Summary: Jesus teaches us to focus on what is really important.

A Messiah Who Keeps Us Focused

Text: Matt. 15:1-20


1. Illustration: [Children have] a great need to know where behavioral boundaries are and who has the courage to enforce them. Years ago, during the early days of the progressive-education movement, an enthusiastic theorist decided to take down the chain-link fence that surrounded the nursery-school yard. He thought the children would feel more freedom of movement without that visible barrier surrounding them. When the fence was removed, however, the boys and girls huddled near the center of the play yard. Not only did they not wander away, they didn't even venture to the edge of the grounds. Clearly, there is a security for all of us in defined boundaries.

2. The same can be said for adults. When we narrow our focus we are less confused and able to hewn in on what's important.

3. Jesus teaches us to focus:

a. On the Word

b. On the Inside

c. On the Heart

4. Read Matt. 15:1-20

Proposition: Jesus teaches us to focus on what is really important.

Transition: The most important thing to do is...

I. Focus On the Word (1-9).

A. Commandments of God

1. When someone does the wonderful things that Jesus had been doing the word gets around. As a result, "Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus."

a. The ministry of Jesus has disturbed the local Pharisees, so they apparently send word to the highest level of their leadership in Jerusalem, who arrive in Galilee to confront Jesus about the practices of his disciples.

b. Jerusalem was the location of the Temple and of the most eminent schools of Judaism; and therefore this delegation doubtlessly carried a lot of weight.

c. And because these Pharisees and scribes had prestige and learning superior to that of their counterparts in Galilee, Jesus treated them with greater severity (MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Matthew 8-15).

2. They ask Jesus, “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? They ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.”

a. The primary point of contention is that Jesus does not recognize the binding authority of the oral law, here called the "age old tradition."

b. This phrase became a technical expression to refer to interpretations of Scripture made by past esteemed rabbis and passed on orally to later generations (Wilkins, NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: Matthew, 534).

c. It was known as the "oral law," and the Pharisees put it on equal ground with Scripture.

d. The religious elite insist that their way is right, even though it is based only on tradition.

e. Once again they object to a practice of Jesus' disciples, implying a deficiency in the training Jesus has supplied to them.

f. Hand washing was one such extra biblical tradition, perhaps originally adopted from foreign Jews, concerning which the Pharisees were especially meticulous (Keener).

3. As Jesus usually does, he gets right to the heart of the matter. He says, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?"

a. Jesus counters the Pharisees’ charge against his disciples by asking why they and teachers of the law transgress God’s command because of a commitment to their "tradition."

b. In this question he goes to the heart of the problem, which is the relationship of the developing oral law to the written law.

c. The tradition of the elders was not simply a preferred way of living, but it became equal in authority to the written law.

d. Jesus makes it clear to them that the Old Testament came from God, while their traditions are simply the pronouncements of human elders (Wilkins, 535).

4. Jesus uses a great example of how they ignore the Word because of their tradition. He says, "For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition."

a. The specific example concerns the way that the Pharisees’ tradition regarding vows made to God have actually caused them to violate the Old Testament’s directives about honoring parents.

b. God made it clear that the Israelites were to give unreserved honor to their parents: "For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ "

c. But the Pharisees’ commitment to human traditions regarding gifts given to God caused them to violate God’s law (Wilkins, 535).

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