Matthew 15-18

Faith Revealed

In Chapter 15 the Pharisees question Jesus about the disciples breaking the tradition of the elders by not washing their hands before eating bread. In so doing the disciples were considered unclean or defiled. In the discussion that follows Jesus confronts this tradition and others that the Pharisees have taught that were misleading the people and compromising the Word of God by adding to it. By adding and focusing on a “religious practice” they were overlooking the real things that defile or make a person unclean. Jesus points out it is not what someone eats but what comes out of the heart that makes a person unclean because our words and actions follow our heart. Verse 19

I believe that often what we are going through today is preparation for what we are going to face in the future. In verse 21 Jesus travels to the Gentile district of Tyre and Sidon where a Canaanite woman begins to plead for her daughter who is demon possessed. Jesus is strangely silent but she keeps pleading to the point where the disciples come to Jesus and ask Him to send her away because she is shouting after them. His reply is recorded in verse 24. “But He answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” NASB

It is as if Jesus is telling them it was not His problem. They need to deal with it. In verse 25 we read that she came to Jesus and made her plea.  His answer seems harsh but her reply shows her faith and because of her faith in Him her daughter is healed.

So the question becomes to whom was her faith revealed?  It was the disciples that needed to see her faith. It is clear from verse 22 that she had the faith to come and ask Jesus for mercy and the healing of her daughter. In this verse she addresses Jesus as Lord, Son of David. She believed Jesus could heal her daughter.

The disciples were acting like the Pharisees we read about previously. They had preconceived ideas regarding who she was and didn’t attempt to help or bring her to Jesus, in fact, they were directing Jesus to get rid of her.

Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” NASB

This certainly describes this woman. In spite of being rejected by the disciples, and when it seems like Jesus was not listening or interested, she didn’t give up. She may not have understood why she had to go through what she did but she did understand that Jesus was the only one who could heal her daughter so she was persistent in her crying out to the Lord.

In Luke 18:1 Jesus taught His disciples to pray and not give up and told them a parable to illustrate His teaching. Following that He told another parable that gives a contrast and soon after they are faced with the real life example of the rich, young, ruler, who wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. These served to prepare the disciples for what was coming as Jesus makes His way to Jerusalem. The disciples do not know what is ahead but Jesus does.  The point is we may not know what is ahead, or understand what we are going through, or even why we are going through it, what we need to do is keep our faith strong in the Lord and not give up.

Back in Chapter 15 (and Mark 7) we read that Jesus and the disciples return to the region of Decapolis. This is largely a gentile area. There He will teach, heal, and feed the four thousand. Following that they cross the Sea of Galilee and are again confronted by the Pharisees and Sadducees.  After dealing with them He warns the disciples to beware of the yeast of these religious rulers. Yeast is a symbol if sin in the Bible. The action of yeast, fermenting and working its way throughout a loaf of bread, is a symbol of how sin gets into one’s thinking and slowly corrupts. How the disciples reacted to the woman in our study today showed that they had picked up an attitude of prejudice against women and gentiles from the teaching of the religious rulers.

What were the Pharisees and Sadducees doing? In Chapter 16 they asked Jesus for a sign in order to test Him. This is quite different from the reason the woman came to Jesus. She came in faith. They did not have faith in Him nor were they going to put their faith in Him. This is the context of the warning regarding the yeast.  The disciples were thinking He was talking about the bread they had forgotten to bring. The reality was that they had the bread of life with them.

In 1 Corinthians 8:1 the Apostle Paul says that knowledge puffs a person up with pride. This is the work of the yeast of sin working in the life of a person which makes the heart hard and the person unteachable.  The yeast Jesus is talking about is not taken in through the mouth but rather, through the eyes and ears. It is the result of sin’s corruption that comes out of the heart of man. Of course, this takes us back to where we began this study in Chapter 15. Going on into Chapter 16 Jesus is going to expose what is in the heart of the disciples in verses 13-28. Poor Peter went from great heights to great depths in just a few verses. Still, Jesus had to take Peter through what he needed to go through to show Peter that he had picked up some worldly thinking along the way. Is it possible that Jesus is doing the same thing with some of the things we are going through?  When thinking of this, James 1 comes to mind.

Don’t forget, God is for us and Jesus is always near.  We are only a prayer away from the wisdom of God. James 1:5

Don’t let an attitude block the way or let anything come in between that connection.  Keep your faith in God strong and trust in His Word.

Pastor Dave