This is the word of the Lord
Matthew 15:10–20 ESV
10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
The older I become and the longer I preach, I am ever more aware of three things – the holiness of God, the poverty of man, & the excellence of Christ that brings them together.
On the one hand, we have the unreachable magnificence of a pure and worthy God, and on the other, the depravity of the man who cannot bear to look upon the face of God lest he be killed by the radiance of his glory. Moses tried but was forced to hide under the mountain rock, peering through the gap to get a glimpse of the back side of God’s glory as he passed before him.
- Subsequently, the glory of God took the form of a cloud, and a pillar of fire, and his presence was known to Elijah who was able to discern whether God was in the wind, the earthquake, or the storm of fire and light. In the end, we are told that it was the whisper of God that called Elijah out of that cave.
Throughout many ages, God spoke to his people through many means, but in the latter days, he took the form of the long-awaited promise. Christ, the Messiah had come. Christ,
Philippians 2:6–8 ESV
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.No longer did shapes or figures, smoke or chaff, fire or water need to speak to the people, for God came down to them as one among them. Walking before the Jews in these passages was a man plain to their eyes but his glory they did not recognise.
This is why the author of Hebrews reminds us in
Hebrews 1:1–4 ESV
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Is it not blindness, to see humility and meekness as a sign of poverty or a lack of power? They saw the face of an ordinary man and assumed he was ordinary.
Isaiah 53:2–3 ESV
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
But he upholds the universe by the word of his power. It is not just that his words have power but that his words are the very form of his power. His words are powerful and his power is manifest in the form of his words.
So, if out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, Christ’s words are issued forth from power and majesty. His words come from the abundance of holiness stored up in the being of God.
This is why we as Christians live on every word that falls from the mouth of God. This is why we cleave to the Bible. These words are life to us for they come from the eternal heart of God.
So, foolish is the man who stumbles in his way because of the words of men, and wise is the man who sets his hope on the sure foundation of the word of God.
It is then of this Christ, the incarnate God, that the Pharisees found fault. The teachers of the word could not recognise the Word made flesh. So they accused him. And in the first part of this chapter, we saw last week, how they tried to use their tradition as evidence of their greater piety. But Jesus called their traditions useless for they did not elevate God’s law as the Pharisees thought but rather they made God’s word void by compromising what really mattered.
And we saw how tradition is not evil, for there are both good and evil traditions. A tradition is good and justified if it brings us closer to God in accordance with the Scriptures, and a tradition is bad if it voids the word of God.
With these repeated and rising conflicts with the Jewish leaders, Jesus makes a remark in this passage before us today, that angered them. Jesus offended them and did not pacify their sin or false piety.
But this remark is set to offend not just the Jews who heard Jesus say this, but all of us who hold dearly to this world, whose mouths are full of the flesh.
Matthew 15:10 ESV
10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand:
- This then, my friends, is the fundamental call of the Bible, that you come to hear and understand what it says. How can one ever understand without first having heard, and what is the point of hearing if one never understands?
We are always in danger of falling into one of these two categories.
Hosea 4:6 ESV
6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.The reason that so many Christians live a shallow Christian life is either that they’ve never heard the truth of God, or because they’ve never taken the effort to actually understand what they’ve been hearing all their lives.
- But Christ’s command is clear – hear and understand. This was a common idiom in those times that meant “Listen carefully” or “Pay close attention”.
Matthew 15:11 ESV
11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
- This is a strange thing for us to understand if we don’t take care to hear it well. For what Jesus is saying here is that it is the output that defiles and not the intake.
The word ‘defile’ means to profane, to Mar, to spoil that which is pure. It is the unhallowing of someone. And here, we are told by Christ that the profanity of our flesh is the result of what comes out of us, and not what goes into us.
- Our garments are not stained by what is thrown at us but by what comes out of us.
For instance, washing of hands does not keep the man clean. As much as his tradition guards him against any impurity from entering into him, his impurity comes from within.
Do you see why the modern psychology of positive thought and affirmation that teaches you to look for answers deep within yourself, to find the joy of who you are by looking inside, is among the most foolish and devilish doctrines?
Sin has corrupted the flesh of all man, and the deeper you look inside of yourselves, you will see that it is out from our hearts that the fountains of defilement erupt.
- If I could put it in other words, each and every one of us without Christ is so full of something, and it is not lovely or beautiful to discover that something. It is the stain and horror of sin, and our words are just auditory shapes of that something. Our words are a form of our fullness.
- Now, let us not reconcile this text only to words for we read in
Mark 7:15 ESV
15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
Not just words, but all things that come out of a person defile him. Our words and our works are what defile us.
But our words are a clear and stark reflection of what fills our hearts.
Matthew 15:12 ESV
12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”
- I wonder if the disciples were making sure he knew how much his words here offended the Pharisees, or if they were speaking out of bewilderment because they could not understand why the Pharisees were so offended by this statement.
The verses here I think suggest the latter.
- But Jesus knew exactly how much they were offended and he did not mean to cushion the blow of what he said. Jesus meant to offend. Beloved, causing offence is not a sin. Causing undue offence is. There is an offence that is an issue from the true love that builds up a person.
Too many friends, families, parents & churches have taken to avoid any and all offence, and they do not strengthen any amount of unity by doing this. Beloved, unity is not found in not talking about things that divide us, or in avoiding actions that may possibly offend the other. The Word of God is an offence to the flesh. Christ is the stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks.
No! Our love for one another and our faithfulness to the truth must cleave to one another as one. May it not just be said of marriage but of this as well, that what God has united let no man break.
- Hypocrisy requires offence. And when you stand for truth and you are branded an offender, know that Christ was the first offender.
Matthew 15:13–14 ESV
13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
- Going back to the parable of the weeds, we learnt that only the grain sowed by the King would be harvested into the barn, while the weeds are pulled and burnt.
The wheat and weeds both grow roots in the soil, but one is planted by God and the other by the enemy. But time will tell as they grow, the wheat apart from the weed. The defilement will be their cloak in the end, and those without clean garments will be rooted up.
- Let them alone. Do not be bothered about what offends them or satisfies them. Let them alone, let them be, you stand firm.
- Blind guides. O how the world for generations turns to wise men who are blind guides. Blinded by their sin, their ambition and loyalty to the world, and their desire for idols (even those good things that they turn into their idols), instead of turning to Christ and letting his light wipe the scales of sin from their eyes.
He is a King who can heal the blind. He healed them that came to him.
Their destination, along with all those who follow them, is the pit.
- The vastness of our doctrinal knowledge or our dedication to our outer piety is not evidence of our seeing. A man may be well-worded and strong intellectually but blind spiritually. Such men in the facade of righteousness are defiling themselves. They are blind guides who claim they can see, and they call all men to their light which is no light, but darkness.
Matthew 15:15–20 ESV
15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
- “Are you also still without understanding?” – Even the disciples who followed Jesus were not quick to understand many of the things that he was telling them. I so love this question of Christ because, here beloved is the proof that Jesus does not take lightly your lack of spiritual foundation.
As Christians, it is your Christian duty to learn the Bible. And if after years, you still make no headway and are without foundation or understanding, it is not a good testimony.
Jesus expects his disciples to be with understanding, not without it.
- The regular use of our mouth in eating and drinking does not defile the body. This is the reason that even Paul does not forbid the eating of a certain food or even food offered to idols as though these things corrupt our purity.
Our body is more than capable of expelling unwarranted food.
- But out from the mouth comes defilement. Why? Because out of the heart come evil thoughts. – evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
Luke 6:45 ESV
45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.This here is the simple truth of our word and action. We do all that we do out of the abundance of our hearts. Our words and our actions are not produced from anything we take in but are issued from the treasures within us.
You see, when a professing Christian, like the Pharisees, speaks knowledgeable words or puts on an appearance of wisdom and prayerfulness and piety, they are lies. When these pious words are spoken, they are not due to an issue of a heart full of piety but a heart full of lies.
Even when a man deceives the world concerning his piety, the abundance of his heart is deception.
1 Samuel 16:7 ESV
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Proverbs 4:23 ESV
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Proverbs 21:2 ESV
2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.