of the Elders

1 Then Pharisees and scribes came from Jerusalem to Jesus and asked,
2 "Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they don't wash their hands when they eat!"[a]
3 He answered them, "And why do you break God's commandment because of your tradition?
4 For God said: [b] Honor your father and your mother; [c] and, The one who speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death. [d]
5 But you say, 'Whoever tells his father or mother, "Whatever benefit you might have received from me is a gift [committed to the temple]"-
6 he does not have to honor his father.' [e] In this way, you have revoked God's word [f] because of your tradition.
7 Hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied correctly about you when he said:
8 These people [g] honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.
9 They worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men. " [h]

Defilement Is from Within

10 Summoning the crowd, He told them, "Listen and understand:
11 It's not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man."
12 Then the disciples came up and told Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard this statement?"
13 He replied, "Every plant that My heavenly Father didn't plant will be uprooted.
14 Leave them alone! They are blind guides. [i] And if the blind guide the blind, both will fall into a pit."
15 Then Peter replied to Him, "Explain this parable to us."
16 "Are even you still lacking in understanding?" He[j] asked.
17 "Don't you realize [k] that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is eliminated? [l]
18 But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man.
19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies.
20 These are the things that defile a man, but eating with unwashed hands does not defile a man."

A Gentile Mother's Faith

21 When Jesus left there, He withdrew to the area of Tyre and Sidon.
22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came and kept crying out,[m] "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is cruelly tormented by a demon."
23 Yet He did not say a word to her. So His disciples approached Him and urged Him, "Send her away because she cries out after us."[n]
24 He replied, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
25 But she came, knelt before Him, and said, "Lord, help me!"
26 He answered, "It isn't right to take the children's bread and throw it to their dogs."
27 "Yes, Lord," she said, "yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table!"
28 Then Jesus replied to her, "Woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want." And from that moment[o] her daughter was cured.

Healing Many People

29 Moving on from there, Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee. He went up on a mountain and sat there,
30 and large crowds came to Him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, those unable to speak, and many others. They put them at His feet, and He healed them.
31 So the crowd was amazed when they saw those unable to speak talking, the deformed restored, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they gave glory to the God of Israel.

Feeding 4,000

32 Now Jesus summoned His disciples and said, "I have compassion on the crowd, because they've already stayed with Me three days and have nothing to eat. I don't want to send them away hungry; otherwise they might collapse on the way."
33 The disciples said to Him, "Where could we get enough bread in this desolate place to fill such a crowd?"
34 "How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked them. "Seven," they said, "and a few small fish."
35 After commanding the crowd to sit down on the ground,
36 He took the seven loaves and the fish, and He gave thanks, broke them, and kept on giving them to the disciples, and the disciples [gave them] to the crowds.
37 They all ate and were filled. Then they collected the leftover pieces-seven large baskets full.
38 Now those who ate were 4,000 men, besides women and children.
39 After dismissing the crowds, He got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.[p]

Matthew 15 Commentary

Chapter 15

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.

Footnotes 16

  • [a]. Lit eat bread eat a meal
  • [b]. Other mss read commanded, saying
  • [c]. Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16
  • [d]. Ex 21:17; Lv 20:9
  • [e]. Other mss read then he does not have to honor his father or mother
  • [f]. Other mss read commandment
  • [g]. Other mss add draws near to Me with their mouths, and
  • [h]. Isaiah 29:13 LXX
  • [i]. Other mss add for the blind
  • [j]. Other mss read Jesus
  • [k]. Other mss add yet
  • [l]. Lit and goes out into the toilet
  • [m]. Other mss read and cried out to Him
  • [n]. Lit she is yelling behind us or after us
  • [o]. Lit hour
  • [p]. Other mss read Magdala

Matthew 15 Commentaries