Sermon: God’s Commands or Human Traditions Matthew 14:34-15:9

Truth Taught- It is sin to place anything on the same level as God’s Word and to do so greatly affects our understanding of God and worship of God 

Matthew 14:34–15:9 (ESV) 

Here is a very interesting account of Jesus’ compassion to a random crowd that came out to meet Him just outside of Capernaum.  Gennesaret lies about three miles away.  They knew Jesus was a great Healer.  They brought all their sick out to Him to be healed.  This is another crowd that seems to just want health and for them Jesus is the means to that end.  I pray you noticed that as we have gone through Matthew’s Gospel we have seen mostly crowds who were not really interested in Jesus, only what He could give them.

Two weeks ago we saw the crowd that received the food.  It was this coupled with Jesus’ healings that caused them to seek to make Him their King.  

John 6:14–15 (ESV) 

14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 

15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. 

So far they had it right.  Jesus is the Prophet who is to come into the world.  But the problem was how they saw Jesus.  They wanted to make Him their earthly King.  They wanted not only a miracle worker, not only One who could give them free food, but they saw this as their chance to get out from under Roman bondage.  They saw in Jesus someone who could free them politically.
That’s why Jesus slipped away quietly.  He didn’t come into the world to grant the Jews political freedom, He came to free us from sin.  He came to be our King whose kingdom is not of this world but of the world to come.
Notice with the faceless healing.  Jesus shows us His amazing compassion even to those whose commitment to Him isn’t much.  I mean they show some faith that He was able to heal them by bringing their sick to Jesus but look with me that all they wanted was to touch His cloak and be healed.  He could have thrown it out like a rock star and they could have passed it around and all who touched it were healed.  It seems very impersonal almost hypocritical, yet Jesus was merciful to them all.

They were out on the fringe (to use a pun) of Jesus.  They were not willing to embrace Him as followers they just wanted to touch the fringe and be healed.

Matthew has shown us this dynamic over and over again, the idea of a crowd not really wanting Jesus but just what Jesus can give them.  

This is human nature at its worst.  This is satanic.  Think about it, people are dying and going to Hell and Jesus has the complete remedy.  He can save you from your sins and ultimately from Hell and people are not interested.  This is the manifestation of a dead heart fixed on selfish destruction.  The offer of life is presented and people choose death.  They choose death every day.  Jesus offers Himself…come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest for your souls.  Follow Christ, love Christ, embrace Christ, believe in Christ and be saved.  Jesus is worthy of all our affections not just touching the fringe of His cloak but embracing Him and loving Him as Lord and Savior.

Do you love Jesus? 
I’m fearful that there are people all over in church after church who don’t really love Jesus at all but want what they might get from Him.  There may be some here today.  Why are you a Christian?

The people touched the fringe of Jesus’ cloak because if they did, they knew God would do them good.  This is so much like Judges 17-18 where Micah hired a Levite to be his priest and having his own priest he said now I know God will do me good.  No one loved God they simply did what they did thinking God will do them good.  

Are you a Christian today so that God will do you good?  I’m afraid that if that’s the case, its just like touching Jesus’ cloak and while you may for a time experience some of God’s benevolence, it will not last. 

The crowd was made up of hypocrites who acted a certain way to get what they wanted.  They didn’t want Jesus at all just the fringe and that was enough to get what they really wanted.  

2.  Trading Law for Tradition (Hypocritical Teachers)

A.  They Asked Jesus, “Why Do You Break Tradition”?

15 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.”

The Pharisees were religious hypocrites.  The religious leaders in Jerusalem were sending out the big guns to silence Jesus.  He and His teaching were going against their system.  They had a good thing going with the people under their control.  The Pharisees and Scribes could keep their “good thing” going if they could stop Jesus.  Their opposition to the Lord is now beginning to increase.  Jesus is just too famous and too powerful to let go any longer.  

Their question, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.”  Is not about washing your hands before you eat for sanitary reasons but why do You guys not practice ceremonial hand washing?  

Jesus and His disciples did not practice ceremonial hand washing as was the tradition of the elders (former Rabbis).  

What is ceremonial hand washing?

Traditionally, Jews are required to wash their hands and say a blessing before eating any meal that includes bread or matzah. The ritual, known as netilat yadayim, is typically done using a two-handled cup, but any vessel will do. There are various customs regarding how the water should be poured, but a common practice is to pour twice on the right hand followed by twice on the left (this is reversed for those who are left-handed). Hasidic custom is to pour three times on each hand.

Using the non-dominant hand to pour first can feel unnatural or awkward, highlighting that the washing is done for ritual rather than pragmatic purposes. The tradition is unrelated to personal hygiene, and a person is still required to perform this ritual even if his or her hands are clean. It is also customary not to speak following the recitation of this blessing until reciting the blessing for bread and partaking of some.

Often times the water used in this ceremony was itself dirty.  This was in no was to actually clean your hands before a meal.  The real issue Jesus had with this tradition was that the Pharisees and Scribes had elevated it to the same level as God’s Law in the Old Testament.  In other words, they taught the people this as God’s Law.  

It usually works out that whenever tradition is set up to be on the same plane as God’s Word it’s the tradition that is taught more and God’s Word is neglected.

When we elevate tradition or any practice not found in the Bible to biblical status we are in danger and have opened ourselves to being misled and even attacked by Satan.  This was Eve’s problem.  She added to God’s Word and made obedience to God more difficult than it needed to be.

Genesis 3:1–3 (ESV) 

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. 

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 

God never said don’t touch it.  That might be a good rule but it is not what God said.  We cannot make the Bible say things it does not say and we must affirm all it does say.

B.   Jesus Asked Them, “Why Do You Break God’s Command”? 

He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

God’s Holy Word-
Exodus 20:12 (ESV) 

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 

Exodus 21:17 (ESV) 

17 “Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death. 

They said, “Why do you break the traditions,” and they give Him an illustration. And He said, “Why do you break the commands of God by your traditions,” and He gives them an illustration, too. Watch in verse 4. “For God commanded, saying” – and He quotes Exodus 20:12 – “‘Honor thy father and mother.’” Now, that’s a very clear command, “Honor your father and mother.” Bound up in honor is respect, love, reverence, sense of dignity, and also financial support. You’re supposed to take care of your parents. You’re supposed to give them the money they need to live. When they get old and cannot work and have need, you’re supposed to meet that need. That was all bound up in that.

So, the Scripture said, “You are to honor your father and mother.” You’re to meet their needs. You’re to care for them. You’re to give full respect and honor to them, which means supporting them if they need it.

And on the other hand, He quotes 21:17 of Exodus, “If you don’t do that, on the other hand, and you revile or curse or remove the dignity of your father or mother, then you should die the death.” In other words, you take care of your parents or there is capital punishment. That’s very clear, very simple. They knew it; they understood it; there’s little argument. It’s right out of the Ten Commandments.

Man’s Evil Tradition-

But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

So, here’s what these evil defiled teachers were doing.  They taught the people that you don’t really have to obey God’s command to honor your father and mother by meeting their needs.  There is a much higher and more noble thing to do with your money, commit it to God.  The Greek word here given to God is korban which means gift.  So, what the Pharisees and Scribes would do is literally say the word korban over their finances and they didn’t have to help their needy parents, they could keep the money for themselves.  

Isn’t that the thinking of selfish sinners?  Let’s come up with a system where we can disobey God and feel good about it.

Later the Jews would add to their tradition with writings that said down the road they could eventually use the money themselves for whatever they wanted.

So, Jesus’ point is ’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.  Not only have they made void the Word of God but were teaching others to as well.

3.  Going Through the Motions of Worship (Hypocritical Worshipper)

 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 

“ ‘This people honors me with their lips, 

but their heart is far from me; 

in vain do they worship me, 

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” 

Jesus is quoting Isaiah 29:13.  The context of that passage is the religious leaders have been going through the motions of worshipping God; they are looking the part but it’s all an act.  Because of their hypocrisy God hides His truth from them.  Isaiah writes that God’s Word becomes like a book they can’t get open because it’s locked shut or it’s like handing someone a book who can’t read.  Either way they cannot access the truth within.  

Because they have for so long held up man’s tradition on the level of God’s Word and even used their tradition to nullify God’s Word, God has closed their minds to its truth.  

Isaiah and Jesus both say that they pretend to be religious but their hearts are far from God and all the things they do that look like worship are simply a waste of time.

The emphasis we place on God’s Word greatly affects our understanding of God’s Word and greatly affects our worship of God.

A judgment of God for sin is the sinner cannot understand God’s Word and cannot worship God rightly and/or acceptably 


Is there anything you have placed on an equal level with God’s Word?

Human Reason-

We cannot decide whether or not to obey God’s Word based on human reason.  When we do we will always find a reason to disobey.  

Human Wisdom-

We cannot decide whether to obey God’s Word using human wisdom.  God’s ways are not our ways neither are His thoughts our thoughts.

Human Tradition-

We cannot place our traditions on the same level as God’s Word.  When we do we will keep our traditions and in the process disobey God’s Word.

*Resources Used:

Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary

A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles

A Gospel of Matthew by France

Matthew by Craig Bloomberg

Matthew by Doriani

Matthew by Charles Price

Matthew by Leon Morris

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