THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson, we finished up John 6 in which Jesus told the people following Him that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood, but they did not hang around to find out what that meant. So, many of them stop following Jesus after this. Letís pick up where we left off.
John 7:1 After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.
Jesus will be in the Galilee region for a while since He was avoiding Judea thanks to the Jews who wanted to kill Him. While it would be tempting to continue on to verse two there is a lot that happens between verse 1 and 2 that is covered by the other accounts. So, let us begin examining what happens next, which is recorded in Matthew 15 and Mark 7. I will spend most of my time in Matthewís account. The first event we will examine is Jesusí encounter with some Jews who were complaining about unwashed hands.
Matthew 15:1 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."
These scribes and Pharisees tracked Jesus down to complain against Him about what seems like something petty, which was eating with unwashed hands. However, this was not petty to the Jews because it was a ceremonial procedure that had been taught and practiced, which had by instituted by the elders. These Jews had taken many of the O.T. laws and added to them, which they had no authority to do. There was no law written by God saying that one had to wash his hands before he ate. However, the Jews had made up many traditions and laws that they considered to be just as binding as the word of God. Notice Jesusí response to their accusation.
Matthew 15:3 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.' "
Jesus responds back in the same manner by asking them why they transgress the commandments of God because of their tradition. He gives an example of how they have allowed their traditions to be more weightier than the law of Moses because they thought it was acceptable to dishonor their father or mother by simply saying, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God"
Jesus did not sugar coat His message, He rebuked these Jews because He called them Hypocrites, and He quoted Isaiah who prophesied about how Godís people would do exactly what these men were doing, who had made their traditions greater than the law of God. Yes, they would praise God with their words, but their hearts were far from Him because they were doing things their way by teaching the doctrines and commandments of men, which Isaiah said is vain worship.
We might shake our heads at the Jews who were doing this, but this same thing is happening today in the church and outside the church. Letís consider a few of these. First, letís consider the idea of denominations. A denomination is:
A religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices (Webster)
A group having a distinctive interpretation of a religious faith and usually its own organization (World English Dictionary).
A large group of religious congregations united under a common faith and name, usually organized under a single administrative and legal hierarchy (The American Heritage Dictionary)
In other words, a denomination is a group of people who call themselves by a certain name to distinguish themselves from other denominations. That name will tell people what their particular belief system is. While one denomination may say that one act is sinful, another denomination may state that same act should be done by all Christians. What is amazing is the number of denominations we have in the world. According to some sources I looked at, there are between thirty to forty thousand denominations in the world today.†
I want you to think about this. If a group of people form their own body of believers and they agree to teach and adhere to those things that are either added to or taken away from Godís Word, then how are they any different than these scribes and Pharisees that Jesus just finished rebuking and said that they were hypocrites and said they were worshiping God in vain? I cannot see any difference.
Someone might say, Cougan you are being too harsh, but I am not the originator of this principle because it comes right from Godí s Word and from Jesus Himself. Jesus taught us what true worship was all about:
John 4:24 †"God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
Our worship to God must be in spirit and in truth. We cannot worship God by how we feel is best and be pleasing to Him. Just as it was under the old testament, God expects us to do things His way because He knows how He wants to be worshipped, and He does not need any innovations on our part.
If we could just form our own groups and call ourselves after other names, then why did Paul say this to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.† 11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you.† 12 Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ."† 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
Paul makes it clear that we are not to divide ourselves into denominations and call ourselves after other names because Jesus is the one who died for us. Jesus bought the church with His blood. We are to be of the same mind and practice the same things. The only way that can happen is if we adhere to what the Word of God says, which means we must not add to or take away from Godís Word. If we go beyond that and we are lax on things Godís Words says and we tolerate things that Godís Word has not authorized, then we are allowing traditions and the commandments of men to become our focus.
Many in the denominational world like to accuse us of being Pharisees who choose to follow the Word of God to the best of our abilities. However, this is not an accurate label for us because Jesus never condemned or rebuked a Pharisee for strictly adhering to the law of Moses. In fact, He even told His disciples this:
Matthew 23:2 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.† 3 "Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.†
Jesus never had a problem with these Pharisees teaching the Law of Moses. His problem with them was that they did not keep the Law of Moses and they were adding to and taken away from the Law of Moses because of their traditions. So, if you were going to label someone a Pharisee it would need to be a person who is not keeping the Word of God and who is adding his own teachings to follow after.
Those of us in the church also need to be careful about having the mindset of these Jews. It is really easy for tradition to take over without us realizing it. When you do something over and over again, it can turn into a law in our minds. There are many examples I could give, but I want you to consider our time of worship and our Bible classes.
The majority of churches you attend in the USA will usually have a Bible class Sunday morning and Wednesday night, and a worship service Sunday morning and Sunday night. Since this has been the norm for over 50 years, we might begin to turn this pattern into a law, but it is not. When we look at the N.T. we see that they met daily at times. We also see them having their worship service in the evening.
What if our elders decided to change things up a bit. They decided to do away with the Sunday morning worship and Bible class. Instead, they decided it would be better for us to meet Sunday evening from 7 to 9. Part of that would be a Bible class and part of that would be a worship service. What if they also decided to do away with the Wednesday night Bible study? What† would your initial reaction be? Would you think they were being unscriptual? Since we are used to attending all the times that the elders have agreed on and we have been doing so for most of our lives, it would be hard for us not to want to resistant such a change or feel like it was unscriptural. I know I would feel the same way, but the fact of the matter is that it would not be unscriptural for us to attend only on Sunday evening per the elders directions. While I do not think this would be a wise decision, †it is not unscriptural.
Let us not forget that the elders are responsible for us all. As Paul told the Ephesian elders:
Acts 20:28 †"Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
One thing the elders cannot do is go beyond what is written. Therefore, they cannot tell us to meet on Friday instead of Sunday, but if they thought it would be better for us to meet 5 times a week, then we should be willing to meet those 5 times if it is at all possible. I could give many more examples of this, but I think you get the idea of how tradition can turn into a law in our minds if we are not careful.
One last area I want to mention is the influence of society. Society has its ideas of what is wrong and what is right. Since we live in our society, Christians have a tendency to adopt what our society teaches and allow those teachings to make Godís Word null and void. For example, society says that whatever you are guilty of,† it really is not your fault. Your environment caused it or the way you were treated caused it. This principle has led many people who call themselves Chrsitians to say, ďyou cannt judge people or tell them they are wrong.Ē After all Jesus said:
Matthew 7:1 "Judge not, that you be not judged.
This is an easy teaching to adhere to because basically it means that no one can judge me and I cannot judge anyone else. So, all that is left is just encouraging others without judging. However, this what you call twisting the Scriptures and ignoring the whole council of God because Jesus also said:
John 7:24 †"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."
I could give example after example in the N.T. of people making righteous judgments and of Jesus telling us how we are to rebuke the sinner. We can even see in our original text that Jesus did not hold back in making a righteous judgement about these scribes and Pharisees. He called them hypocrites and told them they were worshipping God in vain. So do not allow what society or anyone teaches to override what Godís Word teaches.
Next, we read:
Matthew 15:10 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."
Jesus is teaching His disciples that the food that goes
into peopleís mouth regardless of their hands being clean or unclean does not
defile them. No, what defiles a person is the words that come out his mouth.
Why? Because the words that come out of the mouth come from the heart.
Proverbs 4:23 †Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
Next, we read:
Matthew 15:12 Then His disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?"
Jesus did not go around offending people for the fun of it. He simply preached the truth. Though He preached the truth, His disciples were questioning Jesus about His words. I can promise you, you are always going to find people who will question you about what you say even though you are speaking Godís Word. Again, this goes right back to the way our society thinks. We cannot concern ourselves with such things. Instead, we need to ask the question that Paul did in:
Galatians 4:16 †Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?
Notice Jesusí response:
Matthew 15:13 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."
There is no stability in false doctrine. It will not stand and it will be uprooted. As Christians, we are certainly supposed to teach against false doctrine. So, when Jesus says ďlet them aloneĒ He is not saying do not take stand against them, but is saying do not respect their false teaching or give into it because they are blind. If one blind person follows another, they will both end† up in the ditch. So, no matter how great the wisdom of man may sound, donít buy into it because in the end, the only wisdom that will stand is that which comes from Godís Word.
Now Jesus is going to rebuke Peter:
Matthew 15:15 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."
As we have seen many times in Jesusí ministry, His disciples just do not get it sometimes. When Peter asked Him to explain the parable, He rebukes them because they should have known what He was talking about. So, He explains the parable to them. Again, the message is simple. Those things that you eat with unwashed hand do not defile, but those evil things that come from the heart do, which is why it is important for as Christians to make sure that we keep our hearts pure so that that the things come from our hearts in pure.
Our next event is also recorded in Matthew and in Mark, but I am going to use Markís account for this one.
Mark 7:24 From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden.† 25 For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet.† 26 The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
Tyre and Sidon were two Phoenician cities that were about 20 miles from each other. We learn that Jesus enters a house and did not want anyone to know about it, but even in this Gentile country, Jesusí fame could not escape Him. We learn that this woman had a demon possessed girl and she wanted Jesus to cast this demon out. Just as a side note, you do not read about anyone in the Old Testament being demon possessed, nor do we read about any Christians being demon possessed. Demon possession was a limited event that only happened during the time of Christ and during the time of the apostles.
Letís switch back to Matthewís account:
Matthew 15:23 †But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, "Send her away, for she cries out after us."† 24 But He answered and said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
When she came up asking Jesus to help her, He did not respond at first. Jesusí disciples would not want to have anything to do with Gentiles, but Jesus was not this way, His disciples wanted Jesus to send this woman away. I am sure they really happy when Jesus told the woman He was sent to help her, but only the house of Israel. Next, we read:
Matthew 15:25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, help me!"† 26 But He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs."
I am sure the disciples were happy with this statement as well, but they may have been shocked shocked by what happened next:
Matthew 15:27 And she said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."† 28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
Mark 7:30 And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.
This Gentile woman was put to the test, and she passed it. While it is true that Jesus was focusing on the Jews at first, we know that that He would bring about salvation for all. We have already seen Him help other faithful Gentiles as well. This Gentile woman had great faith in Jesus and even called Him Lord. She never gave up pursuing Him because she knew that He could fix her daughter. Since she was so persistent and faithful, Jesus granted her request, and when she made it home, she saw that faith in Jesus was not in vain because her precious daughter was no longer plagued by a demon.
We can learn a valuable lesson from this woman. We must never forget who it is that offers us salvation and we must never stop pursuing God. Persistence will always pay off in one way or another. Next we read in Markís account:
Mark 7:31 Again, departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon, He came through the midst of the region of Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee.† 32 Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him.† 33 And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue.† 34 Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened."† 35 Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly.† 36 Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it.† 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, "He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."
Matthewís account tells that Jesus healed many people in this area, but Markís accounts gives us the details of this one man who Jesus cured of His deafness and made it possible for him to speak plainly. Jesus was able to do so many amazing things, no wonder so many people were in awe. Letís look at one last miracle that Jesus did.
Matthew 15:32 †Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, "I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way."† 33 Then His disciples said to Him, "Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?"† 34 Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" And they said, "Seven, and a few little fish."† 35 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.† 36 And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude.† 37 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left.† 38 Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.† 39 And He sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala.
This is similar to the feeding of the 5000. Jesus has compassion for these people that have been following Him for 3 days. So, He wants to to feed them. This time there are 4000 men not counting women or children. You would think that Jesusí disciples would not question feeding these people after seeing Jesus do it before, but they did. Of course, this time they had 7 loaves and a few fish. Once again, Jesus is able to feed all these people until they were full and on top of that, there was enough fragments left over, that they filled 7 large baskets.
Though this miracle is being done a second time, it does not take away from the awe that it inspires. No matter how many times Jesus does a similar miracle it does not make any less impressive, but just add to the abundance of evidence that He is the Son of God.
After He fed the 4000, He sends them away and gets on the boat and goes to the region of Magdala, which is on the west side of the Sea of Galilee.
In this lesson we have seen Jesus rebuke the Jews for holding their traditions equal to and in some cases greater than the Word of God. We also learned there is nothing wrong with preaching the truth, no matter who it may offend. We saw the great example of the persistent and faithful Syro-Phoenician woman, and we looked at some more of Jesusí miracles. I hope we can learn great lessons from these events that we can apply to our lives today.