Summary: Be concerned with the heart, not with rules of society. Don’t worry about things that really don’t matter
Matthew 15: 1- 2, 10 – 20 “Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus saying, ‘Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.’”
Then He called the multitude and said to them, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth, this defiles a man.” Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.”
Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind; both will fall into a ditch.” Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.” So Jesus said, “Are you also without understanding? Do you not yet understand whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man.”
When the Scripture this morning reads that the scribes and Pharisees came from Jerusalem to Jesus this was a big deal. It would be like Tom Daschle and a specially appointed committee was to come down and question the school teachers here in Parker. Jesus had created quite a stir and the Pharisees sent their best men in to question what He was doing.
The first thing they do is challenge His authority by asking Jesus why His disciples were breaking the traditional law. Jesus, the teacher, is being held responsible for their actions and He is being charged with causing people to break the law.
The law that Jesus was charged with breaking was about washing your hands before they eat. I know that most parents would say this is a law in their house. But in Jesus’ day what the Pharisees were referring to had to deal with the Old Testament when the priests washed their hands before offering sacrifices to God. They didn’t want dirty sacrifices. Now this law only covered the priests but buy the time the Pharisees gained influence in the Jewish culture it had become another one of the many laws they put on the people’s backs.
Jesus knew this. He knew that the Pharisees had become engrossed and obsessed with all of the petty laws and appearances. Jesus must have been laughing to himself when He saw this pompous official delegation of religious lawyers coming His way. All they had on Jesus was the fact that they didn’t wash their hands before eating. But to the Pharisees, this was a great sin. Not washing the hands before eating to them meant you would pollute yourself; you would make yourself dirty and rotten before God.
This morning we’re going to look at how Jesus responded to the people and disciples that heard the Pharisees try to correct Jesus. He gets their attention by saying, “Hear and understand.” Jesus is saying, “Listen up! This is why you don’t have to obey all of these petty rules and the people who try to keep you down.” Jesus tells them that what they put in their mouth isn’t what pollutes a person or makes them corrupt; it is what comes out of their mouth that will make them impure, defiled, rotten.
But the disciples (who were very familiar with the Pharisees and probably obeyed most of the rules as good Jews) reacted in fear with what Jesus had said. They didn’t even understand what He said any ways; they were just afraid of offending the Pharisees. They were afraid of what they would do to them. Jesus responds to them by telling them that the Pharisees aren’t even from God. They don’t represent His Father; they in fact are like weeds that need to be pulled up.
Jesus doesn’t stop here either. He tells the disciples what harmful effects they have on those who follow them, who pay attention to what they have to say. Jesus tells them they are, “blind leaders of the blind.” He tells them what happens when the blind lead the blind. They both fall into a ditch or literally, a pit which meant death in those days. What the tragic reality of this is is that Jesus is implying a spiritual death, the loss of your soul more than a physical death.
Think of cults and leaders you have heard of: Heaven’s Gate, Jim Jones and the cyanide Kool-Aid, David Koresh and Waco Texas. All of these were blind guides that required the most legalistic way of living and resulted not only in physical death but spiritual death as well. These modern day false-prophets and Pharisees literally led people to their deaths. And it is easy t o look at those examples and say, “They’re crazy. They’re insane. They were evil. Those people were weak and brainwashed.”