1. Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying,

2. “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

This was not a mere health ordinance, but a ceremony that every Israelite was expected to follow. This was one of the baptism ceremonies of the Pharisees that they had introduced as a religious tradition for men to follow. There were various baptisms in the religion God had given the Jews, but this was not one of them. I myself am a dedicated hand washer. The problem is not with the act, but with the fact that it is made to be a religious rite when God never decreed it.

3. But He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?
4. “For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and you mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’
5. “But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatsoever profit you might have received from me has been dedicated to the temple”–
6. “’is released from honoring his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.

These wicked men loved prestige, loved power, loved authority, but most of all loved money. It seems that no wicked doctrine was beneath these Pharisees when it came to keeping their purse strings closed. And because they had total, dominant power over the people of God, they could get away with whatever they wanted. That is, until the true Shepherd of the people came along!

It seems that these wicked men had nullified God’s commandment for children to care for their parents by claiming that all of their money was dedicated to God and thus couldn’t be used for caring for their parents! I wonder what other selfish things they found which their money COULD be used for? What a disgrace! And Christ is bold to point it out to them.

7. “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
8. “‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
9. “’And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

Our Lord rebukes these hypocrites using the Scriptures. This quotation is from Isaiah 29:13. Almost every church out there today does the same thing that these Pharisees did…they preach as doctrines the commandments of men. For those who truly love God it is necessary for us to be very, very careful. The last people whom we can trust in this regard are our own religious leaders. Every one of us needs to search the Scriptures to find what it is that God really teaches!

10. Then He called the multitude and said to them, “Hear and understand:
11. “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”

The Lord Jesus finishes up His teaching on washing hands here. In God’s sight, it is not the dirt on our hands that defiles us, but the dirt that comes out of our mouths that defiles us.

I cannot help but think of an application of this. I think of all the poor young ladies who have been raped or abused by wicked men. Well it would be if they could learn that it is what comes from their hearts that really counts, not what some wicked person might have done to them. I remember a message a pastor I know gave after a girl in his church had committed suicide. Apparently she had been raped on a date. If I remember rightly, her parents discovered it when they questioned her about the fact that she was showering several times a day. She felt that she was dirty…defiled. If only she could have come to the realization that it is what proceeds from the heart, not what comes into the body from the outside, that truly determines a person’s defilement or a person’s purity.

12. Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”

Sometimes it staggers me that the disciples could be so stupid! “Lord, do you realize that the Pharisees were OFFENDED when you said this?” And I think, what did you think they would be? Why couldn’t they get it through their heads that THE LORD KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING?!! Yet we cannot condemn the disciples too harshly in this, for truly we often treat the words of our Lord in the same way. We seem to think that we know better what He should have said or how He should have said it. Arrogant men that we are! We must ask God to purge our hearts of such foolish pride.

13. But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.
14. “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”

The Lord doesn’t want His disciples to worry about what the Pharisees think. They thought themselves pretty special, but on God’s list they were pretty low! Blind leading the blind…this is too often the way it is in our churches and in our religious or scholarly institutions of today. Just last week I was talking to a professor in the classics department at the University of Minnesota who was telling me that the book of Daniel was really written about 200 years after Daniel lived and so forth. How small our own intelligence is next to that of God! Let us ever remain humble.

15. Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.”
16. So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding?
17. “Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated?
18. “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.
19. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
20. “These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

The disciples thought Jesus had told a parable when He had really been speaking plainly! Perhaps they were too worried about the Pharisees being offended to really listen to what He was telling them. Or perhaps they were hoping that there was some spiritual meaning to this that they hadn’t grasped, and the Lord wasn’t really insulting the Pharisees after all. But He reiterates and makes even clearer what He had already taught. Often we too are distracted into missing the point of what the Lord is saying. Let us use care not to let this happen!

21. Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
22. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”

This negates the idea common today that Jesus always answers our prayers. I don’t believe that this is right at all! You know, there are some questions which people might ask me which I just plain wouldn’t answer. The reason would often be that I don’t think that there is an answer. For instance, one time some of my friends were talking about baptism, and one of them asked me this: if John the Baptist baptized Jesus, then who baptized John the Baptist? I did not give them an answer, and the reason is because I believe that they do not understand baptism correctly, and therefore they have asked a question that has no meaning. If they had knowledge of what baptism really is, they would not ask such a question because it would no longer be necessary or even make any sense.

But why does Jesus refuse to answer this woman’s prayer? Some say it was because she was a Gentile, and as such had no right to call Him the “Son of David.” I do believe that addressing God with respect is important, and we should use care as to what title we should use when we address Him. However, although I believe that this woman did indeed address Christ wrongly, I do not believe that Christ is like some snobbish king who wouldn’t deign to answer this woman for not addressing Him correctly! The reason I believe He did not answer her is because she had no right to ask what she was asking. She was not an Israelite, and no blessing of healing had been promised to Gentiles at this time. The reason any Israelite who asked for healing had faith is because healing had been promised to him from the hand of the Messiah. No such promise was made to the Gentiles. Thus, this woman had no faith when she asked the Lord for this. She might have believed that He could heal her daughter, but belief without a word from God is not truly faith!

23. But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”

Although Christ was willing to just ignore her, His disciples just plain got sick of her, and came to the Lord asking Him to just give her what she wanted so she would go away!

24. But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

The Lord Jesus explains why He couldn’t help this woman. I wish people would let some of the lessons of this passage sink in. Christ’s earthly ministry had only to do with the house of Israel! I’ve heard many people say that they wish that they had lived in the time of Christ and could have seen Him. And I’ve thought to myself that, since they are Gentiles, it is most likely that, if they had seen Christ, that He would have ignored them completely! We need to understand the blessing in the truth that, in spite of the fact that we are Gentiles, we are blessed on an equal footing with Israel (Ephesians 3:6). This is the wonderful truth of the mystery, and something we should not take for granted. Yet this was still a previous dispensation, and Gentiles still had no claim on the Lord.

25. Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”

She heard what He said in the previous verse. Yet she is desperate, knowing that no one else can help her, so she throws all pride to the wind and falls down desperately at His feet, pleading for help.

26. But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

I don’t know why the Lord chose to answer her at this point. Perhaps His disciples’ request on her behalf had something to do with it. At any rate, He spoke to her. What He said was not too encouraging. He basically called her a dog! And though he called her the word for “little dogs” (which were the only dogs allowed into Jewish households, because of their cuteness, perhaps,) the Jews still considered dogs as disgusting, unclean creatures, and this word was in no way a compliment. “Man’s best friend” was not a concept they had of dogs…rather they looked on them as mangy scavengers.

I wonder how many of the proud churchgoers of our day would turn their backs on God in a huff if He dared to call them a dog in this way? But that statement of Christ’s gave this woman something that she had not had before…a word from God! And we know that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) Now this woman has heard a word from God, and so she can demonstrate faith in it. I have often heard preachers talk about all the wonderful things God supposedly calls us…the Church the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the saints… I wonder how many of us would listen as willingly if our preachers told us that God thinks of us as dogs? It would seem that, although this woman was given a chance for faith, it would take more faith than most of us have for her to demonstrate it!

27. And she said, “True, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

Amazingly, this woman proves herself to have more faith than even God could expect her to have. She hears God tell her that she is a dog, and so she is willing to bark! O, that we could have that kind of faith!

28. Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

The Lord gives her faith high commendation indeed! And her faith earns her what she did not deserve in and of herself…and she receives the healing for her daughter. Yet we should not get confused here. Just because she received this healing does not mean that the door was suddenly thrown open for Gentiles to come for healing to Christ. The way the Lord treated this woman shows us most clearly what His position towards Gentiles was at this point. It was not until later when the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul made his momentous declaration in Acts 28:28 that the door was thrown wide for all nations to come to Christ equally.

29. And Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there.

This is not a great mountain, such as we would think of in the U.S. with our Rocky Mountains and so forth, but rather more what we would think of as a very large hill.

30. Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them those who were lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them.

The Lord healed ALL who came to Him, not a select few who “had enough faith.” For Christ, an Israelite who came to Him for healing had all the faith that was necessary!

31. So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

Notice that this passage does not just say that they glorified God, but rather that they glorified the God of Israel. It is as if God is reminding us again that these blessings were promised only to Israel.

32. Then Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”

The Lord has compassion on these people who have come to Him for healing and teaching. He likewise has compassion on all who turn to Him for help!

33. Then His disciples said to Him, “Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?”

The disciples this time do not manifest the same lack of faith as on the last occasion. Instead, they ask this rather leading question. Perhaps they were hoping that He would give them the same command that He had the last time so that they could feed the multitude as He had.

34. Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few little fish.”

Notice that the number of loaves is slightly larger than the last time.

35. And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.

If the disciples were truly hoping that the Lord would command them to feed the multitude so they could manifest faith this time and do it themselves, they are disappointed, for He does not give them a second chance in this case. He gives them no such command this time, but rather reserves the right to feed the multitude for Himself. It may be that they still did not have enough faith to believe that they could do whatever He commanded them! What a sad contrast with the Canaanite woman of a few verses before.

36. And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude.

The same formula is followed as the last time this miracle was performed.

37. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left.
38. Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.

The miracle is carried out and completed much like the other one we read about in Matthew 14:15-21. Similar miracles to this one will most likely be a common occurrence when large events take place in the Kingdom of God.

39. And He sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala.

It was time to move on, and so He did. The Lord had much to accomplish in a short time, and He accomplished it all.

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