|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
15:1-9 Additions to God's laws reflect upon his wisdom, as if he had left out something which was needed, and which man could supply; in one way or other they always lead men to disobey God. How thankful ought we to be for the written word of God! Never let us think that the religion of the Bible can be improved by any human addition, either in doctrine or practice. Our blessed Lord spoke of their traditions as inventions of their own, and pointed out one instance in which this was very clear, that of their transgressing the fifth commandment. When a parent's wants called for assistance, they pleaded, that they had devoted to the temple all they could spare, even though they did not part with it, and therefore their parents must expect nothing from them. This was making the command of God of no effect. The doom of hypocrites is put in a little compass; In vain do they worship me. It will neither please God, nor profit themselves; they trust in vanity, and vanity will be their recompence.
Verse 3. - He answered. Christ does not formally defend his disciples, nor condemn the Pharisees for their ceremonial ablutions, but he turns to a matter of more importance, even a plain breach or evasion of a plain commandment. Ye also. If my disciples transgress a tradition of the ancients, ye too transgress, and that the commandment of God - an error of far graver character. His non-observance of these minutiae showed their unimportance, and called attention to the inward purity which they typified, and which could be maintained without these external ceremonies. At the same time, Jesus does not condemn such symbolical acts, even as he himself washed the disciples' feet before the last Supper. The evil in rabbinical teachings was that it superseded the spiritual view, and placed outward cleansing on a higher level than inward holiness. By (διὰ with accusative); on account of, in order to maintain. Your tradition. Tradition which is emphatically yours and not God's, a human gloss, not a revealed command. Jesus does not accept the assertion that these traditions are derived from the ancients; he gives them a more modern origin.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But he answered and said unto them,.... Taking no notice of the tradition about eating bread without washing the hands, whether it was right or wrong; it being at most but an human tradition, of no moment and importance, whether it was broke or kept; he makes a very just recrimination, by putting another question to them,
why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? suggesting, that, if his disciples were guilty, they were not so guilty as they themselves were; that his disciples, at most, were but guilty of the breach of an human precept, whereas they were guilty of the breach of a divine command; and that it was strange, that men who were so scrupulous of breaking, and bore so hard on such as did transgress the traditions of the elders, could allow themselves to transgress the commandments of God; yea, to do this by, and while they were observing their own traditions: and which observation carries a full acquittance of the disciples from blame; for, if by keeping the traditions of the elders, they broke the commands of God, it was a very good reason why they should not observe them.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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."
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