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The Cure for Spiritual Blindness Matthew 15:1-20

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Intro: Rules don’t make you right

My wife was talking to one of her friends
She had just come from a 60th birthday party
The lady had 5 daughters
All of them were raised in the church, went to a strict religious school, and subsequently rebelled and walked away from the Lord
As the lady reflected over her life and where her daughters were she admitted that rules don’t make you a good person
Following rules don’t make you right before God
That’s what we encounter this morning
The rules committee came to visit Jesus
There were some written rules called the Oral Law
Tradition of the elders
Body of rabbinic literature
Later codified in the Mishnah and Talmud
Talmud: 63 books in 8 volumes
As binding to devout Jews as Scripture itself
According to Rabbi Akiba (contemporary of Matthew), the traditions of the Law act as a fence around the law
Tradition to keep people from breaking the Law
Problems with rules and regulations
You can perform them mechanically
Your heart doesn't have to be in it
Rules don’t make you right

Read Matthew 15:1-5

What Jesus is like?
People have a false view
Sunday school Jesus
"Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon this little child"
Gentle and compassionate
He was Confrontational, depending on who He is dealing with
He was a Radical, non-conformist
Did not conform to societal standards
Did not conform to religious practices
Held tenaciously to God's Word
Against religious rules & traditions
That Covered the truth
That Made it difficult to access the truth
Those rules and traditions often cause spiritual blindness because it gives appearance you are right, but your heart is far from God

I. Clean Hands vs. 1-9

How do you cure spiritual blindness?
Clean Hands

vs. 1-2 Break the Rules

The scribes and pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the rules
He didn’t wash his hands before he ate
Jesus had been miraculously healing people in Galilee
Blind see, Deaf hear, Lame walk, Wither hands work, Dead raised
News spread quickly
Incurred interest of religious in Jerusalem
Probably a delegation of the Sanhedrin makes up the Scribes and Pharisees who confront Jesus
They Issue a Public rebuke
Issue at hand: Ceremonial Wash Hands
Not hygiene: ritual
Elaborate hand-washing ceremony of the oral law
Hands place up before you, water poured at fingertips, rand down hands and fell off at the bend of the wrist
Hands pointed down, water poured at wrists, ran down hands and fell off at fingertips
Hands dried by rubbing in open palms
Practiced before every meal and between every course
Religious superstition: Shibtah (a demon) who attached to hands as one slept; touch food and ingest a demon)
Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands when they ate
vs. 3-6 Break the Commandments
Jesus not looking for trouble—trouble found Him
Jesus unafraid of confrontation
Jesus was strong in His reply because these leaders were far too concerned with these ceremonial rules.
Jesus' answer
He turns it back to Scripture
Their argument was NOT about Scripture, but rules & traditions
Oral law twisted the Scripture
They were arguing about Jesus breaking their rules
He turned and charged them with breaking His father’s law
When they declared people unclean because of their rules, they denied the people access to God.
Honor your father and mother:
The clear command of God said that everyone should give honor to their father and mother – even stating a penalty for extreme disobedience to this command.
When we are adults and no longer in our parents’ household or under their authority, we no longer have to obey our father and mother.
Yet we are still commanded to honor them; that command endures.
Some Jewish people of Jesus’ day had a way to get around the command to honor your father and mother.
If they declared that all their possessions or savings were a gift to God that were especially dedicated to Him, they could then say that their resources were unavailable to help their parents.
Corban: dedicated to God's exclusive purpose
Kept and used
A way out of the fifth commandment
Jesus tells them that they think they are getting out of the commandment, but God sees

vs. 7-9 Be careful of the rules

I know what some of you are thinking
If there are no rules there will be anarchy
Our society is crumbling because people aren’t following rules
Governmental rules are important, although I am a believer of less is more

In the church rules can replace a relationship with Jesus

If I follow all of these rules I am right, which turns to I am better than others
Some questions to ask:
Is it established according to Scripture?
Just a convenient way to apply Scripture?
Rules can remind us of important spiritual truths
Rules in spiritual community can be obstructive and destructive even prohibit spiritual life

vs 7 Hypocrites

Jesus has some harsh words for his accusers
Hypocrite comes from Greek term for an actor on stage
One who lived behind a mask
Every area of life has hypocrites
Spiritual hypocrites are the worst
Jesus did not hold back against hypocrisy
Scathing, indicting words
Jesus uses term 23 times in the New Testament
21 times used in regard to religious hypocrites
Jesus then quotes Isaiah 29
Isaiah 29:13 ESV
And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
Rules don’t always make us right
The heart has to be right first
How do you know if your heart is right?

II. Clean Heart vs. 10-20

The second way to cure spiritual blindness is to have a clean heart

vs. 10-11 What Comes Out Defiles

Hear and understand: pay close attention
Under Levitical code: some foods were prohibited by God
Animals that didn't chew the cud
Animals that didn't have cloven hooves
Fish without fins and scales
To protect physical health
A picture of defilement or sin

Religious rules focus on the outward; God focuses on the inward

When God chose David he passed over several physically superior brothers
He chided Samuel for looking at the outward
God looks at the heart
What a person puts in their mouth doesn’t make them unclean
What comes out of the mouth defiles a person

Defile = to make common, unclean, or pollute

Notice its when it comes out that a person is defiled
As a disciple you are not common
You are set apart from the world, holy

vs. 12-14 Blind Leading the Blind

Disciples question whether Jesus knew he offended the Pharisees
He meant to offend Pharisees
Undermining their false trust in their religious system
Pharisees weren't God's plants, they were tares
Marks of Hypocrites
Offended by truth
Destined for judgment
Jesus condemned both the sin and the sinner
Let them alone: stay away from them

vs. 15-20 Out of Mouth the Heart Speaks

Jesus' explanation
Peter walking with Jesus 2 years, didn't understand
Heart: seat of human motives, will, desires, thinking
"Why do you think evil in your hearts?" (Matthew 9:4)
Not defiled by your diet; filth comes form the heart, through the mouth
Worse than what goes into the sewer
Jeremiah 17:9 ESV
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Whether vegan, carnivore, junk food junkie not the issue: heart is the issue
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