This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. — Matthew 15:8
“Oh, please, may I have a kitty? He’s a beautiful kitty and he’s FREE!” Our daughter’s enthusiasm was not diminished by our parental reluctance and many questions. So kitty came to our house — actually to our barn — and was promptly named Henry. In spite of our initial hesitation, Henry quickly earned our favor by proving himself to be a professional mouser as well as a little girl’s pride and joy.
A few months later we became somewhat suspicious of Henry’s true identity. One morning the truth came out when Henry was discovered in the haymow with a family of kittens. My husband suggested changing Henry’s name to Henrietta, but it never happened. She was still Henry after many years and mothering dozens of kittens. The name did not change the truth, however; Henry was a female cat. Giving her a masculine name and assuming she was a male did not make it so.
In the same way, what we say does not change what actually lies deep within our hearts. Eventually, the truth comes out. In today’s text, Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees that it was not enough to sound religious or even to act religious. Fine-sounding words and outward forms meant nothing if the heart was far from Him. Ceremonial hand washing or scrupulous following of other tradition was not sufficient; the state of the heart was what was important.
In our day, too, it is possible to know a lot about God but not really know Him. While it is good and important to study the Bible, attend church, sing songs of the faith, and do good deeds, none of these will change the heart. It would be possible to carefully perform all of these activities, and still have a heart that was far from God. What a tragedy that would be!
God’s blessings are reserved for those whose hearts are right with Him. When one’s heart is right, then his words, thoughts, and actions will reflect a true relationship with Him.
This passage deals with the contrast between the external religious observances of man and the internal condition of the heart. It appears that the central religious leaders had come from Jerusalem to investigate the ministry of Jesus. In responding to their questions, Christ spoke plainly regarding their traditions. These religious leaders were faithful in their forms of worship; they were strict in ceremonial observances, and they kept the law outwardly. However, God requires the heart of every individual, and this they had not given to Him.
The specific question these men brought to Jesus regarded the practice of ceremonial washing. Supposedly, this was done for the sake of cleanliness, but it had also become a matter of superstition. They had many rules detailing the quantity of water that was to be used, the way in which it should be applied, the number of times it should be changed, the number of those that might wash at a time, etc. Jesus did not think it necessary to regard these rules, and this was the reason they found fault with Him.
In verses 3-6, Christ gave an example of a tradition that could cause people to actually disobey the fifth Commandment, found in Exodus 20:12, concerning honoring of one’s parents. He referred to the tradition of corban, a Hebrew word meaning “a gift,” (see Mark 7:11). Corban was a gift designated for the Lord, and so forbidden for any other use. Some people deliberately avoided giving needed care to their parents by declaring as “corban” the money or goods that should have been used to provide such care. Thus, what should have been a religious act of offering became a way of avoiding a commanded duty toward one’s parents.
The prophecy Jesus referred to in verses 7 and 8 is found in Isaiah 29:13. Jesus quoted Isaiah’s criticism of hypocrites to the religious leaders to teach them about the importance of inner purity. Jesus reminded them that it was not enough to merely act religious and claim to honor God if the heart is far from Him.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV. The opposition to the King
C. The consummation of the King’s rejection
3. Rejection by the Pharisees and scribes
a. The dispute over tradition (15:1-20)
b. The withdrawal of Christ
(1) To Tyre and Sidon: healing of the Canaanite (15:21-28)
Christ wanted the disciples, the multitude, and people today to understand that true worship of God consists in the union of the heart with Him. Where this does not exist, no true devotion can be found.