Practice Genuine Purity

Explore the Bible Series

October 21, 2007

 

Background Passage:The Gospel of Matthew 13:54-16:12

Lesson Passage: The Gospel of Matthew 15:1-20

 

Introduction: This section records the activities of Jesus over a broad geographical area and a lengthy period of time.The narrative covers an expansive range of issues, but a common theme threads its way through the section, the rising hostility of the Jewish religious leaders toward Jesus.We have, of course, encountered this hostility before, but the opposition seems sharper, more wide-spread, and more organized.In this lesson we will encounter the influence of the leaders over the inhabitants of Jesusí hometown, the Jewsí aggressive pursuit of Jesus, Herodís concern about the Lord, and a hateful and diabolical coalition of Pharisees and Sadducees.On a more positive note, we do see remarkable evidences of the Lordís compassion and power, and we will also encounter wonderful examples of faith.The world is ever this way.The gospel of Godís Kingdom always meets with robust hostility, but the Lord, in spite of sinister opposition, will always reveal his mercy and goodness.

 

 

Outline of the Background Passage:

 

I.                   The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth and the Concerns of Herod (13:53-14:12)

A.    Hostilities at Nazareth (13:53-58):Chapter Thirteen focuses on a series of parables Jesus preached in Capernaum and, later, on a boat in the Sea of Galilee; however, as the chapter draws to end, Matthew records a terrible rejection of Jesus in his home town of Nazareth.Unfortunately, the hostile reaction of Jesusí neighbors and childhood acquaintances had precedent in a previous reject of the Lord and his teaching (See Luke 4:16-30).The earlier incident occurred in response to Jesusí teaching in the local synagogue.After an initial positive reaction to his teaching, the synagogue crowd turned viciously on the Lord, and they pushed him to a nearby cliff to kill him.Somehow, probably by miraculous means, Jesus escaped their bloody plot.Sometime later, the Lord returned to Nazareth, as we see in Matthew thirteen, and the synagogue crowd took offense at the teaching of Jesus again.Because of their unbelief Jesus did not do many more miracles in Nazareth.This phrase, found in verse fifty-eight, does not imply some limitation on the power of Jesus; rather, it denotes, I think, an unwillingness to do miracles where unfaithful men would not benefit from these displays of Christís authority over sickness.

B.     The Concern of Herod Antipas (14:1-12): A careful reading of this paragraph reveals that Herod did not execute john the Baptist at this time (his death had occurred some time earlier); instead, Matthew records Herodís distress when he heard about the Lordís activities in Galilee.The mention of Herod gave Matthew opportunity to record some details about the death of the Baptist.Herod, living in adultery with his brotherís wife, resented the constant rebuke of the John; therefore, the ungodly ruler had John imprisoned.Trapped by his own lusts and impetuous promise to Herodias and her daughter (Josephus identified her as Salome), Herod ordered Johnís beheading.When Jesus heard of Herodís horrific violence, the Lord withdrew to desolate place, outside of Herodís jurisdiction.

 

II.                Jesus Fed the Five Thousand and Walked on the Water (14:13-33)

A.    The feeding of the five thousand (vv. 13-21): This miracle, recorded by all four Gospels, occurred, according to Luke, near Bethsaida, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Despite the hostilities of the Jewish leaders and the town of Nazareth, the crowds continued to follow Jesus, and, at the end of the day, Jesus asked the Twelve about provisions for the physical needs of the people.Of course, these men located only limited resources to meet the needs of the throng.Jesus took these meager (a few loaves and fishes) means and multiplied them to satisfy the hunger of his listeners.Markís Gospel (8:14-21) reminds us that Jesusí miraculous feeding of the multitude had deeper meaning than a mere demonstration of Christís power.

B.     Jesus walked on the water (vv. 22-33): After feeding the crowds Jesus sent the disciples away, and he retreated to the mountain (hill country around the northern rim of the Sea of Galilee) for a season of prayer.In the wee morning hours, between 3:00 and 6:00 A.M., Jesus appeared to disciples as they strained against the oars in a violent wind storm. As they beheld him walking on the turbulent waves, they were frightened.Jesus calmed their fears, and impetuous Peter asked the Lord to let him walk on the water too.For a moment Peter, by the Lordís power, walked on the water, but, as the waves rose around him, the poor manís faith flagged, and he began to sink.Jesus, with a mild rebuke about the discipleís fragile faith, lifted Peter from the waves.

 

III.             Ministry and Hostility in Gennesaret (14:34-15:20)

A.    Miraculous ministry in Gennesaret (14:34-36):The crowds continued to pursue Jesus, and he displayed remarkable compassion, patience, and power in healing all of their infirmities.Gennesaret was located on a fertile crescent-shaped plain that bordered the Northwest shore of Galilee.

B.     Another challenge from the Pharisees and scribes (15:1-20): In addition o the Law of Moses, the Pharisees valued an elaborate oral tradition that acted as an interpretive commentary on the Law.Over time, the regulations of this tradition took on authoritative status, and the First-Century religious leaders, at times, had difficulty distinguishing between Moses and tradition.The directive concerning hand washing came from this tradition, having no ground in the Old Testament legal code.Nevertheless, when Jesusí disciples neglected to follow the tradition of the elders, the Jews confronted Jesus about the violation of their norms.The Lord met their challenge forcefully by reminding the Pharisees of their disregard for the Ten Commandments.

C.     Jesusí teaching on the origin of sin (15:10-20):Jesus summoned a crowd and drew some important conclusions about the theological mistakes of the Pharisees.He observed that men do not defile themselves by what they put in their bodies; rather, defilement comes from inside a man.These religious leaders, Jesus observed, were blind guides.

 

IV.             Other Wondrous Works of the Lord (15:21-39)

A.    The faith of a Gentile woman (vv. 28): Matthew observed that Jesus withdrew to the Phoenician district, near the cities or Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman approached Jesus about the demon oppression of her child.The Lord responded to her in a manner that may surprise and jar readers of the New Testament.At first he ignored the pleading woman; then, as she persisted in her pleadings, he addressed her sharply.Jesus essentially compared her to a dog that begs crumbs at a table; nevertheless, the earnest woman continued her supplications.Apparently, Jesus followed this course of action as test of the womanís faith (it also appears that Jesus may have spoken these words to affirm his awareness of and commitment to the Old Testament prophecies regarding his special mission to the people of Israel), and, in light of her persistent trust in Christ, the Lord granted the womanís petition.

B.     Healing the crowds near the Sea of Galilee (vv. 29-31): Some time must have passed between verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine (Tasker thinks months may have passed).

C.     The feeding of the four-thousand (vv. 32-39): Many New Testament scholars have claimed that Matthew and Mark confused these two stories of the miraculous feedings of the multitudes.The significant differences in the stories indicate that Jesus fed the crowds on two distinct occasions. I suspect that the same scholars who doubt that Jesus fed the crowds twice, also doubt that he fed them even once.

D.    Another confrontation with religious leaders (16:1-4): After crossing the Sea of Galilee to the region of Magadan, Jesus encountered another predatory group of Jewish religious leaders, this time an unlikely coalition of Pharisees and Sadducees.They demanded that Jesus perform a sign for them.The Lord pointed out that the Jews knew how to ďreadĒ the sky for indications of weather conditions, but, when it came to the discerning the realities of the Kingdom, they were inept. Only the sign of Jonah (denoting Jesusí resurrection from the dead) would be given.

E.     Warnings concerning the Pharisees and Sadducees (16:5-12): The disciples, on one occasion, forgot to bring food, and Jesus used their forgetfulness to teach them a valuable lesson.He warned them to guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.Sin and false teaching, like yeast in bread dough, quickly spreads and permeates the whole ďlump.Ē