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Matthew 15:1-9: Jesus the Pharisees and Traditions

Posted by adventbiblestudy on March 1, 2012


Matthew 15:1-9 MKJV Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, (2) Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread. (3) But He answered and said to them, Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? (4) For God commanded, saying, “Honor your father and mother”; and, “He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him die by death.” (5) But you say, Whoever says to his father or mother, Whatever you would gain from me, It is a gift to God; (6) and in no way he honors his father or his mother. And you voided the commandment of God by your tradition. (7) Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, (8) “This people draws near to Me with their mouth, and honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. (9) But in vain they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Eber met Naomi when they were little older than children. For years they played, worked and worshiped together. As time passed, a mutual attraction began to build. As they saw their friends begin to court, they often found themselves alone, together. No one was shyer than Eber. He found if hard to express the feelings beginning to build for Naomi. One warn summer night while laying on the hay near the door of the barn, they found themselves with a lack of topics to discuss. Naomi asked, “do you often think of the future?” Eber replied, “sure, the work I need to do, plans for spring planting, preparing for Sabbath worship.” Naomi responded, “that was not the future I was thinking of.” She did not know how to introduce the subject she wanted to discuss. Fear of not receiving the answer she was praying for made it difficult to lead the conversation. Eber added, “do you mean us?” Naomi’s heart skipped a beat. She had been praying, asking God if He would bless them if they decided to dedicate their lives to one another. Naomi asked, “have you thought about it?” Eber asked her, “have you been praying about us?” Naomi answered, “yes for quite some time now. I was beginning to worry it was consuming too much of my time and attention with God. I was praying you would come to me with the question.” Eber leaned over to his side to look into her eyes. He responded, “I have been praying the same thing. I think God was waiting for us to pray together.”

From that day forward they never stopped praying together, morning, noon, and night. Once they learned to communicate, making God the center of their relationship, new insight to their relationship began to open up. Trusting in God, and worshipping together taught them more about themselves and each other, than they had ever imagined. Their worship together also taught them more about God, His love and care for them than most people ever experience.

The following summer they married. It seemed like the best of life was in front of them. Eber received a small plot of land from his father. Family, friends, and neighbors joined together to build them a home. Cart load after cart load of field stones, collected by years of plowing were brought to the site. Others brought wood for the roof. After a few days of exhausting work the home was finished. Laying on the floor they planned for the future. “I will have to build a bed, and a table, maybe a few chairs, and of course we will have to build a fence for the stock my father is bringing.” They praised God for everything, prayed for His guidance, and His love in their hearts to flow to one another, and those around them.

A year later they had their table, chairs, bed, fences for the cattle, and Eber was working on a crib for their first child.

On a cold fall night Naomi went into labor. Her mother was there to assist. The labor lasted through the night into the morning. Eber, comforted by his parents waited outside. Gathered around a small fire Eber prayer, and talked about the future. His parents also reminisced about the wonderful times they spent with him as a child. At last, Naomi’s mother called out to Eber. A new, even higher level of love overflowed in Eber the moment he saw his son. As he held his new born son in his arms, he praised God, dedicating his life, and his son to God.

As the years passed, Eber and Naomi added another son and two daughters to their family. Along with another room on the back of their home. Blessed by God their cattle increased in number and crops flourished. Eber shared his gifts with his parents and in laws, returning a portion of what he had received.

Without warning a drought came upon the land. Crops failed the first year, and the second. Eber and Naomi prayed with the children for relief, but none came. They had no choice but to sell off some of the cattle to pay for grain in the hopes the coming year would produce a crop. The third year did not bring relief. To feed the children Eber and Naomi went without food for days. Eber took a job working in an irrigated vineyard over the ridge. That brought some relief, but left him with little time to spend with his wife and the family.

Down to their last two pair of breeding stock, Eber sold one pair to buy grain. This year the rains came. It took years to rebuild, but their faith never wavered. As long as they had each other, and faith in God, the trials never really bothered them as long as they were able to provide for the children.

Years passed. Their oldest, Nahshon left to work for a man with an established trading business. The years of family sacrifice to send Nahshon away to gain an education were paying off. They missed him terribly, but prayed he would meet with success, and remain faithful to God.

One by one the children married and began a life of their own. The farm became too much for Eber alone. It seems they never recovered from the drought. Paying for Nahshon’s education also took its toll. After praying, Eber and Naomi decided the best thing to do would be to ask Nahshon to finance a hired hand for a time. At least until they could get the farm running at full production, and the flock grew in size. Nahshon came to visit his parents and talk over the terms. Nahshon introduced his idea of a loan. In return for paying a years wages for a hired hand, Nahshon wanted Eber to give him rights to all of his land. Eber asked, “what about your brother?” Nahshon had already anticipated the question, and answered, “I already have two thirds, my double portion coming to me. I am only asking for the other third as payment for my help.” Eber and Naomi were shocked. They wondered where Nahshon had learned such a concept. When the asked him he responded, “the Pharisees teach, when a child is blessed with the ability to help their parents in their old age, it is a blessing from God, you should learn to appreciate.”

Eber and Naomi stayed up late and rose early in the morning to pray about the situation. They asked why Nahshon did not appreciate the sacrifices they had made for him, and expected repayment for something he should consider an act of respect. They felt they had no choice but to turn down his offer.

A few days later their younger son, Pharez visited them. After hearing about their dilemma, she went home prayed with his wife and meditated on the situation. The next morning he was impressed to talk to his wife, father and mother. He sent his son to invite them to dinner that evening.

During the meal, Pharez revealed his plan. He wanted to lease out his house and farm. He knew people looking for land to lease. They could use the extra money to save for their children’s education. He told his father he wanted to build an addition onto their house, so they could be close enough to care for them in their old age, and together they could care for the crops and flocks.

Eber and Naomi were elated. Why they had not thought of this before was beyond them. Their prayers had been answered beyond their expectations. The family was together, the farm was secure, and they would have someone looking after them in their senior years. That night they prayed, praising God. They also prayed for their oldest son Nahshon.

“I don’t know what could have changed him? Has he forgotten everything we taught him? An education was supposed to open new doors for him, to make him a better man. Why, how could he come home to us and act in such a manner? He treated us like a business associate, and not at all in a fair manner.” Eber let out a long, slow sigh. Naomi took a moment to absorb his comments, and responded. “Someone taught him those concepts. He mentioned the Pharisees. We know he began looking for a closer walk with God, how could they turn him, our son away like that? What happened to the love and compassion we shared with him? I got the impression he had the idea that some how a successful son was a blessing. But how can he be a blessing when he has forgotten the most important aspect of God’s law, His love?” Eber added to his wife’s comment, “and to love your father and mother. How can he think, doing a favor for us is payment for the love we have given him? How can he consider it a gift when profit is the motive?”

Aran, his wife, children, and neighbors began bringing out loaves of freshly baked beard, distributing them to all who had come to hear Jesus speak, and watching Him heal dozens. Aran brought a basket of bread to Jesus and His disciples, who sat down, offered a prayer, and began breaking bread. The scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus, asking, “Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” At first Jesus did not answer, but continued His conversation with His disciples. This began to frustrate them. As soon as Jesus saw they were about to repeat the question, He asked them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” Once again He hesitated. Looking at them as if He was reading their minds. This made them feel most uncomfortable. Jesus knew they were about to question Him again, so He added, “For God commanded, saying, “Honor your father and mother.” Jesus knew they would agree with that statement. Jesus prayed this common ground would open their minds. Jesus added, “He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him die by death.” Jesus knew what was on their minds, and knew if they would not share it in front of witnesses, it would place them at a disadvantage.

Jesus changed the subject from the laws they agreed upon, to the traditions they had originally questioned. “But you say, Jesus and the PhariseesWhoever says to his father or mother, Whatever you would gain from me, It is a gift to God; and in no way he honors his father or his mother. And you voided the commandment of God by your tradition.” Jesus had hoped they could see how their tradition contradicted God’s simple law. He knew they had witnessed the effects of their tradition, how it broke families apart, and pierced the hearts of many parents. He also knew they did this for a purpose. To gain control of the younger people. To win committed followers to themselves. Their traditions were designed to favor one group over another, and make them feel superior.

Jesus had hoped, and continued praying they could see the truth revealed in His simple comparison. But they were blinded by their quest for power. He could see it in their eyes, and by the way they murmured among themselves. He only let one Pharisee get out a, “but.” That is when Jesus felt compelled to finish His message. “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people draws near to Me with their mouth, and honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Jesus had to show them, they had to consider their thoughts and actions. Were they motivated by the word of God, or the traditions of men? Jesus knew, many of their beliefs and traditions were based on actions of the early prophets and patriarchs. True, they followed God, and God loved them, but were their actions a result of following God’s command, or their own desires. The scribes and Pharisees had lost the ability to see the difference. They had gone from worshipping the creator, to worshipping created beings. They could not see the error of their ways.

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