Matthew 15: Traditions and Miracles

For the text of Matthew 15, click here

The entire first half of this chapter focuses on the concept of where traditions come from and prioritizing them. Do we pay more attention to the traditions our foreparents created or the ones brought to us from God?

Yeah, it’s that first one. It’s not generally well received for people to put the traditions of God above social expectations, which is pretty much what Jesus is being called out on here by the Pharisees, and what most of us deal with most often in our daily lives. Give in to the expectations of our fellow man and have a better day or do what God wants us to do and have a little harder of a life but have a better afterlife? We always seem to choose that first one. But for Jesus, it was a hard no.

It’s also about washing hands, which is still a good idea because germs, but I imagine that wasn’t a huge issue for Jesus himself or any of His followers as they could be quickly healed. The Pharisees weren’t exactly mad because of the germs anyway. They were pissed because they were beholden to ritual purity and all the traditions that went with it but that weren’t exactly a demand from God. So, what is the demand from God mentioned here? Honoring your mother and father.

Not really sure how the one related to the other except Jesus having an ax to grind with them about it. They are both traditions, but I would have thought He’d go with one that had to do it with it, like some other form of ritual cleaning, but no. It seems the overall point was that ritual cleaning in general was not as important as the Ten Commandments which was the root of the Law in the first place.

The further explanation is that it is not abiding by the Ten Commandments defiles you more than anything that goes in your stomach makes this point clear. It may also be wear Christians get the idea that we aren’t beholden to the laws about not eating things like shrimp or pork. It’s not so much about what goes in your body as what comes out it. Hence, personal holiness over ritual purity. Be the person God asked you to be.

Like the Pharisees, it seems that we as Americans also get into the weeds too often about who is supposed to behave how and throwing it at people more than being concerned with our personal holiness. Follow the Ten Commandments.

Anyway, there is also the mention of a prophecy from Isaiah thrown into the discussion, which comes from 29:13. In the same translation it’s worded a little different, probably because of different levels of translation between what Jesus learned it as and what we would translate it as in English now.

Here’s the original:

13And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,

Here’s the way Jesus says it in the chapter:

8“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
9in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

There’s a bit of a difference in the feeling of it, plus the context. Well sort of. The context in Isaiah is that God is again to use people like this to make a point and turn the potter into the clay. As in making the Pharisees, who feel the need to put their views on everyone all the time, into the people getting taught a thing or two. It’s after this that the rest of it about what does or does not defile a person gets into.

I’m also gonna take a minute to talk about this in terms of rape because it’s interesting that what defiles you are things that come out of you. The victim is not the defiled one according to this. The rapist has defiled themselves because of what comes out of their heart in carrying out an act such as this. Everything that happens to the victim passes through them like food. It’s not perfect, but it’s what I thought about as I was reading it. It’s not about what’s done to you, but what you put into the world from your own heart. I know this point is made a lot throughout Scripture before this, but the way it’s so well summarized here really made me think about it in more contexts later.

After this there is a series of miracles, beginning with a Canaanite woman who is begging for Jesus to heal her daughter. Up to now, it’s seemed that Jesus would just heal anyone who asked and showed faith, but Jesus initially refuses this woman, why?

I figured it was a bit of a teaching moment with the disciples. Wisdom came from the woman herself and being able to make the reference with Jesus to that dogs eat scraps and she’s willing to take the scraps of salvation over what she had. She was humble when so many of the Israelites were not. She also had great faith that He would heal even her if she asked hard enough. Initially, the disciples wanted Jesus to “send her away” because she wouldn’t relent but He used to show that it paid off to persist and insist that things can be done for her too, that she’d take what she could get. Just because Jesus was sent for Israel, doesn’t mean He couldn’t have mercy on others too.

There’s also another food miracle, this time four thousand families and seven loaves that end with seven baskets of leftovers.

For downloadable study guides, click here.

Chapter links go to the ESV translations at but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.

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