Saturday, August 15

Rules and Worship

 When reading scripture, it is important to know the context in which the verses take place. What we learn in verses 10-28 flow from the Pharisees complaining to Jesus about the disciples breaking of the “tradition of the elders” v2. In answer, Jesus shows them their own ‘law-breaking’ in order to further their greed.

Connected stories

From here Jesus address the people who have gathered to hear Him. These two stories—what defiles a person and the healing of the Gentile’s daughter are connected.

Those of Israel, the Pharisee, and everyday Jews had been raised on the logic that “ceremony=rightness with God”. Keep the Sabbath and its rules and God blesses you. Bring the proper sacrifice at the right time and God accepts you, forgives your sin, etc. Do ritual washing and don’t touch non-Kosher food and you will stay healthy.

“But” Jesus does here what he did earlier in the Sermon on the Mount. There Christ said, “You have heard… BUT I say”. He doesn’t offer an expansion on the practice, Jesus advocate something “radically new” (Morris 395). To become defiled isn’t a casual brushing up against something that is unclean. “It is something that affects the person at the root of his or her being. (Morris 395).”

The people expected the Pharisees to understand and make sense of God’s law. Their purpose was to help the people interpret what it looked like to be part of God’s chosen people. Jesus points out to the people and the Pharisees that they had missed the point on clean and unclean. Uncleanliness doesn’t reside in not fulfilling a rule. Uncleanliness resides in what comes forth from the heart. Paul explained this in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.

The Pharisees had clung to their traditions so tight that when they are confronted with the Kingdom of God—Jesus they miss Him. But they go beyond self-deception and “have misled the people with their traditions, so Jesus gives due warning to the crowd (Wilkins 536)."

For those in the crowd hearing Jesus, this was an earth-shattering reality. The rules by which they had kept themselves ‘clean’ had been overturned by Jesus.

The woman is connected to these Pharisees by what she wasn’t. She is not part of God’s people she’s a Gentile. She’s female, heathen, enemy of Israel, and interrupting our time with Jesus. The disciples complain “she is crying out after us (v. 23) but she’s calling to Jesus. How like the disciples to make it about them when they aren’t even been addressed.

The same Jesus is present for the crowd, including the Pharisees, and this woman. Those who should have recognized Messiah didn’t. It’s a Gentile woman yelling out, “O Lord, Son of David”. She calls Him Messiah. She recognizes His status and knows He can help her.

Differing Fates

The difference between the crowd and their spiritual leaders and this woman is their faith and their fate. The Pharisees armed with their rules have no notion who Jesus is. This woman comes in with an exposed, faith in, and belief of God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus tells his disciples that the Pharisees weren’t part of God’s planting. They would be uprooted and destroyed. Leon Morris writes,

Jesus makes clear his contempt for the teachers who so confidently claimed to know the ways of God, but who had not been “planted” by the God to whom they so brazenly appealed. So far from being reliable expositors of the kingdom of God, the Pharisees were not even in the kingdom (Morris 396)."

What’s more, Jesus then tells the disciples to pay them no mind. They are like blind men leading a line of blind people toward a pit. And the proof is seen in the words that the Pharisees spew forth.

It’s Peter who asks on behalf of the disciples for clarification. We know this because Jesus says, “you all” in His response, “Are you also still without understanding?” v. 16. Jesus explains the hypocrisy of the Pharisees “to their own inner impurity…lead the people astray because they can’t see the truth of God’s will (Wilkins 537).”

I wish I were able to see the dialogue between this Canaanite woman and Jesus. I’d love to have seen the look on their faces, the body language, and inflection as they spoke.

The only thing he says, and it appears to be to the disciples is “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” v. 24. Then this Gentile woman knees before Jesus and speak with a Jewish Rabbi. I don’t know how to describe how unheard of this would have been in the ancient world.

Women didn’t approach men in the streets. Men and women didn’t talk to one another in public unless they were married. And a Jew, a Rabbi nonetheless, doesn’t engage a Gentile. The Jewish morning blessing, Birkot Hashachar included “Blessed are you God, Sovereign of the universe who did not make me a Gentile” and another that “God did not make me a woman” (Axelrod).” Yet, here is Jesus speaking to both in public.

She kneels before Jesus undeservedly. She has not earned the right to be heard. She has not kept the law perfectly. She is a simple woman with a simple request she simply seeks mercy for her terribly demonized daughter.

Jesus tells her we don’t give food meant for our children to the guard dogs. To which she counters, yes but the dogs that sleep with the family are free to eat even small scraps that fall from the table. Have you seen the Bounty ad where the dog is thinking “Yessss!” as the dropped food slides toward the table? I love Jesus’ answer. “O woman, great is your faith” (v.28).

He hadn’t found this faith among the Pharisees or those blindly caught up in following the rules in an attempt to be reconciled. He finds in among the pagan who knew her need. John Hamm who starred on Mad Men did a stint in rehab and when interviewed about it said, “. It’s not a weak move to say, ‘I need help.’ In the long run, it’s way better because you have to fix it (Bagley).”

 Application

I believe the truth in this passage is extremely important for us. Like the Pharisees and the religious crowd who looked to them for truth it becomes easy to become performance-driven. This happens when we measure the spiritual faithfulness by some outward measure. It can be simply whether the person goes to church. It can revolve around the way they talk in public. It used to be based on how a person dressed on Sunday morning.

Pharisees put the emphasis on keeping the law and they had good reason because they believed that the exile into Babylon was caused by the people not keeping the law. In the centuries since it had become something less.

As we follow Jesus today, in the midst of a world gone crazy, who do we listen to in order to hear what is true, critical, right, pure, and of God? You and I are tempted to let Facebook and YouTube define the way we live rather than looking into God’s Word. We are tempted to let our view of legislation and politicians influence what we pronounce as ‘good’ rather than listen to Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

As we continue toward a hotly contested election and the current pandemic It is more important than ever to humbly submit ourselves to the Lordship of Christ.  Anything other than Christ (as revealed in Gods' Written Word) is a blind guide.

 

Works Cited

Axelrod (Cantor), Matt. "Birkot Hashachar: Giving Thanks Each Morning | My Jewish Learning." My Jewish Learning. Web. 15 Aug. 2020.

Bagley, Christopher. "Jon Hamm On Life After Mad Men and Why Being Single "Sucks"." InStyle. 2017. Web. 14 Aug. 2020.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.

Wilkins, Michael J. Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2004. Print. The NIV Application Commentary.

Works Consulted

Axelrod (Cantor), Matt. "Birkot Hashachar: Giving Thanks Each Morning | My Jewish Learning." My Jewish Learning. Web. 15 Aug. 2020.

Bagley, Christopher. "Jon Hamm On Life After Mad Men and Why Being Single "Sucks"." InStyle. 2017. Web. 14 Aug. 2020.

Bonnard, Pierre. L’Evangile Selon Saint Matthieu, 2nd ed. (Neuch√Ętel, 1970) p.229

Bornkamm, G., Barth, G., and Held, H. J. Tradition and Interpretation in Matthew (London, 1963)

Bullock, Ian. "Why Are We Offended? - Sermon for Proper 15 - Year A." Sermon Central. 2020. Web. 13 Aug. 2020.

Hagner, Donald A. Matthew 14–28. Vol. 33B. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1995. Print. Word Biblical Commentary.

Liddell, H.G. A lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English lexicon 1996 : n. pag. Print.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.

Newman, Barclay M., Jr. A Concise Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament. 1993 Print.

Robinson, Haddon. "To Illustrate." Leadership Journal 1983: n. pag. Print.

Smillie, “‘Even the Dogs’: Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew,” 73–97

Snyder, Benjamin J. “Clean and Unclean.” Ed. Douglas Mangum et al. Lexham Theological Wordbook 2014 : Print. Lexham Bible Reference Series.

Wilkins, Michael J. Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2004. Print. The NIV Application Commentary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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