Mt 15:1-20. Discourse on
Ceremonial Pollution. ( = Mr 7:1, 23).
The time of this section was after that Passover
which was nigh at hand when our Lord fed the five thousand (Joh 6:4)—the third Passover, as we
take it, since His public ministry began, but which He did not keep at
Jerusalem for the reason mentioned in Joh 7:1.
1. Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which
were of Jerusalem—or "from Jerusalem." Mark (Mr 7:1) says they "came from" it: a deputation
probably sent from the capital expressly to watch Him. As He had not
come to them at the last Passover, which they had reckoned on, they now
come to Him. "And," says Mark (Mr 7:2, 3), "when they saw some of His disciples
eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen
hands"—hands not ceremonially cleansed by washing—"they
found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash
their hands oft"—literally, "in" or "with the fist"; that is,
probably washing the one hand by the use of the other—though some
understand it, with our version, in the sense of "diligently,"
"sedulously"—"eat not, holding the tradition of the elders";
acting religiously according to the custom handed down to them. "And
when they come from the market" (Mr 7:4)—"And after market": after any
common business, or attending a court of justice, where the Jews, as
Webster and Wilkinson remark, after their subjection to the
Romans, were especially exposed to intercourse and contact with
heathens—"except they wash, they eat not. And many other things
there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups and
pots, brazen vessels and tables"—rather, "couches," such as were
used at meals, which probably were merely sprinkled for
ceremonial purposes. "Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him,"
2. Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition
of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
3. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye
also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?—The
charge is retorted with startling power: "The tradition they transgress
is but man's, and is itself the occasion of heavy transgression,
undermining the authority of God's law."
4. For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father
and mother—(De 5:16).
and, He that curseth father or mother, let him
die the death—(Ex 21:17).
5. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father
or his mother, It is a gift—or simply, "A gift!" In Mark
7:11), it is,
"Corban!" that is, "An oblation!" meaning, any unbloody offering
or gift dedicated to sacred uses.
by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by
6. And honour not his father or his mother, he
shall be free—that is, It is true,
father—mother—that by giving to thee this, which I now
present, thou mightest be profited by me; but I have gifted it to pious
uses, and therefore, at whatever cost to thee, I am not now at liberty
to alienate any portion of it. "And," it is added in Mark (Mr 7:12), "ye suffer him no more to do aught for
his father or his mother." To dedicate property to God is indeed lawful
and laudable, but not at the expense of filial duty.
Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none
effect—cancelled or nullified it "by your tradition."
7. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you,
8. This people draweth nigh unto me with their
mouth, &c.—By putting the commandments of men on a level
with the divine requirements, their whole worship was rendered
vain—a principle of deep moment in the service of God. "For,"
it is added in Mr 7:8,
"laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as
the washing of pots and cups; and many other such like things ye do."
The drivelling nature of their multitudinous observances is here
pointedly exposed, in contrast with the manly observance of "the
commandment of God"; and when our Lord says, "Many other such like
things ye do," it is implied that He had but given a specimen of the
hideous treatment which the divine law received, and the grasping
disposition which, under the mask of piety, was manifested by the
ecclesiastics of that day.
10. And he called the multitude, and said unto
them—The foregoing dialogue, though in the people's hearing,
was between Jesus and the pharisaic cavillers, whose object was to
disparage Him with the people. But Jesus, having put them down, turns
to the multitude, who at this time were prepared to drink in everything
He said, and with admirable plainness, strength, and brevity, lays down
the great principle of real pollution, by which a world of bondage and
uneasiness of conscience would be dissipated in a moment, and the sense
of sin be reserved for deviations from the holy and eternal law of
Hear and understand:
11. Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a
man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a
man—This is expressed even more emphatically in Mark (Mr 7:15,
16), and it is there added,
"If any man have ears to hear, let him hear." As in Mt 13:9, this so oft-repeated saying seems
designed to call attention to the fundamental and
universal character of the truth it refers to.
12. Then came his disciples, and said unto him,
Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this
saying?—They had given vent to their irritation, and perhaps
threats, not to our Lord Himself, from whom they seem to have slunk
away, but to some of the disciples, who report it to their Master.
13. But he answered and said, Every plant, which
my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up—They
are offended, are they? Heed it not: their corrupt teaching is already
doomed: the garden of the Lord upon earth, too long cumbered with their
presence, shall yet be purged of them and their accursed system: yea,
and whatsoever is not of the planting of My heavenly Father, the great
Husbandman (Joh 15:1),
shall share the same fate.
14. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the
blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the
ditch—Striking expression of the ruinous effects of erroneous
15. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare
unto us this parable—"when He was entered into the house from
the people," says Mark (Mr 7:17).
16. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without
understanding?—Slowness of spiritual apprehension in His
genuine disciples grieves the Saviour: from others He expects no better
17, 18. Do not ye yet understand that whatsoever
entereth in at the mouth, &c.—Familiar though these
sayings have now become, what freedom from bondage to outward things do
they proclaim, on the one hand; and on the other, how searching is the
truth which they express—that nothing which enters from without
can really defile us; and that only the evil that is in the heart, that
is allowed to stir there, to rise up in thought and affection, and to
flow forth in voluntary action, really defiles a man!
19. For out of the heart proceed evil
thoughts—"evil reasonings"; referring here more immediately
to those corrupt reasonings which had stealthily introduced and
gradually reared up that hideous fabric of tradition which at length
practically nullified the unchangeable principles of the moral law. But
the statement is far broader than this; namely that the first shape
which the evil that is in the heart takes, when it begins actively to
stir, is that of "considerations" or "reasonings" on certain suggested
murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false
witness, blasphemies—detractions, whether directed against
God or man; here the reference seems to be to the latter. Mark (Mr 7:22) adds, "covetousnesses"—or
desires after more; "wickednesses"—here meaning, perhaps,
malignities of various forms; "deceit, lasciviousness"—meaning,
excess or enormity of any kind, though by later writers restricted to
lewdness; "an evil eye"—meaning, all looks or glances of envy,
jealousy, or ill will towards a neighbor; "pride, foolishness"—in
the Old Testament sense of "folly"; that is, criminal senselessness,
the folly of the heart. How appalling is this black
20. These are the things which defile a man: but
to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man—Thus does our
Lord sum up this whole searching discourse.
Mt 15:21-28. The Woman of
Canaan and Her Daughter.
For the exposition, see on Mr
23. But he answered her not a word. And his
disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth
after us—(Also see on Mr 7:26.)
24. But he answered and said, I am not sent but to
the lost sheep of the house of Israel—(Also see on Mr 7:26.)
25. Then came she and worshipped him, saying,
Lord, help me—(Also see on Mr
Mt 15:29-39. Miracles of
Healing—Four Thousand Miraculously
For the exposition, see on Mr
7:31; Mr 8:10.