Matthew 15:1-3 – Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” NIV
The Pharisees (rule makers and rule keepers) came to Jesus criticizing and questioning that His followers did not always wash their hands before they ate according to the tradition of the elders. Jesus backed them off with the above question, and then went on to ask then why they broke the 5th commandment by the way some of them treated and cared for their parents!
Now it wasn’t that washing one’s hands was a bad thing. In fact it’s a good health habit. These guys were most likely referring to a more ceremonial show of hand washing that displayed to others how much better they were than ordinary folk. In the process of following all “the rules of the elders,” they were neglecting even more basic commandments of God! Most likely their purpose was not to grow closer to God, but to come off better than others in the eyes of society.
How do Christ-followers today seem more concerned about man made rules than commandments of God? In what ways does society try to impose political correctness on Christ-followers and urge them to ignore the commands of God? Are there areas in my life where I am more concerned about following man-made rules, opinions, or laws, than I am about following what God has said? How can I correct this?
Micah 6:8 – He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. NIV
Matthew 14:29-31 – “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” NIV
It had been a great day of ministry for Jesus and His followers. It didn’t begin well because it started with them learning about the death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod the tetrarch because of a promise to his dancing step daughter. Jesus got into a boat and went off to a “solitary place,” but the crowds followed and Jesus ministered and taught them out of compassion. Before He sent them off, He told the disciples to give them something to eat. They produced what they could find from among the crowd…5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus took what they found, blessed it, and began breaking it up for them to distribute to a crowd of 5,000 men, not counting the women and children. When they were finished, He had them gather the leftovers which consisted of 12 basketfuls! They had more remaining after feeding all those people than when they began! Continue reading
Matthew 13:51 – “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
“Yes,” they replied. NIV
No one wants to look stupid! The temptation to answer “Yes” to Jesus’ question even if one doesn’t understand is great! Some of us have been led to believe the lie that asking questions means we’re stupid! It may show that we don’t totally grasp all the details of something or even that we’re clueless; but it doesn’t mean that we are stupid…just uninformed. The best way to be informed is to ask questions.
I began to learn this lesson in high school. I went to a fairly large high school in Scottsdale, Arizona with over 500 in our class. Over the years, I had several classes with Marilyn who would eventually be the class valedictorian. There would be times when our teachers would ask, “Do you understand?” Most of us would nod our heads or answer in the affirmative because we were just glad to finish the lesson. However, Marilyn usually raised her hand and asked a question. Sometimes I knew the answer and sometimes I did not. Marilyn had the courage to ask the questions that many of us were afraid to ask… because she wanted to learn whatever the subject was. Marilyn taught me that one who ask questions was not stupid but actually a learner. Continue reading
Matthew 12:48-50 – He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” NIV
Jesus had spent a long day arguing with the Pharisees and ministering to individuals and the crowd. Evidently, by this time he was inside a house with a crowd gathered both inside and out. His mother and brothers were standing outside the house wanting to talk with Him. Someone informed Him of that fact to which He replied with the above question.
I believe that Jesus’ point in the question clarified by the statements that follow indicate that membership in the family of God is not defined by our physical birth but by our spiritual birth. He meant no disrespect to his physical mother and brothers; but He wanted the crowd to realize that the Family of God or the Kingdom of God is not defined by our physical birth but by our decision to follow Jesus … just as those first disciples had done. They had chosen to follow Jesus and were in the process of learning to discern and do His will.
Some things to consider: When it comes to relating to Jesus, am I relying on my birth family’s history or my personal history with Jesus? What will help me deepen my relationship? How can I invite others (using words and/or deeds) to enter into that relationship?
Matthew 12:25-30 – Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house. 30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” NIV
Some of the best counsel that I ever received in a counseling situation was, “You can’t make rational sense out of the irrational.” I would get angry because people weren’t making logical sense to me. I had not yet learned that not everyone’s thinking is on the rational axis. If someone is disagreeing with you emotionally and not logically, your logic will have little effect!
Jesus had just angered the Pharisees by healing on the Sabbath. Now He was healing a demon possessed man! Their emotions would not let them admit that this was a miracle from God. So they had to come up with something other than the obvious answer, and their explanation was that Jesus was casting out demons empowered by Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Continue reading
Matthew 12:11-12 – He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” NIV
Following Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees about whether it was lawful for his disciples to pick and eat a few heads of grain on the way to the synagogue, they enter the synagogue and are immediately confronted by a man with a “withered hand.” It doesn’t indicate why the hand was withered. That’s not the topic of the debate. The question that the Pharisees immediately pose to Jesus hoping to catch him doing something wrong is: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” To which Jesus answers their question with a question, and then follows with the declaration: “Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
The question intimated that if the Pharisees had an animal or their property in peril, they would take steps to save it… even on the Sabbath. They don’t seem to argue with his logic because they would probably take steps to save a valuable animal … even on the Sabbath. Jesus then declared that humans are much more valuable than animals, and if you would help an animal, then it is certainly lawful to help a human in need. Continue reading
Matthew 12:3-8 – He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread — which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” NIV
Here we have one of the times that the Pharisees were looking for Jesus and His disciples to break their Sabbath rules. Certainly, #4 of the Ten Commandments is Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Exodus 20:8). However, the Pharisees had written a bunch of Sabbath rules that in their opinions defined what that meant. Jesus and His disciples had just walked through a grain field, and some of his disciples had grabbed a few heads of ripe grain and were munching on the kernels of grain as they walked. From the Pharisees point of view, they were working…harvesting and threshing. Continue reading