Matthew 15:1-6 (The Pharisees Confront Jesus; Tradition verse Commandment)

Where would Jesus have been at this time when the Pharisees and Scribes came to him?  See the previous context of Mat 14:34 and Mar 6:56; cf. Joh 6:59 which took place around this same time.  From where had they come to see Him?  See Mat 15:1.  What does this indicate about how the news of Jesus was spreading and His perceived influence and popularity among the people?  Cf. Mat 14:1.  Although there were some among the Pharisees like Nicodemus who were secret followers of Jesus, what was their real interest in Jesus—a poor, itinerant preacher in rural Galilee far removed from the center of political power in Jerusalem?  See Mat 12:1-2,9-10,14,24, and think: What political pressures would the religious leaders have had from the Romans to maintain peace if they wanted to maintain their own positions of privilege with the Romans?  Cf. Joh 11:47-50, 12:42-43, and esp. Joh 7:1.  In what way was Jesus’ perceived influence among the people in danger of upsetting that peace?  Cf. Joh 6:14-15.  Was the peace they sought to maintain a true lasting peace or a temporal false peace?  Cf. Joh 14:27.  What does this teach us about the greater dangers of loving this world and engaging in political expedience as opposed to loving the truth and holding fast to it even if it causes us to suffer loss in this world?  In what ways are religious leaders of our own day in danger of falling into this same trap?  Recall that John the Baptist had only recently been put to death by Herod Antipas (Mat 14:10) for similar reasons of political expedience, and that he had likewise denounced the Pharisees (Mat 3:7); would they have expressed outward sorrow that he had been put to death?  Would they have been truly sorry that he had been silenced?  Why?  Cf. Mat 21:25-26.  Even though they were not directly involved in John’s death, in what ways did their love for the world make them complicit in it?  See Mat 23:29-35, Luk 11:47-52, Act 7:51-53.  Might religious leaders through the ages, including today, likewise be complicit in the death of God’s prophets?

About what issue did the Pharisees and scribes challenge Jesus?  See Mat 15:2.  In what way was this similar to their earlier confrontation with Him in Mat 12:1-24?  Think: was the Sabbath controversy they engaged Him in earlier about the Sabbath commandment itself, or about their understanding of how the Sabbath commandment was to be applied based on their tradition?  Cf. Col 2:16-17; see also Mat 12:14.  What is tradition, and what is its relationship to God’s commandments?  Observe that the verbal form (paradi,dwmi) of the Greek word for tradition (para,dosij) means to hand over or hand down, to deliver; see Mar 7:13, Luk 1:2, Act 6:14, 16:4, 1Co 11:23, 15:3, 2Pe 2:21, Jud 1:3.  Consider then that Biblical tradition is the practical outworking or application of God’s commandments to us that is delivered or handed down from generation to generation.  Is such tradition necessarily bad?  See 1Co 11:2, 2Th 2:15, 3:6.  If tradition is not necessarily bad, and as Christians we are even commanded to keep the things handed down to us, at what point does a tradition cease to be a good thing and become bad?  See Mat 15:3.  In this regard, is the true nature of God’s commandments to us such that they relate only to the fleshly, outer part of man that others see, or also and even more importantly to the spiritual, inner part of man that God’s sees?  How does a carnal, worldly person’s understanding of God’s commandments differ from this?  How would such an understanding affect the traditions such a person holds to and passes down?  What does this teach us about how we might gauge various traditions as to whether they are good or bad in God’s sight?  Think: To the extent that the observance of a tradition relates only to the fleshly, outer part of man that the world sees in order to make one appear religious, but is devoid of the deeper spiritual meaning that relates to the inner part of man that God sees and even conflicts with the spiritual intent of His commandments to us, is that a good or a bad tradition?

What example does Jesus give in Mat 15:4-6 that illustrates this important relationship between God’s commandments and the traditions that develop around those commandments?  Cf. Mar 7:9-13.  Was it necessarily wrong to devote some part of one’s wealth as a gift to God?  How had the greed of the ceremonious Pharisees perverted an otherwise good thing into a fleshly tradition that nullified God’s commandment?  Note: they held that by simply saying the magic word “Corban” by which one made a vow to the temple treasury, money that one would otherwise use to support and care for his parents could be retained for his own use—since the fulfillment of the vow could be put off indefinitely—but could not be given for any other use, even to obey God’s commandment to honor one’s parents by caring for them in their old age; cf. 1Ti 5:4,8.  How would such a cozy arrangement benefit both the leaders of the religious establishment and the benefactor, but at the potential expense of God’s commandments, while at the same time presenting the appearance of religious fidelity?  “Sometimes unfilial sons paid graft to the rabbinical legalists for such dodges” (Robertson’s Word Pictures).  Do such actions speak of love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1Ti 1:5), which is the goal of God’s commandments?

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