The New Testament reading for Monday, June 18 is:

Matthew 15 (Listen)

Traditions and Commandments

15:1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,”1 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word2 of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

  “‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
  in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

What Defiles a Person

10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides.3 And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?4 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

The Faith of a Canaanite Woman

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.5

Jesus Heals Many

29 Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, 31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.

Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand

32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” 33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.

Footnotes

[1] 15:5 Or is an offering
[2] 15:6 Some manuscripts law
[3] 15:14 Some manuscripts add of the blind
[4] 15:17 Greek is expelled into the latrine
[5] 15:28 Greek from that hour

(ESV)


English Standard Version: Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Text provided by the Crossway Bibles Web Service.

New Testament Pastoral Commentary for Matthew 15
Author: Pastor Zach
One of my favorite current series of commercials is for V8 vegetable juice. They feature people eating all sorts of cholesterol packed, calorie laden, trans-fat drenched foods, only to be bopped on the head by someone with a higher health IQ. The commercial's announcer then informs us: "Could've had a V8. 100% vegetable juice. With three of your daily vegetable servings in every little bottle."

Perhaps there is nary a one of us who could not improve our eating habits, at least a little bit. My vices include ice cream, chocolate, and lots and lots of cheese. I've also been known to enjoy a burger from time to time. And for me, the greasier, the better. Just the other day, in fact, I went over to the Longhorn Café and scarfed down a cheeseburger. It was deliciously sinful. Sure, I could've ordered a salad. Or sure, I could've ordered the grilled chicken. But that would've not been nearly so delicious as a burger which turns its own wrapper clear from its grease. I could've eaten healthy. But I didn't.

I have found that there are many things which many of us wish we could've done differently. But when we are faced with so many choices, ranging from the mundanely incidental to the profoundly life-altering, we inevitably make poor decisions. "I could've spent more time with my kids when they were growing up," a father in the twilight years of his life might bemoan. "I could've saved more rather than spent everything I have," a deeply indebted person might lament. But as the old saying goes, "Could've, should've, would've." Just because we could've, doesn't mean we did.

In our text for today from Matthew 15, we meet a woman we meet a Canaanite who is tirelessly caring for her demon-possessed daughter. Matthew tells us that she is from "the region of Tyre and Sidon" (verse 21). Now, as a rule, Matthew does not indicate a person's whereabouts as a mere travel log. Rather, some theological import often accompanies a location. So it is with these twin cities. For just a mere three miles northwest of Sidon was a temple, pictured above, to Eshmun, a pagan god of healing whose origins date back to at least the Iron Age. If a woman like this needed healing for her demon-possessed son, she could've gone to make an offering at Eshmun's temple. Indeed, that's what her friends, neighbors, and relatives would've expected she should've done. But she doesn't do that. Instead, she turns to a healer she has just recently heard of. She turns to a healer named Jesus: "Lord, Son of David," she cries out, "Have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession" (verse 22). This woman takes a chance on someone she scarcely knows anything about. And she is hoping against hope that he can help her.

But instead of helping her, Jesus shocks her: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel," Jesus quips (verse 24). In other words, Jesus is saying, "I'm only interested in helping holy Israelites, not pagan Canaanites." But this woman will not be detoured. So she persists, "Lord, help me!" Jesus replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs" (verses 25-26)? Wait. Did I hear that right? Did Jesus just call this woman a dog? Yes, he did. And in that day, as in ours, calling someone a "dog," was not a term of endearment. It was a term of revilement.

At this point, this woman had to have been thinking, "I could've gone to Eshmun's temple. I could've possibly had my son healed by a priest there. Maybe I've made the wrong choice going to this Jesus." But this woman, desperate for help, makes one last-ditch effort to curry Jesus' help and healing: "Yes, Lord," she says, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table" (verse 27). This woman refuses to walk away from Jesus without some scrap of blessing. He may insult her, belittle her, and beleaguer her, but this woman just won't give up on Jesus.

Perhaps, like this woman, you've been tempted to give up on Jesus. Maybe you've prayed a prayer that has gone seemingly unanswered. Maybe you've suffered a tragedy that has made you question God's goodness if not his very existence. Maybe you've encountered a steady stream of unfulfilled hopes, dreams, and wishes that have driven you to other avenues to seek fulfillment. And even if you haven't officially "given up" on Jesus, you've at least thought, "I could've gone some place other than Christ's for help. And maybe I could've gotten better 'results' than I did with Jesus." If you've ever felt this, said this, or thought this, then I want you to remember the persistency of this Canaanite woman. For she just won't give up on Jesus. And Jesus hears. And Jesus eventually helps: "'Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour" (verse 28).

Even if we could've gone somewhere other than Jesus, that doesn't mean we should've. For the only real place for healing, hope, and help is Jesus. So today, even if you could've despaired, or could've sinned, or could've walked away from faith in a moment of trial, don't. Instead, go to Jesus. And rely on him for all you need. For, in the end, he helps that Canaanite woman. And, in the end, he'll help you too.