Jesus, no fan of the visiting Jewish scholars
Jesus gives Pharisees what for1Some Pharisees and Jewish scholars called scribes came from Jerusalem to question Jesus. They said, 2“Why don’t your disciples follow the tradition of our ancestors and wash their hands before they eat bread?”
3Jesus answered, “Why do you ignore the laws God wrote, so you can obey the laws that you and your ancestors wrote? 4God said, ‘Respect your father and mother,’ and, ‘Whoever says something wicked about their father or mother should die.’
5“But you created a loophole for people, so they don’t have to respect their parents. You teach that people can get out of helping their parents by saying this: ‘Whatever I have that could have helped you out is no longer available. I’ve dedicated it to God.’ 6You had the nerve to create a law that overrules the word of God. You did it for the sake of your own laws.
7“You’re a bunch of hypocrites! Isaiah perfectly describes you in a prophecy when he said,
8‘When they open their mouth,
they show me respect.
But when they open their heart,
I’m not there.
9They worship me.
But there’s no point to it.
All they do is teach
the rules they wrote themselves.’” 10Jesus called together the crowd that had been watching. He said, “All of you, listen to me. I want you to understand what I’m about to say. 11Nothing that goes into your mouth will make you impure and unfit to worship God. It’s what comes out of your mouth that can make you impure.”
12The disciples pulled Jesus aside and said, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended by what you said?”
13Jesus said, “Every plant that my heavenly Father didn’t plant is going to get pulled up by the roots. 14Just leave them alone. They're nothing but blind guides. If blind people follow them, they’re all going to end up walking themselves right into a big hole in the ground.”
15Peter asked Jesus, “Would you explain that parable to us?”
16Jesus said, “You still don’t get it? 17Don’t you realize that everything that goes into the mouth and through the stomach ends up in the toilet? 18But whatever comes out of the mouth comes from the heart. And that’s what has the potential to make a person impure. 19It’s the heart that can generate evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sex sins, stealing, lying, and slander. 20That’s the kind of stuff that can make someone impure. Eating food with hands that haven’t been ritually cleansed in a handwashing ceremony—that’s not what makes someone impure.”
Jesus performs exorcism at a distance21Jesus left the area and traveled over to the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A local Canaanite woman who wasn’t a Jew came outside and started yelling, “Please help me, Lord, Son of David. My daughter is demon possessed, and it’s horrifying.”
23Jesus didn’t answer. Not a single word. So his disciples offered a suggestion. “Send her on her way. She keeps yelling at us.”
24Jesus answered them by saying, “I was sent for the lost sheep of Israel. They are why I’m here.”
25The woman came over and kneeled in front of Jesus and said, “Lord!”
26Jesus told the woman, “It’s not right to take the children’s food and toss it to the dogs.”
27“That’s true, Lord,” she said. “But even dogs get a few crumbs that fall off the table.”
28Jesus told the woman, “Dear woman, you have remarkable faith. What you want is going to be done for you.” Her daughter was healed that same hour.
Jesus on a healing spree29Jesus left the area and returned to the Sea of Galilee. When he got there, he went up on a hillside and sat down. 30A huge crowd of people emerged. Among them were people who were injured, blind, crippled, unable to speak, and who had many other physical problems. The people took their problems to Jesus and set them at his feet. He healed each one of those people.
31When the crowd saw mute people talking, crippled people walking, injured people healed, and blind people able to see, they were so absolutely amazed that they started celebrating the God of Israel.
Jesus feeds a crowd of 4,000 plus32Jesus called his disciples over and said, “Listen, I feel for these people. They’ve stayed with me for three days and now they’re out of food. I don’t want to send them away hungry because they might run out of energy along the way.”
33His disciples said, “Where are we going to get enough bread to feed so many people? We’re out in the middle of nowhere.”
34Jesus asked, “Well, how many loaves do you have?”
They said, “Seven. And we have a few little fish.”
35Jesus told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36He took the seven loaves of bread and fish and gave thanks for them. Then he broke them into small pieces and divided them among the disciples, who distributed them to the crowd.
37Everyone ate as much as they wanted. And when they picked up the leftovers, there were seven large baskets full. 38There were 4,000 men who ate that food. And that doesn’t even count the women and children who were there.
39Jesus sent the crowd on its way. Then he got into the boat and sailed off to the area of Magadan.
Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16
Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9
This loophole around the God-given obligation to help our parents was known as Corban, a word that can mean “an offering,” or “gift.” Bible experts say it’s unclear how this loophole was used in the time of Jesus. Some say that when a man declared his liquid assets as Corban, he was saying it was dedicated to God or the Jerusalem Temple. Others say Corban may have meant that the assets were simply not available for anyone else to use because they were on reserve, as if they were an offering to God. Whatever it meant, it wasn’t good for the parents.
Literally, defiled or made ritually unclean.
Mark’s version of the story identifies the location as Dalmanutha. Both sites are unknown. One popular guess is that Jesus went to the area of Magdala, hometown of Mary Magdalene, near the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. By boat, Magdala’s nearby port is about 5 miles (8 km) from Jesus’ ministry headquarters in Capernaum.
Some Pharisees and scribes complained that the disciples of Jesus were eating bread, but hadn’t bothered to perform the ritual handwashing that had become tradition (15:2). The Jewish leaders weren’t talking about washing to get the dirt off of the hands. They were talking about a religious ritual of purification. There’s nothing in the laws that Moses gave the Jews requiring people to do this. But over the years, a tradition developed out of purification rituals intended for Jewish priests (see footnote for 7:3). Why do you think a tradition like this developed?
Jesus accuses the Pharisees of creating a bypass around one of the Ten Commandments. When elderly parents need some “Honor your father and mother” help from their grown kids, the kids can say the magic word: Corban (see footnote for 15:5). Translation, “Whatever I have that could have helped you out is no longer available. I’ve dedicated it to God” (15:5). Just like that, the kids exit onto the bypass around God’s law. How do you think people reacted to this law?
Jesus blasted the laws that the Pharisees imposed around ritual purity. These laws required people to ritually wash their hands, food bought at the market, and kitchenware. Not to remove germs, but to make sure people didn’t put something mystically contaminated into their body, as though that would “make you impure, and unfit to worship God” (7:15). Jesus said that nothing we put in to our body would do that. Instead, he said, “It’s what comes out of people that can make them impure” (15:11). What do you think comes out of our mouth that makes us spiritually unfit?
Jesus took a road trip over to what is now Lebanon (15:21-28). Mark adds that he did it “hoping to get away from the crowds” (7:24). Mark often reports Jesus doing that (1:35; 6:31-32; 6:46; 14:32). Does it bother you that Jesus took time off like that? And do you think it bothers people in the church when ministers take time off?
If ever Jesus sounded like a sorry excuse for a human being, it was when he spoke to a non-Jewish woman in what is now Lebanon. She came to him asking him to perform an exorcism on her daughter. Jesus, seemingly bluntly, told her, “It’s not right to take the children’s food and toss it to the dogs” (15:26). Jesus was calling the Jews “children.” He was calling the Gentiles, and this woman in particular, “the dogs.” Would you care to build a defense for Jesus, because he certainly needs one, many would say?
Jesus returns to his hometown region of Galilee and goes on a healing spree. Crowds brought him folks who were crippled, mute, and blind. “He healed each of those people” (15:30). Why miraculously heal people then but not today?
The story of Jesus feeding a hungry crowd of 4,000 sounds déjà vu, very much like the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 (14:13-21). Many serious Bible experts call these stories doublets, not because there are two of them, but because one story got told two different ways. In both stories, Jesus is feeding a crowd with a few loaves of bread and a few fish. Most Christians have been taught to believe both stories are separate. How do you think it would affect your confidence in the Bible if they are not? What if Matthew (and Mark) compiled the stories from various sources and some of his sources got the body count wrong in one of the stories?
LIFE APPLICATION. Let’s not identify anyone by name. But could you describe a churchgoing person you know who fits the following quotation from the prophet Isaiah? What kinds of things did the person do to make you associate them with this quotation?
“When they open their mouth,
they show me respect.
But when they open their heart,
I’m not there.
They worship me.
But there’s no point to it.
All they do is teach,
the rules they wrote themselves” (15:8-9).
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus accuses the Pharisees of being more interested in teaching people about their rules and laws than they are about the laws of God: “You ignore the laws God wrote so you can obey the laws that you and your ancestors wrote” (15:3). Not calling anyone out by name, where have you seen this kind of thing happen in religious circles?
LIFE APPLICATION. What would you say are some examples of human-made laws that sometimes get emphasized in churches? And what are some of God’s laws that get ignored?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus got really tough on the religion leaders of his day: “You’re a bunch of hypocrites!” (15:7). Is it okay to call people hypocrites to their face?