Matthew 15:16 – “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.” NIV
This question comes after the Pharisees criticism to Jesus about the disciples lack of hand washing, and His retort about them being more concerned about keeping man-made rules than the commandments of God. Jesus then proceeds to address the gathering crowd and says: “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’” (Matthew 15:11 – NIV)
The disciples then informed Jesus that He was offending the Pharisees to which He replied: “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:13-14 – NIV) It is at this point that the disciples ask for an explanation of this parable from Jesus, and He comes back with the above question.
He does go back and explain His comments to the disciples, but His question seems to indicate that He expects some growth and discernment from them. He is expecting them to do more than just follow Him around and ask questions. This is part of the process of transforming from a disciple (follower) to an apostle (sent one / emissary). We often call the “disciples,” but Jesus chose them to be “apostles” (see Mark 3:13-15). He expected spiritual growth and increased discernment as they accompanied Him. He sent them out two by two in order for them to learn how to minister to others.
His question to them was a way of prodding them to begin using what they had learned from Him and would later be enhanced by the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives. He basically then told them that the Pharisees were more concerned about outward appearances than inward motivations, and that people who followed that line of thinking would eventually be led off track.
Some questions to ponder for those of us who are not only following Jesus but growing to join Jesus in His mission are: Am I more concerned about what others think than what God thinks? Am I more concerned about outward appearances than my inward motivation? What thoughts do I harbor that I need to confess and discuss with the Lord, so that I may be more like Him? In what areas of my life is Jesus asking, “Are you still so dull?” because He is expecting growth in that area?