Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Matthew 15

April 17th, 2011 by Vic

April 17, 2011

Matthew 15

“Jesus’ Gentile ministry”


Last Sunday I tried to recall an article I read in Vision magazine.  I did not have my facts right.  The National Academy of Sciences Journal in London released the report on January 24, 2011.  It said, “Children who have low levels of self-control at three are more likely to have health and money problems and a criminal record by the age of 32, regardless of background and IQ.  Impulsiveness and relative inability to think about the long-term gave them more problems with finances, including savings, owning a home and credit card debt.”


In the same magazine there was an article on Alfred Adler, a psychiatrist contemporary with Sigmund Freud.  He said, “In order to know how a man thinks, we have to examine his relationship to his fellowmen.  The most fundamental and undeniable principle of mental health is that each individual must develop an interest in the welfare of others.  The only individuals who can really meet and master the problems of life are those who show in their life a tendency to enrich everyone else.”  That was written about 100 years ago.


Last week in 14:14 we read that Jesus had compassion on the people.  He taught the disciples to love their neighbor.  He had a heart-felt wrenching concern for those in need.  Now again today we read in 15:32 that Jesus had compassion on the people.  He shows us that real living requires a compassion for people.  He does not show compassion by building a new soccer stadium.  He does not show compassion by providing 3 meals a day.  He does not give them a sermon on how He is planning to die for them.  The crowds and the disciples have trouble understanding Jesus because their expectations attach the wrong meanings to the miracles.

Last week Jesus fed over 10,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish.  The Jewish leaders saw the growing crowds and assumed a revolution was coming.  Their positions of power were threatened.  They had to do something about this very popular Teacher and Healer who did not graduate from their seminary.  They would try to discredit Him.



We all are bound in traditions that we don’t think about and are probably not aware of.  The traditions of the elders had become more important to them than the Scriptures.  The teachers were reading the commentaries and scholarly books instead of reading the Word of God.  These big wigs from Jerusalem had walked over 80 miles to discredit Jesus and defend their beliefs about God’s requirements and how you should act in a worship service.


They no longer accused Jesus of faking the miracles.  He had done so many that they were undeniable.  So they criticized Him for allowing his disciples to eat without washing their hands.  What they meant by washing hands is different than what we mean when we tell our kids to wash their hands before they come to the table.  There is no OT command that tells you to wash your hands before eating an ordinary meal.


In the books of Moses, God had told the priests to practice ritual washing.  They had to wash their hands and feet before they could eat the clean sacrifices that had been given to the Lord.  If they were unclean, God would zap them with fire when they touched any thing that was holy and clean.


Most things were created common.  Some creatures and things were declared unclean by their very nature.  The common could be given to the Lord and it becomes holy.  The common could be touched by the unclean and become unclean.  It is interesting to study the words ‘holy, common, and unclean.’


Over the years it became tradition that all godly people should practice ritual hand washing before eating.  The ritual specified the amount of water to be used, the position of the hands, and the sequence of the washing and drying.


The disciples were not keeping the tradition of the elders.  Jesus replied with a question, “Why don’t you keep the commandment of God?”



The commandment of God was written down.  The traditions of the elders were oral teachings until the Mishnah was written.


We have oral traditions.  We say bow your head, fold your hands and close your eyes to pray.  The Bible says lift up your eyes to heaven.  Watch and pray.  Our tradition is not bad unless you are driving or walking.  Children and some adults should fold their hands in prayer.  I remember when we were kids here we tried to sneak a hymn book under someone during prayer—not just flat, but open and standing on end.


We were taught that smoking was a sin which was not written down.  We forgot to mention gossip, selfishness, and pride are sins written down in God’s word.


Some churches require suit and tie.  God looks at the heart.  Some churches worship music.  The NT suggests singing should be done when you are in prison.  The Bible emphasizes teaching rather than music.  The Bible does tell us to keep the traditions that have been passed down, but not when they nullify the commandments of God.  Some things have been handed down that are good for us.


God said, “Honor your father and your mother.  If you curse them, you should be struck dead.”  To honor means to look after, care for and to support.  But you Pharisees say you can’t use what you have given to God to help your parents.  The Bible did not tell you that.


Isaiah prophesied that you Jews would honor God with your mouth, but follow the teachings of man.  Jesus is saying their mouth and their actions were contradictory.  They were worshiping, but in vain.  They were teaching, but the wrong things.



The crowd was giving these respected leaders a lot of room to question Jesus.  Most Jews were intimidated by these pompous authorities.  Jesus invites the people to come in a little closer so they could hear and understand.  Stop and think about your tradition.  Eating common food is for your physical health.  It does not make you spiritually unclean.  Your words declare and determine your spiritual health because they come from your heart.


Jesus is not saying it is OK to eat pork, vultures, and foods that have been declared unclean.  That would be disobedience.  He is simply restating the prophet.  To obey is better than rituals.


The disciples held the Pharisees in high regard.  Maybe they thought that Jesus should appease them a little.  Maybe they did not understand why they were so offended and ticked off.  Maybe they did not understand why they would get so angry over a simple discussion of eating food.


Jesus answers with a plant theme.  The Pharisees are like plants that God did not plant.  The enemy planted their seed.  Seed produces fruit after its own kind.  Their fruit does not reflect the nature and heart of God.  At harvest time there will be separation.  In the beginning satan questioned God’s word, which is His seed.  Jesus was the seed that would bruise satan’s heel.  What fruit are you eating?  Whose fruit are you eating?  Are you feeding on the fruit of the enemy or the Word/seed of God?


Leave the spiritually blind who are leading the blind.  The Jews had the Law of Moses and advertized themselves as ‘guides of the blind’.  They can’t be healed unless they choose to believe in Jesus.  The blind cannot be healed unless they admit they are blind and then ask for healing.


Peter asks for more explanation.  Jesus is amazed that Peter is not satisfied with the obvious.


Jesus gives further explanation.  What goes in the mouth is common physical food.  What comes out of the mouth comes from the heart and indicates spiritual condition.  Words are a thermostat and a thermometer.  Uncleanness in the heart includes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, pornography, theft, lies and slander.  These attitudes defile our thoughts so unclean words come out of our mouth.  Then we are unqualified to worship God.  For Jesus the issue was not the ritual, but the nature of the heart.  He came to give us a heart transplant.  He came to forgive us of our sins and give us a clean heart.



Jesus withdraws 50 miles out of Galilee.  A Canaanite woman came to Him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me.”  Jesus was getting away from Jewish religious authorities and he wanted to teach His disciples.  Then a foreign woman comes to Him sounding like a Jew.  She had no right to call Him the Son of David.  As a Canaanite she would not have known what that phrase really meant.  But she had heard of Jesus.  She had questioned a lot of people.  Her daughter was demon possessed and she had heard that Jesus could heal her.  She collected all the formulas people had told her would work for healing.   She chose these words to say.  But these magic words were not working for her.  Jesus ignores her magic words.  He is not interested in our magic words and formulas either.


She used the right tone of voice.  She used the right words.  But nothing happened.  Jesus did not answer.  The disciples were so bothered by the racket she made they came and asked Jesus to send her away or heal her daughter so she would go away.  They were trying to get rid of her.  She was being a nuisance.  She was a woman.  She was a Gentile.  She was a Canaanite.  Surely Jesus would not want to waste time on her.  But Jesus is trying to teach her.


Jesus saw the hand of God in all this.  He was in Gentile country.  He had an opportunity to help an ancestor of the Jews’ most ancient enemies.  But did she really understand who He was?


Jesus answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  His immediate mission was to the Jews.  He was born a Jew and His ministry was to the Jews.  Now this foreign sheep has come to Him for help.


The silence was broken.  The woman came and knelt before Him and calls Him Lord.  “Lord, help me.”  Everything was going wrong, but she does not give up.


Jesus replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their puppy.”  The woman knew that the Jews called the Gentiles “Dogs!”  She picked up on Jesus changing the word from ‘scavenger dog’ to ‘household dog’.


She persists, but this time it is not a rehearsed petition.  She addresses Him as Lord, admitted that she was not a Jew, and expressed a faith that just a crumb would satisfy her request.  She does not ask for a whole loaf.  She does not argue that she is an exception because she is asking for her daughter.  She expresses her faith in the mercy of God.  Her persistence pays off.


Are we persistent in our faith?  Have we become mechanical and lost our passion?  Have we become content with formulas?  Do we give up when God is silent?  When He comes will He find faith in us?



Mark tells us that Jesus went to the eastern side of the Lake of Galilee in the Decapolis.  So He was still in Gentile country.  This was the area were Herod had his winter palace and where John the Baptist was killed.  Herod heard about Him before, but now there were great crowds coming to Jesus.


This summary of His miracles includes the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others.  There was a multitude of miracles and no one ever questioned the validity of the healings.  He healed them all and the people praised God.  Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  That is what Jesus is demonstrating.  He turns all glory to God.


He is on His way to Jerusalem, but taking the long way around.  He is probably in Gentile country for several months.  The disciples are in training away from home and critics.


Jesus again had compassion on the multitude, even this Gentile multitude.  That is also how He looks at us.  It had been a 3 day seminar.  But the disciples had not mentioned food.  Jesus brought up the subject.  The disciples were intimidated by Jesus’ suggestion that they feed the people.  The disciples remembered that Jesus had fed the Jewish multitude of 5,000.  But would He provide that great a miracle for Gentiles?


Seven is a symbolic number for the Gentiles and the Church.  Twelve was symbolic for the Jews and the 12 disciples.  The 12 baskets were narrow-necked, flask-shaped baskets in which the Jews carried kosher food on trips so they would not have to eat at Gentile café’s.  The 7 baskets were more like a hamper used to carry fish and all kinds of produce.


The number 7 symbolizes perfection and fullness.  Jesus satisfies the needs of the Gentiles.


When Jesus finished His ministry to Israel, He fed the 5,000.  When He finished His ministry to the Gentiles He fed the 4,000.  When He finished His ministry in Jerusalem He fed His disciples.  When He finished His ministry on the cross He invited the disciples to Come and eat breakfast (John 21:12).  Next Sunday we celebrate the breakfast by the Sea.  Take time this week to remember His compassion.  He’s watching you with compassion.  He paid a great price that you might have life abundantly.



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