International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday May 18, 2014
Purpose: To identify the motivation for behaviors that distorts and diminishes our lives with God
Background Scripture: Exodus 20; Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 5:17-48; 15:1-19; Romans 3:31
Scripture Text: Matthew 15:1-11, 15-20
Matthew 15:1-11 (CEB)
(1)Then Pharisees and legal experts came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, (2) "Why are your disciples breaking the elders’ rules handed down to us? They don’t ritually purify their hands by washing before they eat." (3) Jesus replied, "Why do you break the command of God by keeping the rules handed down to you? (4) For God said, Honor your father and your mother, and the person who speaks against father or mother will certainly be put to death. (5) But you say, ‘If you tell your father or mother, "Everything I’m expected to contribute to you I’m giving to God as a gift," then you don’t have to honor your father.’ (6) So you do away with God’s Law for the sake of the rules that have been handed down to you. (7) Hypocrites! Isaiah really knew what he was talking about when he prophesied about you, (8) this people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. (9) Their worship of me is empty since they teach instructions that are human rules."(10) Jesus called the crowd near and said to them, "Listen and understand. (11) It’s not what goes into the mouth that contaminates a person in God’s sight. It’s what comes out of the mouth that contaminates the person."
Matthew 15: 15-20 (CEB)
(15) Then Peter spoke up, "Explain this riddle to us."(16) Jesus said, "Don’t you understand yet? (17) Don’t you know that everything that goes into the mouth enters the stomach and goes out into the sewer? (18) But what goes out of the mouth comes from the heart. And that’s what contaminates a person in God’s sight. (19) Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adultery, sexual sins, thefts, false testimonies, and insults. (20) These contaminate a person in God’s sight. But eating without washing hands doesn’t contaminate in God’s sight."
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Before I reflect on the text, I would like to give a little history lesson on the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a sect within the Jewish religion of Jesus’ day. They were not a part of the priesthood, they were a lay movement within the Jewish religion. While we tend to think of them as villains, the truth is they were a benevolent group that did a lot of good things for the community. I guess I would equate them to some fraternal organizations of today. Their desire was to establish a strict following of what they thought were rules and laws laid down by the Torah. They were a very pious group that thought their actions were more important than any inner belief or conviction. Their trust in being the most righteous by following the strictest of laws was flawed, because it left out the heart. Deeds outweighed motives, their own righteousness, as defined by themselves, was more important than sharing God’s love. Their biggest mistake was thinking that the oral laws they created somehow superseded God’s original law as delivered on Mt. Sinai.
Since Jesus and his disciples did not follow the strict laws created by the Order of Pharisees, they questioned the true spirituality of Jesus and his band of followers. I suppose it was similar to today’s world when tradition outweighs scripture.
There was never any law given by God that said, “You need to wash your hands before eating.” There were laws pertaining to the Priesthood that required purification, but these laws did not apply to the congregation.
When they came to question Jesus, he turned it around and ask them why God had said one thing but they had made an exception, an alternative option to following God’s commandments. In the Pharisees realm if you did not want to take care of your parents in their old age, you could inform them that you were make a donation to the temple or maybe to the Order of the Pharisees.
Jesus called this hypocritical, they found a way around God’s law, and benefitted themselves. Jesus goes even further in quoting Isaiah 29:13 The Lord says: “Since these people turn toward me with their mouths, and honor me with lip service while their heart is distant from me, and their fear of me is just a human command that has been memorized.” We need to be careful about how our worship today is perceived by God.
Jesus next turns to the crowd and tells them God is not influenced by what you put into your mouth, but by what comes out of your mouth. Our mouths reflect the true feelings of our hearts. When we confess to having Christ in our lives, but allow evil thoughts, adultery, murder or hate, sexual sins, lying, cheating, insults all to come out, there is nothing God can find edifying, we are contaminated or unworthy to receive God’s mercy and grace.
Our response to God’s love, mercy and grace should always be obedience. Our relationship with Jesus is lived by faith, Paul says in Romans 3:31 “Do we then cancel the Law through this faith? Absolutely not! Instead, we confirm the Law”. ‘Living out God’s law of love can only be done when we are committed to live lives that reflect God’s love.