Matthew 15:1-39 - Outline of Matthew (Book Notes menu page)
15:1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
15:2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?
for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
15:3 But he answered and said unto them,
Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
15:4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother:
{Deu 5:16}
and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
{Ex 21:17; Lev 20:9}
15:5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to [his] father or [his] mother,
[It is] a gift
{ie., dedicated to God}, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
15:6 And honour not his father or his mother, [he shall be free].
Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
15:7 [Ye] hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
{Isa 29:13}
15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth,
and honoureth me with [their] lips; but their heart is far from me.
15:9 But in vain they do worship me,
teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.
ye hypocrites {GK=hupokrites, an actor, a stage player, a pretender}.-
They were playing at religion...-
  • Concerned with external appearances, while neglecting their heart condition (v.8).
  • Following their own script, while negating the Word of God (v.3-6,9).
tradition of men {versus} the commandments of God - cp. Mark 7:1-13
  • "tradition" {ie., that which is given, or passed down} - Traditions can be good or bad.
    Philosophies received through worldly wisdom are empty (Col 2:8). But teaching received through God's true servants from His Word are to be held and followed, for they are the basis of the Faith (2The 2:15; 3:6). Such good traditions rest upon...
  • the commandments of God {ie., that which God has prescribed... the things which accord with God's purpose}, which often conflict with the commandments of men (v.9).
ye transgress {ie., sidestep, go around} the commandments of God...-
The religious leaders had misplaced the source of true authority. For them, the commentary and interpretation of human scholars held more weight than the simple text of the Bible.
     God's Word must be our final authority. Even Jesus, to whom all authority has been given, quoted the written Word as the test of Truth (v.4,7-9).
     See Psa 19:7-11; 119:89, 160; Prov 30:5,6; Isa 8:20; Joh 17:17; Col 2:20-22; 2Tim 3:14-17
it is a gift {GK=doron, something for the treasury}...-
See Mark 7:11 - The word "corban" {from HB=qorban, a gift of approach, a gift for drawing near} occurs frequently in Leviticus and Numbers, where it is translated "offering" or "oblation," in reference to sacrificial animals or to financial gifts to the Temple treasury. (eg., Lev 1:2; repeatedly in Num 7; Num 31:50 associated with atonement for the soul).
     A gift to the temple treasury would appear to be an indication of the giver's dedication and desire to draw near to God. Apparently, the priests, who stood to gain from such giving, encouraged investment in the work of God, perhaps by means similar to the modern day "charitable gift annuity." The giver would bequeath his 'net worth' to the Temple treasury, but would retain the right to freely use his funds, for his own needs, during his lifetime. But, bound by his agreement with the Temple, he could not apply funds to the needs of others. This arrangement provided a money saving legal loophole by which to escape the open ended expenses of elder care.
     But at what price?
...let him die the death...(v.4) - Every man will be judged according to the Truth of God's Word,
not by the vain traditions of men.
15:10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
15:11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man;
but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
15:12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him,
Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
15:13 But he answered and said,
Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
{cp. Mat 13:38-41}
15:14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind.
And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
{cp. Isa 56:10; Mat 23:16,24}
the pharisees were offended...- Truth often offends.
But the child of God, who lives according to the Truth, cannot bend or soften it, to accommodate the sensitivities of those who reject it.
Let them alone...- From this point onward,
Jesus makes no attempt to heal the rift between Him and the religious leaders.
     The scribes and Pharisees were scholars of the Scriptures. But they had fallen into apostasy, disregarding God's Word, and following human reasonings which undermined the intent of the written Word. Because of their mishandling of the Scriptures, they would not recognize the One of whom they speak (Joh 5:39,40). Therefore, He would allow them to continue in their state of spiritual blindness (Mat 13:14,15).
both shall fall into the ditch {ie., pit}- Both the blind leaders and their blind followers
will suffer the same consequences, because every man is responsible for discerning and obeying the Truth of God's Word. Yet, men prefer willful ignorance, loving darkness because their deeds are evil. Joh 3:19,20; cp. 2Pet 3:5-7; 2The 2:10-12
15:15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. {v.11}
15:16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
{cp. Mat 13:10,11}
15:17 Do not ye yet understand, that
whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly,
and is cast out into the draught
{GK=aphedron, place of sitting apart; ie., the privy}?
15:18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart;
and they defile the man.
15:19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries,
fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
15:20 These are [the things] which defile a man:
but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man...-
The pharisees were focused on ceremonial cleansing of the hands, not for sanitation to prevent disease, but to keep the trivial traditions of men, by which they would judge each other to be good religious persons (Mark 7:3-5).
     But, Jesus says: 'The Truth is, that whether you eat with clean hands or dirty, whatever you eat goes in one end and out the other. It has no lasting effect upon your person. It all ends up in the unclean pile under the outhouse seat.' [While this may sound crude, it is close to the literal sense of the text.]
     The heart of a man cannot be judged by what or how he eats, or how he or she dresses, or by the cover of the book in his hand... or by any other legalistic standard set by men.
those things... which come forth from the heart... defile a man.-
  • A man is defiled {GK=koinoo, rendered unclean, made common (unfit for God's Presence)} by his words and actions, because they reveal his corrupt heart condition. Isa 5:20; See Mark 7:14-23
  • As the content of the unredeemed heart spills out, all of society is corrupted (eg., consider the morally corrupt content of popular entertainment).
  • External religious ritual (eg., ceremonial hand washing) cannot make a man holy before God. 1Sam 16:7; Jer 17:9,10
  • Christ is able to cleanse a man from the inside out. 1Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:19-25
15:21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
15:22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts,
and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, [thou] Son of David;
my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
15:23 But he answered her not a word.
And his disciples came and besought him, saying,
Send her away; for she crieth after us.
15:24 But he answered and said,
I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
15:25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
15:26 But he answered and said,
It is not meet
{ie., fitting} to take the children's bread, and to cast [it] to dogs.
15:27 And she said, Truth, Lord:
yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
15:28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her,
O woman, great [is] thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.
And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
The ministry of Israel's rejected King begins to overflow to gentiles (cp. Mark 7:24-30).-
thou Son of David, have mercy on me...-
This woman, being a gentile, had no basis of claim before Israel's King. Therefore,
  • He did not respond, to her appeal to Him as the son of David, the king of the Jews (v.23a).
  • He restated that His mission was to Israel (v.24; cp. Mat 10:5,6)... to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (who were being led astray by false shepherds; Jer 50:6,7; Eze 34:16,23).
         His disciples wanted to "send her away" (cp. Mat 14:14,15). The heart of the Good Shepherd desired to reach out and help her. But He could not do so and be true to the purpose for which the Father had sent Him, at that time (Joh 10:16).
         Jesus Christ {ie., the Messiah Jesus} came to the Jews, to establish (fulfill) the promises made to the Jewish patriarchs, by the God of Truth (Rom 15:8). Yet, it was God's purpose, that through Jesus Christ, the Gentiles would glorify the true God for His mercy toward them (Rom 15:9-12; Heb 13:20,21). But that time had not yet come.
He honored her faith in Him, when she came, desperate, unworthy, appealing only for mercy. v.25-27
"Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me." [Hymn]
  • 'she... worshipped'- GK=proskuneo, to kiss the hand, like a dog licking its master's hand. cp. Jam 4:10
  • she addressed Him as "Lord" {GK=kurios, master, sir, lord, or Lord}. cp. Rom 10:12,13
  • she confessed her need: 'Help me...'
         His invitation, in Mat 11:28-30, is not limited to Israel, but is open to 'all ye who...'
  • she appealed, not for Israel's rightful portion, but for an insignificant piece of their surplus.
    "Truth, Lord..." 'I am an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, and a stranger from the covenants of promise' (Eph 2:12). 'I have no right to the Passover table,' though the children are blind to what it means (Rom 11:8,9).
         She would be content with 'the children's crumbs.' cp. v.37; Isa 49:6; Rom 11:9-11
    ''If deliverance from the power of sin and Satan be a crumb, what must the loaf be?!'' [GWms]
15:29 And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee;
and went up into a mountain, and sat down there.
15:30 And great multitudes came unto him,
having with them [those that were] lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others,
and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and he healed them:
15:31 Insomuch that the multitude wondered,
when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole,
the lame to walk, and the blind to see:
and they glorified the God of Israel.
{cp. Mark 7:31-37}
They 'wondered' and 'glorified' the God of Israel...-
Yet, they remained unrepentant, and blind concerning Him. cp. Mat 11:20-24
A Gentile woman had recognized Him as the Son of David.
But this crowd, while rejoicing in His miracles, failed to see His relationship to the God of Israel.
15:32 Then Jesus called his disciples [unto him], and said,
I have compassion on the multitude,
because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat:
and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.
15:33 And his disciples say unto him,
Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness,
as to fill so great a multitude?
15:34 And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye?
And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes.
15:35 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
15:36 And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks,
and brake [them], and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
15:37 And they did all eat, and were filled:
and they took up of the broken [meat] that was left seven baskets full.
15:38 And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.
15:39 And he sent away the multitude,
and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.
The Feeding of the 4,000 (cp. Mark 8:1-9).-
Comparison with the Feeding of the 5,000 (in ch. 14) reveals two recurring themes:
  1. Jesus' compassion for the multitude. v.32; Mat 14:14,16
  2. The disciples' lingering unbelief. v.33; 14:15,16
    "Whence {GK=pothen, from what source}... bread in the wilderness?"
    • Had they forgotten who broke the bread to feed the 5,000?
    • Did they not understand His heart and words?
    • If He, who is True, said He would not send them away fasting, then He would feed them.
    Unbelief is sin, worthy of severe judgment. Psa 78:19-22; 2Kin 7:1,2
    • The Pharisees refused to believe.- He turned to others. v.12-14
    • The disciples were slow to believe.- He repeated the lesson. (see the Notes at Mat 14:15-21)
He took... gave thanks... brake... gave to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.-
In v.36, the word 'gave' occurs twice, but with contrasting verb tenses: 'having given thanks' (once)... 'he was giving' or 'kept on giving' (progressively, until all were filled).
     Jesus blessed their tiny resources, broke them even smaller, and continued giving to His disciples, who in turn, continued to give out what they had received from Him...
     In answer to their question: "From Whence...?" to Him they came, again and again, with emptied baskets... to receive, again, from Him, that which the people needed.
'Seven baskets full' of leftovers were collected. v.37
  • When the 5,000 were fed, 'twelve baskets full' were collected (Mat 14:20).
    Since twelve is the number of Israel's tribes, the twelve baskets suggest that the King is able to meet the need of Israel completely and in abundance.
  • In Scripture, 'seven' is often symbolic of completeness, fullness or perfection.
    Since Jesus' ministry had now begun to overflow to gentiles, this number suggests that He is able to satisfy completely the need of all who would come to Him (cp. v.27; Heb 7:25; Rom 11:25-27). He came to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Rom 1:16). These seven baskets were full of the children's crumbs (v.27).
so much bread in the wilderness...-
The Lord satisfied a hungry multitude, in a place where bread was hard to find.
Consider this against the backdrop of the Pharisees' neglect of God's Word, and the famine for God's Word, in the present and future days of apostasy. cp. Deu 8:2,3; Amos 8:11,12; Mat 4:4

Click here to continue the study in Matthew 16:1-
Return to Matthew - MENU page.

Limited permission is granted to copy & distribute these notes from

Go to The Book opening page.