You Catching This? (Matthew 15:1-2)

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In our culture, it is considered appropriate to wash your hands prior to eating. Everyone knows that you pick up a multitude of microbes everytime you touch an unclean surface, and that those microbes can and will be subsequently transferred to your food (or anything else you touch) if your hands are not cleaned. Hand washing before eating was also the tradition of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. 

But Jesus didn’t always practice that. Matthew notes that “Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”” 

While handwashing was a tradition (according to those who came to meet Jesus), it was not Scriptural. The Scripture only spoke about hand washing in regard to uncleanness in Leviticus 15. In that case, the hand washing was prescribed for someone who was unclean through bodily discharge, and who spread their uncleanness via touching others prior to washing. Of course, Jesus knew that, because He knew the Scripture forward and backwards. So He would be able to quickly discern that this wasn’t really an argument about what was clean and what was unclean. This – along with the fact that the people accusing Him were from Jerusalem – meant that this was a much larger argument. 

As one commentator noted, “For some time, Jesus had attracted a following from regions far and near, including Jerusalem. But this was the first time Matthew specifically recorded a confrontation between Jesus and any of the religious leaders from Jerusalem—the spiritual capital of Israel and the authoritative center of Judaism. It is possible that some of the religious leaders in previous encounters had been from Jerusalem, but this was the first time Matthew made specific mention of them and where they were from. Many of Jesus’ previous conflicts had probably been with local synagogue leaders in the various cities he had visited. His notoriety and the Pharisees’ frustration with him had grown to the point that Jesus’ opponents were now calling in the “big guns.”

Those “big guns” had chosen to begin their confrontation with Jesus on a very small issue. Perhaps they wanted to demonstrate that Jesus was off in the small things regarding the law, so should not be trusted with the bigger things of the law either. But while your average Rabbi might fall into such a trap, Jesus is not your average Rabbi.  Jesus not only knows the Scripture, He knows how to listen to the Father, and regularly spent time in dialogue with Him via prayer. Recall His own witness of this in John 12, “I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.” 

Jesus’ practice of knowing the Word and speaking to the Father meant that He would not fall into a trap of debating minor traditions when God’s glory is at stake. 

Knowing the Word and a habit of prayer are key to keeping our life purpose on track too! 

[The Lord] is telling us that if we want to be taught and led by God, we must get into the habit of looking to him regularly.

James Montgomery Boice

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Only you, your journal and the Lord truly know where your primary “go-to resource” actually is when find yourself in a pinch.   

A Reminder (Matthew 14:35-36)

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What God says, God means. So God repeats something in Scripture, it means that it is of   highly significant importance. Rev. Dr. David Chotka once wrote, “…to the Hebrew mind, anything said once by God was a “fact,” though it could be altered. For example, Isaiah the prophet was told by God to warn King Hezekiah that he should set his house in order, for his death was about to happen. Hezekiah prayed, asking for a longer life. God spared him and he was given fifteen more years (see 2 Kings 20:1-7). Here a “fact” uttered by God was issued as a word of warning. Here prayer moved the heart of God and God changed the “fact.” Anything repeated twice was underscored in an urgent way; this would be an established fact that could not be altered, as when Pharaoh had two dreams and Joseph the patriarch interpreted the message for him. Joseph indicated that something repeated twice meant that God was at work and the matter would occur speedily (see Genesis 41:32). Anything said three times was so profound that it was impossible to underscore it any further.

This in mind, consider that at the end of Matthew 14, the writer notes, “People brought all their sick to him [Christ] and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.” The scene is reminiscent of the women who had been subject to bleeding, who thought, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Sure enough, she was healed. 

But it was not just Jesus’ cloak that healed. It was Jesus who brought healing. Even from the beginning of His ministry we learned, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” In Matthew 8 we read of how He healed the centurion’s servant, and later, “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” Just before the feeding of the five thousand, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Again, one can recall the man with the shriveled hand and the demon-possessed man who was both blind and mute.

Over and over again we are told that Jesus healed. These things are not just written as historical narrative. They are written that we might know that Jesus is our healer. These things are repeated that we might know that this is an unalterable fact: Jesus heals

Matthew’s readers surely know that by now. Neveretheless, it is good to be reminded of that fact from time to time. As William Barclay said, “The most tremendous thing about Jesus was that he taught men and women what God was like by showing them what God was like. He did not tell them that God cared; he showed them that God cared. There is little use in preaching the love of God in words without showing the love of God in action.”

That’s not just good advice for us to take into our souls. It is good advice for us to actually act on.

We must do the thing God has called us to do, and do it in his power and for his glory.

Warren Wiersbe

APPLICATION: Intentionality

What is the Lord reminding you about?