If we ever wonder if Peter really did dictate this letter, we need look further than verse 18, “Are you so dull?” he [Jesus] said.” Who would ever paint himself in such a bad light if he were making it up, or even exaggerating the story?!
Peter shares with us today three ways that Jesus broke with the traditions and taboos of His day.
That Which Defiles
Ceremonial washing was part of the oral tradition: “According to Rabbinic Judaism, the Oral Torah or Oral Law (Hebrew: תורה שבעל פה, Torah she-be-`al peh, lit. “Torah that is on the mouth”) represents those laws, statutes, and legal interpretations that were not recorded in the Five Books of Moses, the “Written Torah” (Hebrew: תורה שבכתב, Torah she-bi-khtav, lit. ” (Wikipedia).
“The Written Law”—Torah Shebichtav, “The Oral Tradition”—Torah Shebaal Peh
There were 613 Oral Commandments! Learn more at 613 Commandments
Jesus waited for the Pharisees to bring up the “parting of the ways” between Jesus (and His disciples) and the leaders of the day…then He lowered the boom! “Hypocrites!” Jesus then jumped directly into the written law–Torah Shebichtav- to redirect their thinking. By the way, He does this with us routinely when we read/hear His words, which is why it is important for us to expose ourselves daily and often to the Word of God, i.e. reading it, listening to it, listening to teachers talk about it, and praying it.
Jesus called them on one specific case that contradicted God’s express command and especially His heart, which was the taking care of elderly parents. Jesus made two references to the written law, Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16, to show them the error of their ways. And, just in case they missed it, He said, “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.” And then the damning part, “And you do many things like that.” Ouch! If they didn’t hate Him before, they sure hated Him now! We can only hope that there were more like Nicodemus who were open to what the Scriptures truly said.
Jesus then quit addressing the Pharisees directly and called out to the crowd around Him. It wasn’t technically a parable (a story that explains a larger truth–see v.17), but an actual explanation. Jesus went into greater detail with His disciples and explained that, what we eat physically passes through our digestive system and then out. What He was referring to was what comes out of the heart. THAT is what defiles us, and THAT is why He came: to give us new hearts!
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone [a dead heart] and give you a heart of flesh [a living heart]. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezekiel 36:26-27
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:33-34
To give us new hearts is what He came to do! Hearts for Him to inhabit!!!
The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith
Jesus went to the tip of Israel; to meet a Gentile in that area was not uncommon. In fact, the area around Galilee was shared with Gentiles. It makes me wonder why Jesus refused her entreaty. The “tete a tete” (private conversation) between Jesus and this woman reads more like a running joke were the subject not so serious. I still think Jesus smiled at her because of her quick comeback. She proved her faith by not giving up so easily, and was rewarded accordingly: He healed her Greek daughter–a parting of ways with the traditions of the day. We would do well to do the same! Many times, Jesus doesn’t answer us right away to crystallize the need to us; sometimes He simply wants us to turn our attention solely on Him when we ask, rather than being nonchalant about it. Good lesson!
The Mute Man Healed
So, Jesus wouldn’t grant the Greek woman’s request initially because She wasn’t a Jew, but He WOULD go to the Decapolis–10 cities of Gentiles and Jews–and heal there! Obviously, Jesus was testing the woman to grow her faith. In this case, we have no idea if the man was a Jew of a Gentile. All we know is that Jesus healed him.
Once again, Jesus commanded him and those who witnessed the miracle not to tell anyone, but that just made the story all the juicier (v36)! Jesus was constantly being interrupted, diverted, and impositioned by people in need. and, guess what: He took time for everyone! One might think that people were His objective. WAIT…PEOPLE WERE HIS OBJECTIVE! May we remember this nugget of wisdom the next time that we become impatient with our loved ones because they “interrupted, diverted, or impositioned” us.
Lastly, the people were in love with Jesus. He was their hero (v37). The way that the religious leaders manipulated the crowd into crucifying Jesus lets us know that the crowd was seeded with antagonizers and that people are sheep (easily deceived, easily led). May we know the Scriptures so that we will not be led astray. Let’s stay close to our Shepherd, Jesus, “that great Shepherd of the sheep.” Hebrews 13:20.