In order to begin to understand Judaism we need to know how the Talmud is considered part of the Torah. The Torah is understood to be God’s revelation. Just as we accept the Old & New Testaments as “Gods revelation”. A basic fundamental difference between Judaism and Christianity is rooted in the understanding of Torah. Most Christians believe that Torah is “the Old Testament”.
According to the Jewish sages, at Mt. Sinai, God revealed the Torah in two ways; in writing and in memory. The written Torah corresponds with the Jewish Scriptures, which is our Old Testament. The memorized or oral part was formulated and transmitted over the centuries; from Moses to Joshua to the sages and the prophets, to the authorities who composed the Mishnah.
This Mishnah then carries equal weight to the Scripture. According to the Orthodox Jewish community one can not understand the Torah unless one understands the Mishnah. Yeshua gave a certain amount of credence to this when He said in Matthew 23:2-3:
“The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. The Spirit of God gave us an authoritative Talmud in written and final form with the completion of the New Testament. One of the things that drove the Pharisees crazy was Yeshua’s failure to cite the Talmud, or oral teaching as authority for his judgments and declarations.
“You have heard it said…” “But I say …” . When these Pharisee & Scribes come to Yeshua they were seeking to prove Him a transgressor against the memorized law given at Mt. Sinai. His teaching undermined their system as it now stood. It was a system of outward religion rather than inward change of the heart. This conflict ultimately led to the death of Yeshua, which they thought would sustain their system, but truly led to its undoing. “Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?
This is the key to the problem facing the religious leaders. It is likely that these religious leaders were present at the miracle of the loaves, and instead of focusing on the miracle they saw that the multitudes Washing of hands referred to the ceremonial washing ridding oneself of anything that may have made you ritually unclean, such as touching a dead body or a Gentile.
There were teachings that demons attached themselves to people and would be removed through ceremonial cleansing. The water jars that were used at the Cana wedding were for the ceremonial washing.
In response Jesus indicted them for their transgression of God’s commands by their traditions Matthew 15:3-9. In making the counter-charge He did not deny the charges that they were making regarding those who followed him eating without washing. He later explains that ceremonial washing does not make a person clean, but rather what flows from the things of the heart in Matthew 15:10-20. In His example he shows how one of the ten commandments is negated in keeping their traditions. In honoring one’s parents not only is love and respect essential but helping them meet their needs.
The tradition of korban (Mark 7:11) was declaring all of one’s possessions as dedicated to God. This placed one’s possessions into protection from being given to anyone else. If the person wanted to use the items dedicated he could re-dedicate them after using them. This tradition allowed a selfish person to keep his possessions and yet appear to be spiritual. In this way their traditions nullified the command to honor mother and father.
In reacting to this hypocrisy Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah 29:13 Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote. Tradition can become deadening to religion. Interestingly Jesus declared that abiding in the Kingdom of God requires that a man must put aside family loyalty to love the Messiah above everything else. It appears to be an inconsistency.
But the tradition that Jesus opposed permitted a son to sometimes act against his parents, but the call in Matthew 10:37-39 is a reaction to family opposition to being a disciple of Jesus. Not only is the rule of the Messiah different but so too is the victim.
Matthew 15:10-11– The issue here is dealing with spiritual purity, not the issue of kosher or non kosher foods. We are called to purity, James 1:27 This is pure and un-defiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. Hebrews 7:26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, un-defiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; We are called to be like Jesus in purity.
The multitude present probably overheard the discussion between Jesus and the Parushim (Pharisees). Now He speaks directly to the multitude concerning this issue of purity and cleansing. He was saying that Spiritual defilement is a matter of what is on the inside not what is on the outside. Spiritual and moral impurity comes from what we are not from what eat. What is in your heart proceeds out of the mouth and thus defiles a man. This was not a new teaching, but reinforcing what was always taught in God’s Word.
1 Samuel 16:6-7, Israel was called to circumcision to be a part of the Abrahamic Covenant, but God was just as much interested in the circumcision of the heart as a demonstration of the outward act. Deuteronomy 10:12-13;Jeremiah 31:31-33.
Matthew 15:12-14 – in the parallel account in Mark 7:17 they entered a house, probably the place they were staying in Capernaum. In all likelihood this was Peter’s house. They were away from the crowd and it is at this point that they remark to Jesus concerning the offense to the Pharisees. Offending the Pharisees was probably His intention all along.
The expression “every plant not rooted by the Father”, is brings to mind the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:40-42). Jesus told His disciples to leave them alone. Don’t worry about them God will deal with them. If John had his way he would have called fire down from heaven and incinerated them. They will only lead those who are willfully blind themselves. Together they will fall into a pit, a reference to the many water troughs in fields used for the domestic animals.
Matthew 15:15-20 – When Peter asks on behalf of all the disciples the meaning of the parable, Jesus is saddened that his disciples apparently still don’t understand what Jesus was teaching about the Kingdom of God. They had been with him now over two years so he must have been frustrated with their spiritual dullness to His teaching. The issue here is not clean and unclean foods or the laws of kashrut (kosher) the issue is physical verses spiritual. Purity is not found through ritual or physical regulation, but through a heart that is right with God.
Matthew 15:21-22 The Canaanite woman – Jesus withdrew from the Galilee and went North and on the coast to Tyre which is now Lebanon, no longer in Jewish territory. It was in this territory that Elijah came to rest in the home of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:9). Word had reached this area of the great works being done in Israel through Jesus and many had traveled from this region to see Jesus, in hopes of being healed (Matthew 4:24-25) The action of this woman has caused many to wonder.
She is first of all persistent in entreating Jesus for his help. The disciples want Jesus to send her away. She has asked for mercy, which is acknowledgment that she is undeserving, she also acknowledges that Jesus is the promised son of David which acknowledges her understanding of the Messianic claims of Jesus as the promised King of Israel.
She also calls Him Lord, whether or not she understand the ramifications of that statement we can only speculate. Her daughter is demon possessed and has come to Jesus hoping and believing that He can deliver her.
Matthew 15:23-24 He does not answer her. The disciples approach Jesus asking him to do something because she is so persistent. This should be an example to us to persist in prayer and not lose heart. It is not because Jesus doesn’t care that he apparently ignores her, it is rather to teach his disciples. He shows his disciples that persistent faith will be rewarded, and that silence from the Lord is not no. He then tells his disciples that He was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.
One might consider this shocking but it rather reaffirmed God’s faithfulness to His covenant with Israel. God’s sovereign right to choose and be faithful to Israel is asserted here. Imagine the reaction those words would have on the woman who clearly heard them. Her Canaanite gods were of no use to her, and now Israel’s Messiah is rebuffing her. But she seems to demonstrate no bitterness or resentment, she persists in her request for her daughters deliverance.
Jesus once again puts her off with the a shocking statement that seems so contrary to a loving and gracious God who is not a respecter of persons. There are two words used for “dogs” in Hebrew. One describes wild, vicious dogs who feed on wild animals traveling in packs like wolves.
The second word is used to describe the tamer domestic type of dog. It is the domestic kind of dog that is described here. Once again she demonstrates an incredible humility, and even wisdom in responding that household dogs feed on crumbs that falls from its master’s table. She knows that she is unworthy but persists in her supplication, knowing that all it would take to heal her daughter would be a crumb of a response from Jesus.
Jesus receives from her the response from her that He knew would come, and commends her great faith and answers her request. The daughter is healed immediately.
Matthew 15:29-31 – Lest is be thought that all the Gentiles will ever get is crumbs, Jesus leads his disciples to Decapolis. Where Matthew makes quite clear that not only are Jewish people special to God but Gentiles will also be welcome at the Banquet table (Song of Solomon 2:4;Isaiah 25:6). Mark 7:31-8:10 is a companion to this passage.
This was located on the southwest side of Sea of Galilee. Decapolis is Greek for ten cities and there were ten cities in this region. This area was almost completely non-Jewish, it was in this area where Jesus healed the Gadrene man filled with demons. He was well known in this region probably for that and other miracles. Multitudes came when they heard that he was near. They brought there crippled and mute and he healed them.
Matthew 15:32-39 – The healing of these multitudes took three days and Jesus continued in his compassion for them, not just for their physical afflictions, or their spiritual need, but also cared for what they needed for food. They probably weren’t thinking about eating after being made whole, but Jesus cared. Once again the disciples act as though this request was impossible.
Some suggest this reaction demonstrates that this is another view of the previous feeding of the 5,000. This is unlikely because of Matthew’s skill with numbers and detail. This account is different than the account in Matthew 14. Here what was left over was gathered into 7 baskets while there were 12 in the previous. This feeding demonstrated our Messiah’s compassion for all people, His love is for all mankind.