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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 10: Matthew 15, by Kevin M. Williams

Rather than deal with reconciliation, and bringing the father and son back together in a healed relationship, the oral law would uphold the vow, actually keeping the relationship fractured. Yeshua’s answer reminds these Pharisees—as well as it reminds us today—that our priority is not to give torn parent/child relationships sanctuary, but to remember God’s commandments of honoring and treating others as we would like to be treated.

What does this have to do with clean hands? Yeshua’s purpose was to point out how some (though not all) of the oral traditions were outside the framework of God’s divinely ordained Torah. His example points out that even though a person may make a vow, God’s Word about honoring parents and not speaking evil of one’s parent take priority. That priority helps to maintain human relationships, reconciliation, nurtures the family unit and ultimately, the entire community. Like the entirety of God’s Torah, the commandments were for our personal and collective good.

This is juxtaposed against their question about washing hands. In his answer, Yeshua’s response is designed to make them think something along the lines of, “Okay, we asked him about ritually clean hands and he told to us how our oral tradition violates God’s Torah. The inference, therefore, must be that our traditions regarding clean hands must also be in violation of God’s Torah.”

In theory, this line of reasoning would cause these Pharisees—or anyone—to examine exactly what they teach and if it stands in opposition to God’s Word. This form of debate was common. By answering their question the way he did, Yeshua answered their question indirectly, and may have hoped to get them to analyze all of their traditions.

Yeshua’s parting comment again calls on the Tanakh.

“You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men’” (Matthew 15:3-9, referencing Isaiah 29:13 ).

His message to these Pharisees, and to us, is that we can worship God and still worship Him corruptly, putting our faith in what “we” do and what “we” teach rather than what God’s own Word teaches. Certainly we can find examples of this in our modern denominations, where it may be forbidden to drink this or that, out of concert with God’s Word. We may criticize and scrutinize the Pharisees, but perhaps we should do what Yeshua intended, and scrutinize all of our own vows and traditions. Are our opinions in complete accord with the entirety of the Word we profess?

The scene then escalates. Having declared the traditions of the elders suspect, he then answers the original question. However, he does not answer the P’rushim, he speaks to the “multitude.”

And after He called the multitude to Him, He said to them, “Hear, and understand. Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man” (Matthew 15:10-11).

Yeshua turns from the Pharisees, who were likely still standing nearby, and addresses the throng around him. This slight would speak loudly to the Pharisees. Clearly the disciples were disturbed. Irritating the Pharisees was not, in natural man’s thinking, the quickest way to rise in political influence.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Summer 2003

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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