Jesus speaks boldly. Some are offended. Some are not. Let’s discover what happened when a woman chose not to be offended at Jesus’ words, in Matthew 15:10-28.
When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of 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?” (Matthew 15:10-12 NKJV)
How easily are we offended? Pharisees constantly sniped at Jesus, but were offended when Jesus suggested that our words can defile us. Are we too offended when the Word of God is preached? Do we prefer pastors who will, “Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits”? (Isaiah 30:10 NKJV)
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. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” (Matthew 15:13-14 NKJV)
A plant cultivated by human hands, is symbolic of human doctrines and vain traditions planted in our minds. Like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they may look desirable but they are not good for us, nor supported by the Word of God. They will be uprooted.
Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.” So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? (Matthew 15:15-17 NKJV)
Though clean foods and practices may have prevented some unhealthy effects, they did not make people’s hearts clean or unclean. The Pharisees’ hand washing ritual was a rule added to those laws. Jesus' disciples were criticized for ignoring the man-made ritual. But, it did not clean up an unclean heart.
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, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” (Matthew 15:18-20 NKJV)
Is occasional provocative bluntness wrong? Can outward man-made traditions distract us from what’s really important in our hearts? One of the weaknesses of the King James Bible is watering down some language due to English cultural prejudice towards polite speech. Tough love occasionally requires speaking in a blunt, offensive manner.
Jesus was without sin, so if He offends us, do we need to examine ourselves? Is tact the appropriate course in EVERY situation? In some situations commands must be given clearly, sharply and followed quickly. When someone is about to drive over a cliff, is saying "Pardon me" really appropriate?
Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 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.” But He answered her not a word. (Matthew 15:21-23 NKJV)
Why did Jesus fall silent? Was it to test her faith? Was it to compassionately consider a request outside His ministry’s purpose? Do we sometimes cry out in prayer and God does not answer? Does waiting purify and perfect our faith? Does waiting make God’s ultimate answer even more treasured?
And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” (Matthew 15:23-26 NKJV)
The woman begged none of the saintly Apostles to intercede for her. She asked Jesus. Was His uncharacteristic bluntness a test of her faith and persistence? Jesus relented when He saw faith. Faith is what matters, not nationality or denomination. Abraham was the father of the faithful. Faith transcends lineage.
And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 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. (Matthew 15:20-28 NKJV)
Unlike many moderns, she was not offended, but boldly kept asking. Her faith was bigger than any offense. Jesus was elated to see her great faith and healed her daughter. Could such a glowing compliment coming on the heels of such a potential offense be the core of this lesson?
Are we ashamed of our past? The Gentile woman was from a culture known for ritual prostitution and sacrifice of newborn children. Israelites called them dogs. Shame often makes it difficult to pray to God for His mercy. However, God’s grace covers shame. God welcomes all who come in faith.
The disciples came from a people with a long history of knowledge of God but little faith. The Canaanite woman came to Jesus with nothing, but strong faith. Perhaps like Paul we should count our pasts as dung (Philippians 3:7-8) and come to Jesus with nothing to brag about.
Bigotry defines some people as unwashed, unclean, unwanted based upon physical characteristics like skin shade, nationality, income, religious tradition and so on. Yet, Jesus shows what is most important. Are our hearts clean and filled with faith?
New King James Version (NKJV) Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Genesis 45:1-15 After 13 years in Egypt, 10 of those in prison, Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers. How long have we waited upon God in difficult circumstances?
Psalm 133 Unity in diversity is a big topic today, but what are the limits to this? Should unity include heresy?
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 Though all nations have failed God, His plan of salvation has not changed. Now through Gentile believers He brings salvation to the Jews.
Matthew 15:10-28 in Rhyme
Eating doesn’t defile a man
But what he says certainly can
This offended the Pharisees
Planted by men, torn out with ease
Let them be; the blind lead the blind
Both fall in a ditch, bear in mind
The words we say come from the heart
The place where evil thoughts depart
These are things which defile a man
Not eating with an unwashed hand
Later a Gentile woman came
My daughter’s sick she did explain
Jesus answered her not a word
Send her off, the disciples slurred
Jesus said, Israel’s my mission
“Lord, help me!” was her submission
He said, “Children’s bread’s not for pups.”
She said, “A dog from the crumbs sups.”
Jesus said, “O your faith is great!”
Her daughter was healed on that date