- Sermon Notes
The Heart of the Matter
Illus. You should know.
In Matthew 15, we see a delegation of Pharisees and Scribes come to Jesus in order to find fault in Him and His ministry. These particular Pharisees and
Scribes were from Jerusalem, about 70 miles away from Galilee where He was presently. You see, as Jesus’ popularity was growing with the people, His
reputation with the religious elite was slowing. In fact, it had come to a screeching halt. And these Pharisees had come to find question or pause
against His cause.
With their eyes on the alert, they soon found something; His disciples had not washed their hands according to the tradition of the elders prior to eating bread. It was then that they pursued their plan to accuse Him regarding unwashed hands, but Jesus quickly turns their attention away from the hands of man, and toward their heart, which was truly the heart of the matter.
Read: Matthew 15:1-11
These Pharisees and Scribes in Matthew 15 were from Jerusalem, which was the location of the Temple and the most respected schools of Judaism. They were the “heavyweights” of their day. They were familiar with Jesus’ teaching and ministry and came to Him in order to prove Him an offender against their tradition.
People were beginning to follow Him, some true followers, some simply curious and others, like these Pharisees and Scribes, were furious. Regardless of their reason, whether the former or the latter, Jesus’ aim was to get to their heart in the matter. The Pharisees and Scribes had centered their lives on traditions, and here Jesus gives a pointed admonition.
The core issue in these verses centered on why a person does the things they do? What and who are we to live according to?
These were the questions of their day and our day is not much different. Your heart matters and so too in your life and in the questions you face, Jesus wants to get to the heart of the matter and show you His heart in the matter. So often our way can get in His way, remaining firm in our traditions and positions. But what do you do when your ways and traditions are challenged by God’s Word.
I. Check the Conditions Surrounding Your Traditions
Matthew 15:2, Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
- While Jesus had maintained the Law of God, followed it perfectly and lived a sinless life, He did not follow all of the Jewish traditions which were not in Scripture.
- The Jewish leaders at that time, however, were guided by the “tradition of the elders.”
- This tradition was most often held in a higher regard that the Word of God itself.
- Although the Jews rightly taught that Lord had given the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, they also said that the Lord gave further revelation to Moses that was not written down.
- Oral and unwritten traditions were then passed down from generation to generation until they were all compiled into the Mishna.
- Added to that was then a Rabbinic commentary, that elaborated and analyzed of the Mishnah. This was called the Gemara and ultimately the two were put together into what is called the Talmud.
- The Jews became so caught up in it all, that the traditions actually became more important than the Word of God.
- The Mishna itself highlights just how much weight was to be given to tradition, “It is a greater offense to teach anything contrary to the voice of the Rabbis, than to contradict Scripture itself.”
- Other ancient writings reveal the heart behind it all, “The words of the scribes are lovely beyond the words of the law: for the words of the law are weighty and light, but the words of the scribes are all weighty.” (Clarke)
Luke 11:46, And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry.
Matthew 11:28-29, Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and by burden is light.
- The Talmud was made up of 22 volumes of 563 books, and there are 65 pages that addressed the issue of washing hands.
- The washing the Pharisees are referring to here had nothing to do with physical hygiene, but was a ceremonial washing (Mark 7:3).
- This is the ceremonial washing Jesus and His disciples were not adhering to or enforcing, because it was not biblical.
- There was nothing in the Word of God that required this. It was another burden they were heaping on people and not God’s heart, but something done to appease man and their traditions.
- Jesus was aware of their traditions, but the conditions surrounding those traditions were manmade, not God given and Jesus was getting to the heart of the matter.
Matthew 15:3, Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?
- Jesus here begins to highlight a truth that should be highlighted, underlined, and circled in the life of a believer in Christ…If tradition is contrary to God’s Word, then it’s the tradition that is faulty, not God’s Word.
- It’s here that Jesus begins to open their eyes to the importance of kicking the tires and checking the conditions of their traditions.
Illus. Like new, excellent, good, fair, poor.
- Before you buy, sell, or trade, it is important to check the conditions, you may be buying a burden, and this is what the Pharisees were fully invested and investing in.
- Later, Jesus would call the Pharisees and Scribes, “blind guides of the blind. (Vs. 14) But Jesus was coming and illuminating the cracks, the holes, the broken pieces and He wasn’t about to put it all back together.
Matthew 5:20, For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
- Ultimately, they were being led to believe that they were unclean, outside of the will of God if they did not follow the rules and rituals to a “T,” but Jesus wasn’t going to sign up or agree to their terms and conditions.
2 Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.
- Be undivided in your dedication
- He began addressing the issue by first quoting to them the fifth commandment.
Exodus 20:12, Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
- This commandment to honor your mother and father is inclusive of speaking respectfully, showing care and consideration.
- The Scribes and Pharisees knew the ten commandments well and could recite them easily from memory.
- Yet, they had found a way to completely sidestep this command with their tradition.
- Specifically, that if you had something in your possession of great value (money or property), you could declare it as “corban,” which means “dedicated.”
- Once an item was declared “corban,” the item was a dedicated gift to God.
- The item, however, could remain in the person’s possession indefinitely and they could continue using the item but, it could not be transferred to anyone else.
- Certain people would even use this vow to keep from paying out debts.
- And others, would use this as a way to appear righteous, while refusing to help those in need, even their mother and father.
- The commandment of God was to honor their mother and father, yet, they found a loophole.“It’s all corban! I wish I could help…But I can’t…Everything I have is corban”
Illus. Sorry I wish I could help.
- They were holding onto their tradition, giving the impression that in declaring “corban” they were drawing near to God, but in truth, they were getting lost in their own ways.
Illus. It’s not there.
- There are good traditions, and bad traditions, but we can’t let those things become inhibitions that are divisive and destructive to our devotion.
- They started with a good thing, devotion to God, and in their “devotion” they began merely going through the motions, declaring thing a set apart, but only really playing the part.
- They were looking at what others would or would not do, but Jesus had come to do something new.
And in your life, He does not want you to get stuck, rather He wants to…
- Start on your heart
Matthew 15:7-9, You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. ‘But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
- Jesus said the heart of the matter was their heart in the matter.
- They were saying all the right things, but those things didn’t mean a thing because their lips were moving, but their hearts were far removed from Him.
- Jesus says that Isaiah was prophesying about them in Isaiah 29:13.
- Their worship was in vain, worshipping based on appearances, not from the heart. They sang songs, spoke about Him…But their hearts were far from Him.
- So too, when we claim to honor God while our hearts are far from Him, our worship is in vain.
- It can’t simply be about the way things appear, rather our actions and attitudes must be sincere.
- How easy it might be for Isaiah’s words to also apply to you and to me.
Proverbs 4:23, Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
- Would you let Him start on your heart?
- In verse 12 the disciples came and said to Jesus, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard that statement?"
- And they certainly were, but they needed to be offended.
- Sometimes the only way we change is when God gets our attention and leads us to the mystery of His will in our lives as He reveals His kind intention and the hope we have in Him (Eph. 1:9).
- Jesus then said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be rooted up."
- Notice that phrase, "Rooted up.”
Illus - If you just take off the top, they never stop.
- That means that He needs to change our heart for we are transformed from the inside out.
- Some say, "I'll come to the Lord as soon as I get my act together."
- But clearly Jesus doesn’t want actors, He wants to get to the heart.
Ezekiel 36:26, "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."
Romans 12:2, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man."