The Clean and the Unclean – Matthew 15:1-20
If what goes into the mouth cannot defile a man, can the taking of Holy Communion sanctify a man?
1 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 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?
4 “For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’
5 “But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”–
6 ‘then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition .
7 “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ “
10 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand:
11 “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
12 Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”
13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.
14 “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”
15 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.”
16 So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding?
17 “Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated?
18 “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.
19 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
20 “These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”
Food for Thought
1. What traditions have special meaning to you?
2. Why do people value tradition?
3. If you had to rank the five worst sins, what would your list include?
4. Who came all the way from Jerusalem to see Jesus and why? (15:1-2)
5. What are the Pharisees and the teachers of the law determined to protect? (15:2)
6. What did the Pharisees and teachers of the law disregard? (15:3)
7. What did the Pharisees and the teachers of the law value more, the tradition of the elders or the word of God? (15:3)
8. Is the Law of Moses the word of God? (15:4)
9. Does God prescribe the death penalty for anyone who curses his father or mother? (15:4)
10. Does Jesus approve the stoning of disobedient children? (Deut 21:18-21)
11. Does the death penalty violate the commandment “Thou shalt not kill?” (15:4)
12. How can we honour our father and our mother and at the same time “hate” them? (15:4)
13. How did the Pharisees circumvent the requirements of the law? (15:5)
14. What was wrong with the Pharisees? (15:7-9)
15. What does Jesus mean by saying: “every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted?” (15:13)
16. What warning did Jesus give to the followers of the Pharisees? (15:14)
17. How did Jesus explain his statements to his disciples (15:15)
18. How did Jesus re-define “unclean?” (15:17-20)
19. Why does God allow the blind to lead the blind?
20. Is honouring a parent the same as obeying them?
21. Should a thirty-five year-old man obey his parents if they arrange a marriage for him?
22. How is the injunction to honour father and mother on the pain of death fulfilled in Christ?
23. How is it possible for us to be religious and yet be far from God?
24. In what ways are we sometimes like the Pharisees?
25. What are some ways whereby we “go through the motions” of religious life?
26. Why do we sometimes use loopholes or rationalisations to avoid doing the right thing?
27. What matters: how people behave or their motives and attitudes?
28. What is more important: to give something to God or to give it to a man?
29. In what way do Christians get bogged down in unnecessary rules?
30. What advice would you give a believer friend who is far from God?
31. The tradition that men should not cover their heads in church and that women must cover theirs, is it of God or is it of men?
32. The injunction that women should not teach (1 Tm 2:12), is it of God or is it of men?
33. How can we determine which traditions are acceptable and which are not?
34. How does food make a man unclean?
35. If food cannot defile the heart, how can the blood of Jesus cleanse a man’s heart of sin?
36. If what goes into the mouth cannot defile a man, can the taking of Holy Communion sanctify a man?
37. How did Jesus fulfil the law about clean and unclean animals?
38. How does wearing a cap or not wearing a scarf make a man or a woman unrighteous?
39. How does the kind of clothing a man wears make him unrighteous?
40. How does smoking cigarettes make a man unrighteous?
41. How does smoking dope make a man unrighteous?
42. How does watching blue films make a man unrighteous?
43. How does watching violent films make a man unrighteous?
44. How does drinking alcohol make a man unrighteous?
45. How does sex between two consenting adults make a man unrighteous?
46. How does fighting make a man unrighteous?
47. In what ways have you allowed man-made rules to obscure the spirit of the law and the work of the Holy Spirit in you life?
48. What is one step you can take to develop a pure heart this week?
49. How can you nurture your love for God through your actions at work and at home over the next few days?
50. What could help you keep your focus on Christ rather than mere outward conformity to rules this week?