Matthew 15
People's New Testament
Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
15:1 Christ and the Pharisees. The Woman of Canaan.


Eating with Unwashed Hands. Keeping the Traditions of Men. What Defileth a Man. The Blind Leaders of the Blind. In the Bounds of Tyre and Sidon. The Appeal of the Woman of Canaan. Great Faith and Its Results. Feeding the Four Thousand.

Scribes and Pharisees... of Jerusalem. Representatives of these bodies, not doubt to counteract the influence of Christ. Compare Mr 7:1-13. These were always bitter opposers of Jesus.

Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
15:2 Why do thy disciples transgress? Not the law of Moses, but the tradition of the elders, which had as much authority with the Pharisees as the written law.

The tradition of the elders. Purported to be precepts never written in the Scriptures, but handed down from the times of Moses and the elders by oral means. These precepts were spoken of the law upon the lip, and have been embodied in the Talmud. They were additions to the written word. See Ga 1:14.

For they wash not their hands. The orthodox Jews insisted on washing the hands before eating, not to remove the filth, but less they might have touched something ceremonially unclean. This commandment was purely traditional, but so rigidly did they insist upon observing it that the Rabbi Akiba, imprisoned by the Romans and with scarcely water to sustain life, preferred to use all provided for his ceremonial ablutions, and to die of thirst.

But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
15:3 Why do ye also transgress? The Lord does not deny their charge, but strikes at the evil by showing that their human traditions led them to break God's written law.
For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
15:4 For God commanded. See Ex 21:17.

He that curseth, etc. The Ten Commandments promised long life to those who honored father and mother (Ex 20:12 De 5:16). Here the Lord quotes the punishment of dishonoring them. (See also Le 20:9.) On nothing did Moses insist more than respect for parents.

But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
15:5 Ye say. Following tradition, you say one thing while God says in the law just the opposite. The scribes taught that a Jew by calling his possessions Corban (a gift to God, Mr 7:11) was absolved from the duty of caring for his parents, even though he did not afterward devote his property to sacred uses. Thus, by an artifice, the law with respect to parents could be set aside. The Talmud furnishes a curious illustration of this perversion of the command. The Mishna says:

He that curses his father or his mother is not guilty, unless he curses them with an express mention of the name of Jehovah.''

And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
15:6 Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect. Modern Pharisaism does the same. Church tradition leads to dogmas that set aside God's commands. The corruption of the simplicity of early Christianity is due to following human tradition.
Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
15:7 Ye hypocrites. The world so rendered might mean one self-deceived as well as a deceiver, but was always a rebuke.

Well did Esaias prophesy of you. See Isa 29:13.

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
15:8 This people. The Jews. Quoted from Isa 29:13.

Their heart is far from me. The essential of true worship is that the heart be wholly given to God. Even the forms commanded by God are worthless unless they are obeyed from the heart.

But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
15:9 In vain do they worship me. Quoted from Is 29:13. This worship is all idle, empty, and without profit, because they

teach as doctrines the commandments of men. This rebuke to the Pharisees, who had added to the law of Moses many traditional human precepts, applies equally to all modern religionists who have modified or added to the Christianity of Christ and the apostles. Whatever one cannot find in the New Testament is of such a character; observance of saints' days, of Christians, of Lent, the removal of the cup in the Lord's Supper from the laity, infant sprinkling, party creeds and party shibboleths, are all of men and not of God. The devout worshiper should go right to the New Testament for his religion, and reject every ordinance or precept that is not to be found there.

And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
15:10 He called the multitude. In order to show them that the Pharisaical expounders of the law did not understand its real sense.
Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
15:11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man. The Mosaic law forbade Jews to eat what was ceremonially unclean, in order to teach the need of moral purity. The Rabbis added stringent precepts to prevent the slightest contact with ceremonial uncleanness, but were careless about moral purity. Christ shows that a pure heart is far more important than clean food, in the ceremonial sense, in the stomach. Pharisees in all ages have paid more attention to the letter than to the spirit, to the symbol than to that which is signified.

That which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. The impure words that indicate an impure heart. What one eats does not render him defiled before God, but what he says. See Mt 15:18-23.

Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
15:12 The Pharisees were offended. Found fault. They would insist that he set aside the law, whereas it was tradition that he rejected.
But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
15:13 Every plant. A general truth, but here refers to the doctrines not of God, like the tradition of the elders (Mt 15:2).
Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
15:14 Let them alone. The Pharisees. His disciples were troubled by their opposition.

They be blind leaders of the blind. They pretend to be spiritual guides of the people, while spiritually blind themselves. The blind are unsafe guides of the blind. See PNT Ro 2:19.

Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
15:15 Declare unto us this parable. The figure was used in Mt 15:11.
And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
15:17 Is cast out. What is eaten passes through the body and passes away. It does not defile the soul.
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
15:18-20 Come forth from the heart. The emotional nature; the mind. Evil deeds are begotten of evil thoughts; evil words are the expression of these evil thoughts. These indicate a sinful heart and make a man sinful, or defiled.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
15:18-20 Come forth from the heart. The emotional nature; the mind. Evil deeds are begotten of evil thoughts; evil words are the expression of these evil thoughts. These indicate a sinful heart and make a man sinful, or defiled.
These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
15:18-20 Come forth from the heart. The emotional nature; the mind. Evil deeds are begotten of evil thoughts; evil words are the expression of these evil thoughts. These indicate a sinful heart and make a man sinful, or defiled.
Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
15:21 Jesus... departed into the coasts. Compare Mr 7:24-30.

Tyre and Sidon. Tyre and Sidon were the two principal cities of Phoenicia, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Tyre was about twenty miles south of Sidon, and about one hundred miles in a straight line northwest of Jerusalem. In the days of David and Solomon, Tyre was the leading seaport of the world. It was afterwards taken by the Babylonians, the Persians, and Alexander, but up to the time of Christ it remained a great commercial city. Since then its harbor has been filled with sand, and there remains only a wretched shadow of its former greatness. Both were Gentile cities in a Gentile country. That is the only instance in the Lord's ministry when he went beyond the bounds of Palestine.

And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
15:22 Behold, a woman of Canaan. The name Canaan was the oldest bestowed upon the country, and all the heathen inhabitants were often called Canaanites, whether of the same stock or not. Mark says that the woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician (Mr 7:26); i.e. a Gentile, and a Syro-Phoenician, because she lived in the district of Syria called Phoenicia.

Have mercy on me. She has a boon to ask for her daughter, or rather indeed for herself, for so entirely had she made her daughter's misery her own.

O Lord, thou son of David. It is remarkable that two of the brightest examples of faith seen in the ministry of Christ were exhibited by Gentiles, that of the centurion (Mt 8:8-10), and of this woman. The fact that the latter addresses Jesus as the son of David, shows that she knew of the prophecies concerning the Christ and that he would be the son of David.

My daughter is grievously afflicted with a devil. More correctly, a demon. See PNT Mt 8:29.

But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
15:23 He answered her not a word. He neither repelled her, nor made a favorable answer. There were reasons for hesitation, but there is no doubt that it was his purpose to have mercy. See PNT Mt 15:24. He delayed in order to bring out a great lesson.
But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
15:24 I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The Lord's personal mission was to the Jews. Under the first commission his apostles were directed to go only to the Jews (Mt 10:6). It would be impossible to evangelize the Gentiles without setting aside the Jewish customs, the law of Moses, and arousing the bitterest prejudice of the Jews. Hence it was the divine plan that the Son should keep the law blameless during his ministry. It was only when the Jews crucified him that the handwriting of ordinances was nailed to the cross (Col 2:14), the wall of partition (Eph 2:14) between Jews and Gentiles broken down, and all prepared for the Great Commission which bade his disciples go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mr 16:15).
Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
15:25 Then came she and worshipped him. Instead of being discouraged by the words of Christ, she only became the more earnest.
But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.
15:26 It is not meet to take the children's bread. She knew that, in comparing the Jews to the children of God's family, and the heathen to the dogs without, he simply used the customary language of a Jew. He would bring out fully the greatness of her faith. The gospel was offered first to the Jews and then to all.
And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
15:27 Truth, Lord. Observe that she acquiesces heartily in Christ's declaration: it is not fit that the dogs be fed before the children.

Yet the dogs eat of the crumbs. The Greek word for crumbs, psichion, is a diminutive, and means little crumbs.

Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
15:28 Woman, great is thy faith. We can see how greatness of faith is manifested: (1) She came to Christ under difficulties. (2) She persevered when her prayer seemed to be denied. (3) She still pleaded when obstacles were presented. (4) She waited at the feet of the Lord until he had mercy. Such faith always prevails.

Her daughter was made whole. Mark, who adds some features omitted by Matthew, follows the woman home, where she found her daughter no longer raving, or in convulsions, but lying quiet on the bed, healed in consequence of her mother's faith and prayers (Mr 7:30).

And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there.
15:29 And Jesus departed from thence. How long Jesus stayed in these parts is unknown.
And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and he healed them:
15:30 And great multitudes came unto him. Where he had retired for rest and solitude to a mountain (Mt 15:29).
Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.
15:31 Glorified the God of Israel. They were Jews, but living on the border, somewhat under heathen ideas. The miracles of Christ led them to praise and reverence Jehovah.
Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.
15:32 I have compassion on the multitude. Because while seeking him in his mountain solitude many of them had been for three days without regular food.
And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?
15:33 Whence should we get so much bread? This was not said in ignorance of the Lord's creative power, but probably to suggest the need of its exercise. They could not have forgotten the events narrated in Mt 14:15-21.
And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes.
And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
15:35 He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. Not on the grass, as in Mt 14:19, for they were in a bare, desolate, grassless region, such as the greater part of Judea is today.
And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.
And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.
15:38 Four thousand. Instead of 5,000, as in the former miracle (Mt 14:21).
And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.
15:39 Came into the coasts of Magdala. He took the boat to escape the multitude. Magdala was on the western shore of the lake, three miles north of Tiberias. The Revised Version says Magadan, supposed to have been a village near Magdala. Mark says Dalmanutha (Mr 8:10). The meaning is that he came into the vicinity of all three of these places, which were near each other.
The People's New Testament by B.W. Johnson [1891]

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