The Heart of the Matter is the Heart, part 1

Heart of the Matter  part 1 picture




I know I have been writing about our words for several posts now.  The Bible seems to talk about our words a lot.  And I struggle with my words;  I need to hear what Jesus says about words.

I think the Pharisees and Scribes loved words; maybe they liked to hear themselves talk.

Read Matthew 15: 1-9 and Mark 7:1-13.

Jesus is in Gennesaret, which is a lake in Galilee about 80 miles north of Jerusalem.  If you look at the previous chapter (Matthew 14) in verses 35-36, you will see that faith is high here.  People recognized Jesus, brought their sick, and asked that they “might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured.” (36)


Here come the Pharisees and scribes—all the way from Jerusalem.  They didn’t drive up there.  They walked.  80 miles.  They must have had something very important to say.

“Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders?  For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

Important?  It doesn’t seem to be, at least not to me.  Let’s back up a little.

God gave the Law in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy for the people to follow.  Over the years traditions had developed and were imposed on the people by the elders.  The Pharisees saw these traditions as Law and if they were broken, it was sin.

Here’s an example.   God’s Law said to keep the Sabbath Holy and to cease from labor on the seventh day to give the animals and people rest (Ex 20:8 and 23:12).  The Pharisees and others had made traditions to “help people follow the Law better.”  For instance,  before the Sabbath started on Friday evening, people had to put down anything that might be carried (a taylor’s needle, hair clip, stick, etc.) because carrying anything on the Sabbath was considered “work”.

Mark 7: 1-4 shows how serious the Pharisees were about cleansing themselves before they ate.  They even had a special way of washing the cups and pitchers.

Okay back to the scene and to their question:

“Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders?  For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

Important?  Well . . . important to the Pharisees.

I love what Jesus answered.  He completely skipped the question and asked his own question.

He turned the tables on them!

“Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?”

Jesus then goes on to tell them that they make God’s word untrue when they encourage others to take the money they should use to take care of elderly parents (“honor your father and mother” Exodus 20: 12) and give the money “to God”.  By giving the money “to God” people were actually giving it to the priests to be used in the temple.  Get the connection?  It’s all about money!

Jesus brought it back to the heart of the issue. And He doesn’t mince words.

“You hypocrites”

But He doesn’t stop there.  He tells them that Isaiah actually prophesied about them too. (Matthew 15:8-9; Isaiah 29:13)

“This people honors Me with their lips
But their heart is far away from Me.
But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

I’m sure the Pharisees’ feathers were a little ruffled, wouldn’t you say?

In my next post, I’ll continue with the Heart of the Matter, part 2.

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