of the great consistencies of the New Testament accounts is the way in which
Christ dealt with the Pharisees. With the exception of a small number
(Nicodemus comes to mind), He turned on them the ferocity of His wrath. He
called them hypocrites, and for a religious person (especially one who has
dedicated his life to service) it is a mind cracking insult. Perhaps it was
intended to be such.
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
(Mat 15:1-6 NASB)
value of tradition
is fashionable to deride tradition these days. I submit to the contrary,
however, the thoughts of the orthodox Jews. They begin their prayers with the
phrase, “Our God, and the God of our fathers.” The tradition is explained this
way: if He is not your God – meaning that you have truly believed – then you
have nothing but an empty tradition. If He is not the God of your fathers,
then you can be deceived by “every wind of doctrine” that comes along.
Tradition is the vote of those who don’t happen to be walking the planet at the
church has traditions, too. One of the most prominent traditions we have is to
proclaim ourselves to be a non-traditional church. Tradition, we are told, is
for those who simply are holding on to the past, and nothing more. Are we
traditional? Well, we use Welch’s grape juice instead of wine. All the other
churches in the restoration movement do likewise, and have done since the rise
of the “temperance” movement. It is a tradition, and none dare look into it.
I submit, is of great value. It preserves you from the error of the moment by
pointing you to the solutions of the past. But tradition must be kept in its
place. It exists in the church to instruct you in what those in the past
considered wise. The danger comes when your tradition stands before the word
please, that the Pharisees in this passage are not the locals from Galilee. They’re from headquarters in Jerusalem. The man’s fame has spread, so the
religious leaders come down to the sticks so that they might put this man in
His place. They come with the highest authority in Judaism – and so it is that
the blame on them is so much greater. The higher the responsibility, the
greater the fall.
that their opening salvo is in the form of tradition. They have no basis in
the Law of Moses to accuse Him, so tradition will have to do. They were
expecting to hear what they would have said: some clever reply from some
clever rabbi. The intent (as of this time) is not his death, but rather
somehow to co-opt Him into “the system.”
is a characteristic of God. The pious, learned hypocrite understands things
only after they are clear to the humble. What you understand depends upon how
you listen. If you’re listening to make an argument, you will not hear what He
your father and mother
Old Testament provides ample instruction in how you are to treat your parents:
with great honor. This seems just; after all, they put up with you through how
many difficult years? Indeed, even to speak evil of your parents was cause for
the death penalty.
The straightforward mind would view this as a command.
the Pharisees had found a way out of this. The process was to solemnly
dedicate to God whatever was necessary to keep your parents warm and fed. This
put the parents in a difficult situation:
They could ask the
child, now grown, for support – and be reviled for their unholy demand. It
would be sacrilegious, in their view.
Or they could
starve to death.
real reason, of course, is money. So it is they made the house of prayer into
a den of thieves.
"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."
(Mat 15:7-11 NASB)
is a present example which shows you just how easy it is to slip into pious
hypocrisy. Consider the humble offering envelope. In some churches your
giving is posted on the wall; which tends to tempt the wealthy into hypocrisy
(“I’m no sinner; look how much I give”). In ours, by contrast, we have blue
offering envelopes. I am told that the numbering system used is an aid to
those in the office who count the offering, and with this one could not
quibble. It would be poor stewardship to avoid the tax deductions available
because of the gift. But the envelope system is as open to hypocrisy as the
list on the wall – and at much less expense.
in the offering plate is rather limited in these days of checks and credit
cards. It was greater in the days of gold coin, I suspect. But showmanship is
not the chief tool of the hypocrite. Rules and regulations are. Don’t eat
this; don’t go there; don’t touch that. If you wish to lead people astray from
Christ, the method most common is that. (Did you know that Mormons are
forbidden to drink hot liquids, including coffee?)
see the point. Hard work is used as man’s replacement for God’s grace. So it
is that the hypocrite seems to be a hard worker – it’s just that the work
doesn’t produce the results God promises.
right to accuse
is a maxim of Anglo-Saxon justice: the accuser must have clean hands. (Pun
intended). So it is that Christ here does not bother to defend his disciples;
rather, he assaults the Pharisees. See how this is done: the argument comes
from the Old Testament (hence, Moses and Isaiah are their accusers) – and goes
against their tradition, not the Law.
is a consistent problem. If we’re not adding to the Scriptures, we’re taking
away. Need a couple of examples?
our congregation, the phrase that “the body is the Temple of the Holy
Spirit” is now used to justify commanding the believer to eat organic
foods and join a health club. No mention of prostitution
or sex – that’s cultural, and no longer applies.
additions, I would point you to the number of classes (well attended) that
our church runs whose main subject is not Christ, nor the Scriptures, but
modern pop psychology.
may think I’m being hard on my home church. I would be if there were not
plenty of evidence that the church in America is well down the trail of
addition and subtraction.
is a sense of blasphemy about it; but that you may judge for yourselves. How
often today does the church act as an extension of the Republican party? Do
not take His name in vain.
note: Jesus calls the crowd to Himself. He wants to make it clear to the
average man of the time that this is important. He then tells them that
uncleanness (of great importance in the ceremonial part of the Law) was not a
matter of what you ate but what you thought. He does so in plain text – no
code required. It’s not a parable. But it is simple and radical – like so
many great ideas.
the disciples *came and *said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were
offended when they heard this statement?" But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant
shall be uprooted. "Let them alone; they
are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will
fall into a pit." Peter said to Him, "Explain the parable to
us." Jesus said, "Are you still lacking in
understanding also? "Do you not understand
that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is
eliminated? "But the things that proceed
out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders,
adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. "These are the things which defile the man; but to eat
with unwashed hands does not defile the man."
(Mat 15:12-20 NASB)
Pharisees were offended
thinks there’s something wrong here. The Pharisees, after all, have been
portrayed to him as truly religious figures who are to be treated with
reverence. So it is not unexpected that he points out the offense to Christ.
The word he uses for “offended” is the root word from which we get our word
“scandalize.” In short, Peter is trying to smooth things over a bit.
our Lord is the Stone of Stumbling, the Rock of Offense. It is in the very nature
of things that righteousness should appear offensive to hypocrisy. Hypocrisy
itself often makes heavy use of “good manners.” It is undoubtedly a case of
poor manners to accuse someone of being a hypocrite, especially to his face.
just as you would want your doctor to level with you about what your disease is
and what that might mean, it is no favor to the hypocrites to allow them to
continue as such, uncontested. Surgery is just a friendly attack with a knife.
seems, at first, that Jesus makes no effort to reform the Pharisees. But in
fact He is doing just that. By clubbing them over the head with their sin, He
hopes that they will see the light. It is not a very effective technique,
evidently. But that is hardly our Lord’s fault.
wants an explanation
– a man whose automobile would have a big engine and no steering wheel – wants
Christ to explain “the parable.” Jesus tells him that he has missed the point
to make the matter clear, He tells them that if something is not from God it
will, eventually, be uprooted and destroyed. (Contemporary America might just be a good example). Note, please, that this does not necessarily imply
that God’s plants never get ripped up; we can certainly destroy what He has
what does Christ do in this instance? He chews them out – and lets them
alone. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to state your case, then sit down and shut
up. We’re responsible for the planting; the growing is God’s business.
a tough time for the disciples. They’re Jewish; those dietary laws are sacred
to them. It will be some time before Peter sees the sheet let down from
of the heart
reader will please note that ‘the heart” at this time would be considered the
seat of a man’s will – not his emotions. If you wanted to refer to emotions in
this time, you would reference a person’s liver. So Christ is not talking
about some passionate mistake; rather, He’s talking about the cold-hearted will
of one who deceives others with his attempt at imitating the real Christian.
need not worry about it; it takes a while, but eventually the fruit of a man’s
life is shown. It takes a little while for the heart of a man to be seen – but
the hypocrites heart will eventually give rise to the words to match.
is one last thought with which I leave you. It is the hypocrite’s reward:
"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not
prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name
perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you;
DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'
(Mat 7:22-23 NASB)