“Emmanuel’s Priorities, Part 2” – Matthew 15:1-28

December 6th, 2015

Matthew 15:1-28 (See also Mk 7:1-30; Lk 6:39)

“Emmanuel’s Priorities Pt 2”


Service Orientation: Jesus again warns us to guard our hearts; because the affections of our heart greatly influence where we place our faith.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.  —Romans 10:9-10)  


Background Information:

  • In an obviously parallel way, the teaching of Jesus about true “cleanness” in Mt 15:1-20 is followed in vv. 21-28 by his response to an “unclean” Gentile woman’s prayer for help and in the last verses of the chapter (vv. 29-39) by his healing and feeding of a largely Gentile crowd. Thus the point of Matthew 15 as a whole is that the kingdom of God is for Gentiles as well as Jews because Christianity rests on an entirely different foundation than did Judaism.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 281)
  • The Lord, we must remember, had just fed the five thousand in the wilderness. Thousands of people had eaten bread with unwashed hands, and with the Lord’s evident blessing.  The small-minded Pharisees did not care about the miracle.  All they cared about was that the Lord had broken one of their religious taboos.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 307)
  • (v. 2) The “tradition of the elders” (v. 2) goes all the way back to the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, when the book of the law was rediscovered. Scribes began to study it, and teachers began to explore all the ways that the law should be applied to specific situations in people’s lives.  The end result was something akin to two authorities: (1) the law of God and (2) the teaching of the elders.  The teaching of the elders was mainly oral and it was passed down from generation to generation.  By AD 200, these traditions were compiled in a book called the Mishnah.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 200)
  • (v. 2) But what do they ask? They ask nothing about Jesus.  Instead they ask, “Why do your disciples [not even Jesus] break the tradition of the elders?  For they do not wash their hands when they eat” (15:2).  They ask a very serious and seemingly important religious question.  However, it is the wrong question.  It’s like a reporter asking a firefighter just after he has rescued a baby from a burning building, “Now, sir, I’ve heard that your brother eats meat on Fridays during Lent.  Is that true?” . . . Considering all Jesus has done and taught, they could have (should have) come up with a better question than that.  But that’s just part of the disease…spiritually blind people–then and now–are always asking the wrong questions.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 419)
  • (v. 2) Wash had nothing to do with physical hygiene but referred to ceremonial rinsing. The purpose was to remove the ritual defilement caused by having touched something unclean, such as a dead body or a Gentile.  Some of the rabbis even taught that a certain demon named Shibtah attached itself to people’s hands while they slept and that, if he were not ceremonially washed away, he would actually enter the body through the food handled by defiled hands.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 453)
  • (v. 2) Whatever may have been the commonsense demands of hygiene (particularly when food was taken from a common dish), the only regular ritual handwashing required in the OT law is that of the priests before undertaking their cultic duties (Ex 30:18-21; 40:30-32) or eating the sacrificial food (Lv 22:4-7). (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 577)
  • (v. 5) The practice of the tradition of “Corban” (literally, “offering”) meant that a person could dedicate money or property for God’s exclusive use. When this happened, the money would be reserved for sacred use and withdrawn from use by anyone else.  But the benefits could be used by the donor, much like an irrevocable trust works today.  This vow was grossly misused.  A man could use an article vowed to God indefinitely but could not transfer it to anyone else.  Unscrupulous people would even use this vow to keep from paying debts.  Others, as Jesus noted, used it to circumvent their responsibility to their parents.  Their devotion to God had stripped them of their compassion for people.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 302)
  • (v. 6) He is not to honor might better be rendered, “He must not honor.” The vow did not simply allow withholding help from father or . . . mother but actually forbade it.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 454)
  • (v. 12) The disciples perhaps were more than a little alarmed at the Lord’s fearless exposure of these powerful men. These were no local rabbis who had been offended.  They were a deputation from Jerusalem.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 310)
  • (v. 12) After this dialogue the breach between Jesus and the scribal establishment is irreparable. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 575)
  • (v. 13) Such growths remind us of the tares which the devil planted (Mt 13:25, 39). They were destined to be uprooted and thrown into the fire (13:30; cf. 3:10, 12; Lk 17:6; Jn 15:5; Jude 12).  That is to happen at the time of the final judgment.  Christ’s critics belong to this group.  Those who place their confidence in them are going to be uprooted along with them.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 617)
  • (v. 14) Their failure to understand God and his desires for people would prove to be disastrous for them and for those who followed them. “Both will fall into a pit” is probably a picture of judgment (see Jer 48:44).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 305)
  • (v. 19) To emphasize how all evil comes from within, Jesus listed several examples of sin. The first, “evil intentions,” is probably a category under which the others are found.  The remaining six follow the order of the sixth through ninth commandments.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 307)
  • (v. 21) There was no place in Palestine where he could be sure of privacy; wherever he went, the crowds would find him. So he went right north through Galilee until he came to the land of Tyre and Sidon where the Phoenicians dwelt.  There, at least for a time, he would be safe from the hostility of the scribes and Pharisees, and from the dangerous popularity of the people; for no Jew would be likely to follow him into Gentile territory.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 141)
  • (v. 21) The Lord did not go to this area to minister but to rest, just as centuries earlier the Lord had sent Elijah to that same region to rest at the home of the widow at “Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon” (1 Kgs 17:9). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 467)
  • (v. 21) We do not really know why He went there, but we do know this is the only time during His ministry that Jesus left the ancient borders of Israel and went into a pagan land. (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 478)
  • (v. 21) Jesus “withdraws” (as in 2:12, 22; 4:12; 12:15; 14:13) to the region of Tyre and Sidon, cities on the Mediterranean coast lying about thirty and fifty miles respectively from Galilee. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 354)
  • (v. 22) We cannot know how this pagan woman came to know and use this title for Jesus, but it is interesting that she was willing to identify Him as the Messiah when so many in Israel were unwilling to do so. (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 479)
  • (v. 22) During the time of the Judges the Canaanites were the major enemies of Israel. They were the heathen population of Palestine.  Mark identifies her as “a Greek,” a Syrophoenician by birth” (Phillips, Mk 7:26).  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 152)
  • (v. 23) How absolutely unlike Jesus this non-response was. There was a consistent pattern throughout His earthly ministry–whenever someone looked to Him for help, He stopped in His tracks and dealt with that person’s need.  His ministry was marked, above all things, by compassion.  However, it seems, at least at first glance, that Jesus ignored this Canaanite woman.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 479)
  • (v. 23) The reaction of the disciples was not really compassion at all; it was the reverse–to them the woman was a nuisance, and all they wanted was to be rid of her as quickly as possible. To grant a request to get rid of a person who is, or may become, a nuisance is a common enough reaction; but it is very different from the response of Christian love and pity and compassion.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 141)
  • (v. 24) While on earth, Jesus restricted his mission to Jewish people. In doing so, he was doing his Father’s will (11:27) and fulfilling the promise God made to Jews in the OT.  The restricted mission of Jesus and the disciples echoes the principle recorded in 10:5-6.  “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” does not mean Jesus came to the Jews alone; rather, it means that he would go to them first (Mk 7:27).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 309)
  • (v. 24) She must learn that at this stage Christ’s ministry was primarily to Israel, and that it was through them that the blessings of the Covenant would ultimately reach the Gentiles (Jn 4:21-23). (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 87-8)
  • (v. 24) Matthew alone recorded this interchange. His Jewish audience would have been very interested in Jesus’ miracle to help this Gentile woman.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 309)
  • (v. 26) To call a person a dog was a deadly and a contemptuous insult. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 142)
  • (v. 26) There may be no significance to the use of the diminutive “dogs” (kynaria) in vv. 26-27, because in Hellenistic Greek the diminutive force is often entirely lacking; but if there is such force here, it does not make the dogs more acceptable–i.e., “pet dogs” or “house dogs” as opposed to “wild dogs”–but more dependent; i.e., little, helpless dogs eat little scraps of food (psichiōn–equally diminutive in form). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 356)
  • (v. 26) A thing which seems hard can be said with a disarming smile. We can call a friend “an old villain” or “a rogue,” with a smile and a tone which take all the sting out of it and fill it with affection.  We can be quite sure that the smile on Jesus’ face and the compassion in his eyes robbed the words of all insult and bitterness.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 142)
  • (v. 26) Cold print does not allow us to detect a quizzical eyebrow or a tongue in the cheek, and it may be that Jesus’ demeanor already hinted that his discouraging reply was not to be his last word on the subject.  Need we assume that when eventually the woman won the argument Jesus was either dismayed or displeased?  May this not rather have been the outcome he intended from the start?  A good teacher may sometimes aim to draw out a pupil’s best insight by a deliberate challenge which does not necessarily represent the teacher’s own view–even if the phrase “devil’s advocate” may not be quite appropriate to this context!  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 591)
  • (v. 28) This is the only time in Matthew when faith is qualified as “great.” (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 595-6)
  • (v. 28) Jesus was delighted by the faith of the woman. He granted her request because of her humility and persistence.  She had made her request in faith that Jesus could perform the healing.  His words had been meant to challenge her to greater faith, and she had responded.  She understood Christ’s lordship, and she understood the priorities of his mission.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 311)
  • (v. 28) The greatness of her faith is certainly an important emphasis since, although Matthew uses the word great often, this is the only place he joins the word to faith. Only this woman, a Canaanite, and the centurion of Mt 8:10 are publicly praised for their faith by Jesus.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 290)


The question to be answered is . . . What does Matthew want us to know about the connection between faith in Jesus and the affections of our hearts by revealing these two events?


Answer:  First that Jesus needs to be the object of our faith;  not our faith.  Second, a good, long, hard, honest look at your heart will convince you that you need to look to Jesus alone for your salvation.  Your heart will always have affections for what you believe is your salvation.


Heart is used in Scripture as the most comprehensive term for the authentic person. It is the part of our being where we desire, deliberate, and decide. It has been described as “the place of conscious and decisive spiritual activity,” “the comprehensive term for a person as a whole; his feelings, desires, passions, thought, understanding and will,” and “the center of a person. The place to which God turns.” (J. Stowell, Fan The Flame, 13)


The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart


The Word for the Day is . . . heart


The heart is the principal thing in the relation of husband and wife, of friend and friend, of parent and child.  The heart must be the principal point to which we attend in all the relations between God and our souls.  What is the first thing we need in order to be Christians?  A new heart.  What is the sacrifice God asks us to bring to him?  A broken and contrite heart (Ps 51:17).  What is the true circumcision?  The circumcision of the heart (Rom 2:29).  What is genuine obedience?  To obey from the heart.  What is saving faith?  To believe with the heart.  Where ought Christ to dwell?  To dwell in our hearts through faith (Eph 3:17).  What is the chief request that Wisdom makes to everyone?  “My son, give me your heart” (Prv 23:26).  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 126)


Questions we need to learn to ask ourselves from this text:


I-  Guard your heart:  What is the object of your faith? (Mt 15:1-9; see also: Dt 10:12-16; Prv 3:5-6; 4:23; Mt 6:19-34; 9:29; 13:1-23; 19:16-30; Mk 4:1-25; 7:1-13; 10:17-23; 11:22-24; Lk 4:1-25; 18:18-30; Acts 27:25; 1 Cor 2:5; 2 Cor 1:9; 1 Thes 1:8)


The Jews of Jesus’ day thought of themselves as preserving ancient traditions; but Jesus said that what they were actually preserving was the spirit of those whom Isaiah criticized long before.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 349)


By describing the (scriptural) commandment as “God’s” and the tradition as “your own,” he makes clear where the ultimate authority must lie.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 579)


Is the Bible the one absolute source of divine truth, or are the traditions of the church on an equal plain with Scripture?  The Reformation said sola Scriptura.

The same kind of debate was going on in Israel when the traditions of the rabbis began to occupy an equal place of authority to the Word of God and, in some cases, actually began to swallow up the authority of Scripture, because the leaders of the church preferred their traditions to the commandments of God.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 472)


The plain meaning of our Lord’s words is that false doctrine like that of the Pharisees was a plant to which no mercy should be shown.  It was a “plant which his heavenly Father had not planted,” and a plant which it was a duty to “pull up by the roots,” whatever offense it might cause.  To spare it was no charity, because it was injurious to the souls of men.  It mattered nothing that those who planted it were high in office, or learned: if it contradicted the Word of God it ought to be opposed, refuted and rejected.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 127)


They had become so zealous for the traditions that they had lost their perspective and had missed the point of God’s law entirely.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 301)


The religious leaders knew Moses’ words backward and forward, but Jesus pointed out how they were actually breaking them (see 15:5-6).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 301)


Their religion was intentionally external and superficial, because it could be outwardly practiced with great zeal and diligence no matter what the condition of the heart or soul.  It was a religion of ceremony and tradition that the most hardened unbeliever could follow.  It was concerned with covering up sin, not exposing and cleansing it, with appearing righteous, not being righteous.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 451)


In their minds the tradition of the elders was superior to Scripture, in the sense that it was the only reliable interpretation of God’s Word.  Just as Roman Catholics look to church dogma to discover what Scripture “really means,” most Jews of Jesus’ day looked to the tradition of the elders.  In much the same way, many Protestants give more authority to the pronouncements of their denomination than to the Bible.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 452)


If religion consists in external regulations and observances, it is two things.  It is far too easy.  It is very much easier to abstain from certain foods and to wash the hands in a certain way than it is to love the unlovely and the unlovable, and to help the needy at the cost of one’s own time and money and comfort and pleasure.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 139)


Many religious traditions are good and can add richness and meaning to life.  But just because our traditions have been practiced for years, we must not elevate them to a sacred standing.  God’s principles never change, and his law doesn’t need additions.  Traditions should help us understand God’s laws better, not become laws themselves.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 301)


The words “but you say” demonstrated how their behavior opposed what Moses had written.  In their devotion to the law and tradition, their procedural regulations obscured the true intent of God’s Word.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 302)


To the scribes and Pharisees, religion was the observance of certain outward rules and regulations and rituals, such as the correct way to wash the hands before eating; it was the strict observance of a legalistic outlook on all life.  To Jesus, religion was a thing which had its seat in the heart; it was a thing which issued in compassion and kindness, which are above and beyond the law.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 136)


An ancient rabbi said, “There are ten parts of hypocrisy in the world, nine at Jerusalem and one everywhere else.”  The same might be said of much of the church.  Satan has no greater allies than hypocrites who go under the guise of God’s people.  And hypocrites have no greater ally than tradition, because tradition can be followed mechanically and thoughtlessly, without conviction, sincerity, or purity of heart.  Because traditions are made by men, they can be accomplished by men.  They require no faith, no trust, no dependence on God.  Not only that, but they appeal to the flesh by feeding pride and self-righteousness.  Often, as in this case, they also serve self-interest.

Because traditions require no integrity of heart, they are easily substituted for true worship and obedience.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 455)


Not long before, as Edersheim pointed out, the two leading rabbis of the age, Hillel and Shammai, “rival teachers and heroes of Jewish traditionalism,” had fixed the ordinance about washing hands.  Their schools, which differed about almost everything else, agreed that water had to be poured on the hands and allowed to run down to the wrist.  This and similar rules, which were “intended to separate the Jew from all contact with Gentiles,” were “of the most violently anti-Gentile, intolerant, and exclusive character.”

There could be no modification of the rule for hand washing.  Any rabbi who disregarded this tradition was excommunicated.  The Pharisees regarded this and other ordinances of the scribes to be “more precious, and of more binding importance than those of Holy Scripture itself.”  The rabbis taught that tradition was weightier than the words of the Law and the Prophets.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 308)


Note the word “your.”  The Lord was denying their claim that Jewish tradition went back to Moses when He bluntly called it their tradition.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 308)


Following the teaching and example of their religious leaders, orthodox Jews lived entirely by externals–which are the marks of every false religion.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 458)


Jewish traditions had multiplied so much by Jesus’ time that it became impossible for anyone, even full-time religionists such as the scribes and Pharisees, to keep all of them.  The rabbis had therefore developed “the law of intention.”  If a person arose in the morning and said, “I intend to be pure all day,” he could waive the ceremonies and consider them fulfilled because of his good intention.  The intention, or course, was not good at all, because its purpose was to evade rather than fulfill the tradition–showing that the Jews were hypocritical even about their own man-made standards.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 458)


Let it therefore be held as a settled principle, that, since obedience is more highly esteemed by God than sacrifices, (1 Sm 15:22, 23) all kinds of worship invented by men are of no estimation in his sight; nay more, that, as the prophet declares, they are accursed and detestable.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 254)


If Satan can’t trip us up with outright immorality, he is more than happy to use seemingly good things to direct our attention away from Christ and the gospel.  The Pharisees in Jesus’ day presented just such a danger.  They put on a good show, but Jesus’ piercing gaze saw right through their flesh-fueled holiness.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 200)


II-  Guard your heart:  Do you know the source of every evil thought or deed in you?  What are your affections? (Mt 15:10-20; see also: Isa 29:13; Jer 17:9; Mt 6:21; 12:34-37; 13:15; 15:8; Mk 7:6, 14-23; 12:30; Lk 6:45; 12:34; Jn 2:25; Rom 2:5; 3:9-23; Heb 3:10-12)


The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.  — Winston Churchill


These scribes and Pharisees were so focused on the externals that they had completely bypassed the internal.  They needed to see that our greatest need is changed hearts.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 205)


The human heart is heretical by nature and runs to error as naturally as a garden to weeds.  All a man, a church or a denomination needs to guarantee deterioration of doctrine is to take everything for granted and do nothing.  The unattended garden will soon be overrun with weeds; the heart that fails to cultivate truth and root out error will shortly be a theological wilderness; the church or denomination that grows careless on the highway of truth will before long find itself astray, bogged down in some mud flat from which there is no escape.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 162)


It is Jesus’ teaching–and it is a teaching which condemns every one of us–that people cannot call themselves good because they observe external rules and regulations; they can call themselves good only when their hearts are pure.  That very fact is the end of pride, and the reason why every one of us can say only:  “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 139-40)


Logically, as Jesus explained, food goes in the mouth, down into the stomach, and then out into the sewer.  It has no effect whatever on the moral condition of the heart.  Moral defilement has nothing to do with food.  Sin in a person’s heart is what defiles that person, not the lack of ceremonial cleansing or the type of food eaten.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 306)


Defilement occurs because of sinful thoughts, attitudes, and actions.  Sin begins in a person’s heart, and what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.  In Jewish culture, parts of the body stood for parts of human personality.  The “heart” stood for the center of a persons’ affections and desires.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 306)


Let it be a settled resolution with us to “guard” our hearts above all else (Prv 4:23) all the days of our lives.  Even after renewal they are weak:  even after putting on the new man they are deceitful.  Let us never forget that our chief danger is from within.  The world and the devil combined, cannot do us so much harm as our own hearts will, if we do not watch and pray.  Happy is he who daily remembers the words of Solomon: “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool” (Prv 28:26, KJV).  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 129)


According to Jesus, as Bruner notes, “The filth of the [toilet] is not so great as that of a human heart not yet cleansed” (emphasis mine).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 423)


The condition of a person’s heart will be revealed by his or her words and actions.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 304)


The human heart produces desires as fire produces heat.  As surely as the sparks fly upward, the heart pumps out desire after desire for a happier future.  The condition of the heart is appraised by the kinds of desires that hold sway.  Or, to put it another way, the state of the heart is shown by the things that satisfy its desires.  If it is satisfied with mean and ugly things, it is a mean and ugly heart.  If it is satisfied with God, it is a godly heart.  As Henry Skougal put it, “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its desire.”  (John Piper, Future Grace, 277-8)


There is something about an absolute demand for comfort, even in the littlest things, that wrecks our communion with God.  My natural man tells me I have a right to live in total comfort, so whenever this comfort is threatened because the climate control malfunctions or life circumstances push back a meal for an hour or two, I get a true picture of the demandingness of my heart and the bitterness and anger that cause my spirit to growl, like an untamed beast, at the slightest discomfort or inconvenience.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 179)


The scribes and Pharisees were honoring God with their lips but not with their hearts or their lives.  This is a danger for us today as well.  You can stand, preach, pray, take the Lord’s Supper, and any number of other things in worship, yet your heart can still be far from God.  We must guard against this tendency in our churches and in our individual lives.  One way to guard against false worship is not to be overly concerned with form, that is, what we do physically.  This kind of preoccupation bypasses the heart.  More important than what we do outwardly in worship is who we are; the heart is the real issue.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 204)


Many people have faultless lives in externals but have the bitterest and the most evil thought within their hearts.  The teaching of Jesus is that not all the outward observances in the world can atone for a heart where pride and bitterness and lust hold sway.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 139)


Jesus presupposes that the heart is essentially evil (cf. 7:11).  But the burden of this pericope is not to be pure on the inside and forget the externals but that what ultimately defiles a man is what he really is.  Jesus is not spiritualizing the OT but insisting that true religion must deal with the nature of man and not with mere externals.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 351)


If you have to ask who your neighbor is it shows your heart.  A person who is motivated by love is looking for anything he can do to help his neighbor to satisfy his needs because love is his MO.  The lawyer wants to know the minimum standard of what is means to be neighborly in order to satisfy righteousness.  But to even ask such a question reveals that you do not love at all but that you are only wanting to do what is necessary to get God off your case.  — Pastor Keith


Our hearts have been inclined toward sin from the time we were born.  While many people work hard to keep their outward appearance attractive, what is in their heart is even more important.  When people become Christians, God makes them different on the inside.  He will continue the process of change inside them if they only ask.  God wants us to seek healthy thoughts and motives, not just healthy food and exercise.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 307)


No creature that deserved Redemption would need to be redeemed.  They that are whole need not the physician.  Christ died for men precisely because men are not worth dying for; to make them worth it.  (CS Lewis, The World’s Last Night, 86)


People were expected to care for aging parents.  Some found a way to keep from doing so and still use their money or property as they chose.  Thus, a man could simply take the vow of Corban, saying that all his money was dedicated to God.  Although the action–dedicating money to God–seemed worthy and no doubt conferred prestige on the giver, these religious leaders were ignoring God’s clear command to honor parents.  Even worse, this was an irrevocable vow.  If a son were to later decide that he needed to help his parents, the Pharisees would not permit it.  Jesus rightly described the Pharisees as going to great pains to make void the word of God by directly violating the fifth commandment.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 302)


Jesus explained that the Pharisees were wrong in thinking they were acceptable to God just because they were “clean” on the outside.  Defilement is not an external matter (keeping food laws, washing ceremonially, keeping Sabbath requirements), but an internal one.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 304)


Sin begins in the heart, just as the prophet Jeremiah had said hundreds of years before:  “The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse–who can understand it?  I the LORD test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings” (Jer 17:9-10 NRSV).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 304)


Actions do not emerge from nothing.  They faithfully reveal what is in the heart, and we can know what is in the heart that they depend upon.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 144)


God is concerned about the defilement of all of His creation, but especially about the defilement of man, who is made in His image, and most especially about the defilement of His own redeemed children.  James admonishes Christians to hold to “pure and undefiled religion” (Jam 1:27), and Paul warns against consciences that are weak and defiled (1 Cor 8:7).  It is a terribly serious matter for Christians to defile themselves, because their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16-17).  The Lord commends the church at Sardis for not having soiled, or defiled, its garments (Rv 3:4), and in the eternal heavenly kingdom there will be no object or person who is defiled (Rv 14:4; 21:27).  But even in our present earthly life, we are commanded to grow into the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 4:13), who is “holy, innocent, undefiled” (Heb 7:26).  Like His Son, God’s people are to be clean, pure, holy, spotless, unpolluted and undefiled (2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:27; 2 Pt 3:14).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 456-7)


Many things were forbidden even to be touched, and certain diseases, such as leprosy, and some physical conditions, such as menstruation, were considered ceremonially defiling.  But none of those ceremonially or symbolically unclean things or conditions are ever in themselves called sinful.  They were to act as vivid pictures representing sin.  Under the Old Covenant, being involved in or having contact with a ceremonially unclean thing rendered a person unfit to participate in certain worship ceremonies or certain social activities.  But that external unfitness is never called sin.  It needed ceremonial cleansing but not divine forgiveness.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 459)


What matters to God is not so much how we act, but why we act; not so much what we actually do, but what we wish in our heart of hearts to do.  “Man,” as Thomas Aquinas had it, “sees the deed, but God sees the intention.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 139)


Having thrust the sword of the Scripture at the Pharisees, the Lord turned to the multitudes who were listening in astonishment to this discussion.  “Hear, and understand,” He said, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”  In one sweeping statement He had denounced the entire structure by which the rabbinical schools, the scribes, the Pharisees, and the religious leaders secured their hold on the multitudes.  He labeled their religious rules and regulations, their exegesis, and their spirit-stifling, God-dishonoring, Bible-contradicting, man-enslaving, soul-destroying, ego-building, Satan-serving traditions as worthless.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 310)


In our day, there are religious teachers and preachers who draw large followings.  But time may reveal that their hearts were insincere.  Once we know that their true intent is not God’s glory, then we should not listen to them.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 305)


Human desire, deep and restless and seemingly unfulfillable, keeps stuffing itself with finite goods, but these cannot satisfy.  If we try to fill our hearts with anything besides the God of the universe, we find that we are overfed but under-nourished, and we find that day by day, week by week, year after year, we are thinning down to a mere outline of a human being.   (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 122-3)


All sins proceed from the wicked and corrupt affections of the heart.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 260)


The bent knee, the bowed head, the loud Amen, the daily chapter, the regular attendance at the Lord’s table, are all useless and unprofitable so long as our affections are nailed to sin, or pleasure, or money, or the world.  The question of our Lord must first be answered satisfactorily, before we can be saved.  He says to everyone, “Do you love me?” (Jn 21:17).  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 127)


Gundry writes, “The cleansing of all foods does not countermand the law, but intensifies it by transmuting the dietary taboos into prohibitions against evil speech, just as the so-called antitheses in the Sermon on the Mount did not destroy the law, but fulfilled it.”  In either case, the point of the saying is clear:  the ultimate source of defilement is the heart, not the diet.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 150)


As believing Jews and students of Scripture, the Pharisees should have known this (the depravity of the human heart).  Many times in the OT God had told his people that he valued mercy and obedience based on love above mere observation of rules and rituals (see 1 Sm 15:22-23; Ps 40:6-8; 51:16-19; Jer 7:21-23; Hos 6:6; Am 5:21-24; Mic 6:6-8).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 304)


III-  Guard your heart:  Where else can you go for salvation?  Persevere!  (Mt 15:21-28; see also: Jer 29:13-14; Mt 1:21; 7:7; 10:22; 13:13; 24:13; Mk 7:24-30;  Lk 1:67-79; 13:24; 16:16; 18:1-8; 19:9-10; Jn 3:17; 10:9; 6:67-68; 14:6; Acts 2:21; 4:13; 13:47; 15:11; 16:30-31; Rom 1:16; 5:9-10; 10:9-10, 13; Eph 2:5-9; 1 Tm 1:15; 2:4; 2 Tm 3:15-17; Ti 3:5; Heb 9:28; 1 Pt 1:3-12; 2:2)


Perhaps the Lord was thinking of the recent miracle when the multitude was fed and there was “bread enough and to spare.”  The Jews had been offered everything and believed nothing.  This Gentile was offered nothing and believed everything.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 313)


This woman did not come demanding but pleading.  She did not ask Jesus’ help on the basis of her own goodness but on the basis of His.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 469)


This is how everyone must come to Jesus:  asking for mercy, laying aside all self-righteousness, making no claim to entitlement, making no demands.  Are you willing to come on that basis?  It is the only way you will ever receive a positive answer from Jesus since, as Paul told the Ephesians, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9).  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 290)


This is the nature of all true faith.  It was the faith exercised by the man who came upon the pearl of great price and the one who found the treasure in the field (Mt 13:44-46).  They did everything in their power to possess those treasures.  It is the faith of those “forceful men” who lay hold of the kingdom and will not be turned aside (Mt 11:12).  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 291)


Jesus delayed to heed her request in order to test her faith, that is, to refine it as silver is refined, purified.  He wanted to give her faith an opportunity for more glorious expression.  He aimed to strengthen it by means of the very answer he had given her in verses 24 and 26; for she would now begin to realize, far better than if he had immediately healed her daughter, what an extraordinary blessing she was receiving.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 624)


We have already seen that this woman knew who Jesus was.  She knew that He was the Lord and the Son of David, that is, the Messiah.  But equally important, she knew who she was.  That is why, when Jesus likened her to a dog, albeit the household pet variety, she did not protest.  That was a tacit acknowledgment that she knew she was not one of Jesus’ people and He owed her nothing.  In short, she did not come with a sense of entitlement.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 481)


Jesus had just said that she was not in the purview of His mission, and yet, she worshiped Him.  Then she said the three words that are among the most important words any human being can utter in the presence of Jesus:  “Lord, help me!”  She recognized Him as God incarnate and appealed to Him for help.  She did not want any sort of recognition.  She did not care what Jesus said to her or how He seemed to treat her.  She was convinced that He was the only hope for her daughter, so she kept pressing Him for help.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 480)


But there was no sense of entitlement with this Canaanite woman at all.  She did not come to Jesus with a chip on her shoulder, demanding His help as her due.  She knew she had no right to His help.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 482)


He had had enough of superficiality and shallowness, of the pretended faith of those who selfishly got what they wanted from Him and left.  But more than that He wanted to test the woman’s faith to bring it to full flower.  He put up the barriers not to keep her away but to draw her closer.  He also used the occasion to show the disciples the value of persistent faith and to help them distinguish between the genuine and the superficial.  He erected barriers that only genuine, persistent faith could hurdle.  (Cf. Mt 19:16-22, where Jesus placed barriers before the young man to test the genuineness of his plea for eternal life.)  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 472)


She knew she was sinful and unworthy of anything He had to offer and was willing to concede that she was less deserving than Jews.  In doing so she demonstrated a complete absence of the pride, self-reliance, and self-righteousness that characterized most Jews.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 473)


A woman went to Andrew Murray with the problem of feeling she couldn’t pray.  He said, “Why then, do you not try this?  As you go to your inner chamber, however cold and dark your heart may be, do not try in your own might to force yourself into the right attitude.   Bow before Him, and tell Him that He sees in what a sad state you are, and that your only hope is in Him.  Trust Him, with a childlike trust, to have mercy upon you, and wait upon Him.  In such a trust you are in a right relationship to Him.  You have nothing—He has everything.”  The woman later told Murray that his advice had helped her.  She discovered that her trust in Christ’s love for her could help her pray, even when prayer did not come easily.  (Our Daily Bread, November 13)


It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self:  to Jesus:  but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.  He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.”  All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within.  But, the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self:  he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”  Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.  We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.  If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “Looking unto Jesus.”  Keep your eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to him; when you lie down at night look to him.  Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail you.  —Charles. H. Spurgeon  (Alistair Begg, Pathway to Freedom, 228-9)


Jesus’ silence seems difficult to understand until we read the lesson of faith that he taught both the woman and his disciples (15:24-28).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 308-9)



Now she falls at His feet, and with ‘beautiful shamelessness,’ as Chrysostom calls it, repeats her prayer, but this time with pathetic brevity, uttering but the one cry, “lord, help me!”  The intenser the feeling, the fewer the words.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 318)


Undaunted by his reluctance to help, the Canaanite woman knelt before him (proskyneō may also mean “to worship”) and continued to call out for help.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 152-3)


When we covet what another person has, we sin against that person.  But the sin against the person is not worthy to be compared to the sin against God, because when we covet what belongs to someone else, we are saying to God:  “You’re not fair.  You have given to that person what You should have given to me.  I deserve that as much as he does.  You have robbed me of what I justly deserve.”  That is where an entitlement mind-set can take us.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 481)


The quickest way to a person’s heart is through a wound.”  (John Piper sermon, “God Seeks People in Spirit and in Truth”)


My brother, only the heart is hard that does not know it is hard.  Only he is hardened who does not know he is hardened.  When we are concerned for our coldness, it is because of the yearning God has put there.  God has not rejected us.  —Bernard of Clairvaux  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 90)


This woman had indomitable persistence.  She was undiscourageable.  So many people, it has been said, pray really because they do not wish to miss a chance.  They do not really believe in prayer; they have only the feeling that something might just possibly happen.  This woman came because Jesus was not just a possible helper; he was her only hope.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 144)


No other case is recorded in which Jesus refused to heed an earnest, humble, and sincere appeal for help.  For him to have intended from the very start to reject this woman’s plea would have been totally unlike Jesus as he is revealed to us in Scripture.  After all he is the Lord who spoke the words of 7:7, 8; 11:28-30; Jn 7:37.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 623)


I am not asking for what belongs to others.  I am simply asking to be treated like the little house dogs that get to eat whatever falls on the floor.  What remarkable faith, Jesus responds.  You will receive what you ask for.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 153)


I think this woman is one of the most remarkable people we meet anywhere in Scripture.  I am frankly amazed that she did not become angry at this point and accuse Jesus of slandering her.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 481)


In the United States today, there is a burgeoning sense of entitlement.  We seem to hear it everyday–people making the argument that the society or the government owes them something.  We’re all susceptible to this mind-set, but we need to resist it with all our beings.  The problem with such an entitlement mentality is that it can grow to the point where we believe God Himself owes us something–health, wealth, happiness, and myriad other things.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 481)


Of all hard hearted men, the hardest are those who have been hardened by the fire of the Gospel.  If you want to find a heart that is hard as steel you must look for one that has passed through the furnace of divine love and has been made aware of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus but has rejected the truth that has been made known to it.  (C. H. Spurgeon sermon, “Ploughing the Rock”)


The only merit we have before a holy God is demerit.  Our only hope to stand before a holy and righteous God is by appealing to His mercy and grace, for it is by His grace alone that anyone enters into His kingdom.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 482)


She addressed Him as ‘Son of David,’ but as a Gentile she had no claim on the Jewish Messiah.  She was not a party to the Covenant.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 87)


The careless heart is an easy prey to Satan in the hour of temptation; his principal batteries are raised against the heart; if he wins that, he wins all, for it commands the whole man:  and alas! how easy a conquest is a neglected heart!  It is not more difficult to surprise such a heart, than for an enemy to enter that city whose gates are opened and unguarded.  It is the watchful heart that discovers and suppresses the temptation before it comes to its strength.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 33)


Unwise counselors may try to tell us we should fight the loss of feelings.  Yet gluttony for spiritual feelings opens a wide door to the other appetites, including greed, overeating, sexual lusts, the hunger for power, and other sins.  When feelings become the focus of our faith, religion becomes not a friend but an enemy, concealing the true state of our heart.  We wonder why we fall into sin so soon after a seemingly powerful encounter with God.  What we fail to realize is that our hearts were stolen by spiritual gluttony, not real reverence.  We have been misled into believing that these feelings are an indication of the temperature of our hearts and the commitment of our will.  They are not.

So God steps back.  He stubbornly denies us the spiritual feelings with which we’ve grown so familiar.  This is frequently accompanied by very dry periods, times when our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling and our hearts feel like hot, dry sand.  God does this so He can irrigate our desert with the cold water of pure faith, so He can break our addiction to the sensual and call us to the truly spiritual, and so we can humbly say, without doubt or need for reinforcement, “O God, You are my God, and I will follow You all of my days.”  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 186-7)


As always, Jesus wished to draw out her faith.  ‘It was impossible for her to come in by the door of the covenant, but His silence led her to knock at another door’ (F. B. Meyer).  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 87)


So when Jesus spoke of taking the children’s bread and casting it to dogs, she caught His meaning.  Discouraging though the reply appeared, it did not daunt the importunate mother.  She countered it with a statement showing great humility and great faith (27).  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 88)


The proud and lofty man or woman cannot worship God any more acceptably than can the proud devil himself.  There must be humility in the heart of the person who would worship God in spirit and in truth.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 84)


It was only a scrap she wanted.  She would be content with the dog’s portion.  The logic of love took His heart by storm.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 313)


Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit is true religion.  It is what Jesus came to teach and establish.  Righteousness, peace, and joy are the spiritual opposites of kosher cooking and eating with washed or unwashed hands.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 285)


An acquaintance with your own heart will furnish you a fountain of matter in prayer.  The man who is diligent in heart-work will be richly supplied with matter in his addresses to God.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 114)


She does not stay to argue that her claims are as good as anyone else’s.  She does not discuss whether Jew is better than Gentile, or Gentile as good as Jew.  She does not dispute the justice of the mysterious ways by which God works out His divine purpose, choosing one race and rejecting another.  All she knows is that her daughter is grievously tormented, that she needs supernatural help, and that here in the person of the Lord, the son of David is One who is able to give her that help; and she is confident that even if she is not entitled to sit down as a guest at the Messiah’s table, Gentile ‘dog’ that she is, yet at least she may be allowed to receive a crumb of the unconvenanted mercies of God.  (R.V.G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 151-2)


And this is the sure test of faith, that we do not suffer that general commencement of our salvation, which is founded on the word of God, to be in any way torn from us.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 266)


The greatness of her faith appeared chiefly in this respect, that by the aid of nothing more than a feeble spark of doctrine, she not only recognized the actual office of Christ, and ascribed to him heavenly power, but pursued her course steadily through formidable opposition; suffered herself to be annihilated, provided that she held by her conviction that she would not fail to obtain Christ’s assistance; and, in a word, so tempered her confidence with humility, that, while she advanced no unfounded claim, neither did she shut against her the fountain of the grace of Christ, by a sense of her own unworthiness.  This commendation, bestowed on a woman who had been a heathen, condemns the ingratitude of that nation which boasted that it was consecrated to God.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 269)


This latter clause contains a useful doctrine, that faith will obtain anything from the Lord; for so highly does he value it, that he is always prepared to comply with our wishes, so far as it may be for our advantage.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 269)


When the heart is in the grip of a deadly agony, it knows how to pray.  (Joseph Parker, Servant of All, Studies in Matthew 8-16, 271)


The Canaanite woman, on the other hand, had been raised in a pagan culture that had been renowned for its wickedness and vileness.  She was a descendant of a people God had commanded Israel to conquer and “utterly destroy” (Dt 7:2).  She had no heritage of God’s Word, God’s blessing, or of His Tabernacle, Temple, priesthood, or sacrifices.  Therefore, because she believed so much relative to so little revelation, Jesus called her faith great (Mt 15:28).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 468-9)


From the time of the Fall, man has had no way back to God except through His merciful grace.  It is not surprising, therefore, that in the NT and the Greek OT (Septuagint) various forms of the verb eleeō (to have mercy) are used some five hundred times.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 469)


As Johann Bengel, the eighteenth-century German theologian, said of her, “She made the misery of her child her own.”  Pagan she might be, but in her heart there was that love for her child which is always the reflection of God’s love for his children.  It was love which made her approach this stranger; it was love which made her accept his silence and yet still appeal; it was love which made her suffer the apparent rebuffs; it was love which made her able to see the compassion beyond and behind the words of Jesus.  The driving force of this woman’s heart was love; and there is nothing stronger and nothing nearer God than that very thing.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 143)


This woman had faith.  It was a faith which grew in contact with Jesus.  She began by calling him Son of David; that was a popular title, a political title.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 143)


It was a faith which worshiped.  She began by following; she ended upon her knees.  She began with a request; she ended in prayer.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 144)


In silence Jesus searches our hearts, and the silence is then more potent than speech.  In silence he searches his own heart; it may be that this was the reason why he did not at once answer the Syrophoenician woman.  (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 443)


We may have to wait many a long year:  we may seem to pray in vain, and intercede without profit; but let us never give up while life lasts.  Let us believe that Jesus has not changed, and that he who heard the Canaanite mother, and grant her request will also hear us, and one day give us an answer of peace.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 132)


There is a tension underlying false discernment, an anxiety that pressures the mind to make a judgment.  True discernment emerges out of a tranquil and pure heart, one that is almost surprised by the wisdom and grace in the voice of Christ.  Remember, our thoughts will always  be colored by the attitudes of our hearts.  Jesus said, “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Mt 12:34).  He also said, “Out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts” (Mk 7:21).  Again He said, “the pure in heart…shall see God” (Mt 5:8).  From the heart the mouth speaks, the eyes see, and the mind thinks.  In fact, Prv 4:23 (NKJV) tells us to diligently guard our hearts for “out of [the heart] spring the issues of life.”

Life, as we perceive it, is based upon the condition of our heart.  This is very important because the gifts of the Spirit must pass through our hearts before they are presented to the world around us.  In other words, if our hearts are not right, the gifts will not be right either.

When the heart has unrest it cannot hear from God.  Therefore, we must learn to mistrust our judgment when our heart is bitter, angry, ambitious or harboring strife for any reason.  The Scriptures tell us to “let the peace of Christ rule [act as arbiter] in [our] hearts” (Col 3:15).  To hear clearly from God, we must first have peace.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 81-2)


This dialogue makes more sense when we consider how the narrative is playing out from the perspective of the disciples.  The disciples’ world had just been rocked when Jesus turned their thinking upside down about what makes someone clean.  Now He takes them into Gentile territory, a place filled with unclean people according to the standard Jewish view.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 207)


Worship Point:  Worship the God Who loves you and saves you in spite of your being an enemy of His and repugnant to Him.  (Rom 5:8-10)


It is important to note that Jesus does not critique the Pharisees for being too tied to old-fashioned practices, caring about what the Torah says too much, or being too nitpicky about God’s law.  He charges them with ignoring God’s law and attacking God’s law by adding to it!  Indeed, Jesus says that the words of Isaiah are perfectly suited to describe the Pharisees’ worship:  (1) it is lip service rather than God-honoring, in which their hearts are far away from him, rather than truly loving him; (2) it is empty worship, mere form; and (3) it is human-made, not based on the prescriptions of the word.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God:  A Vision for Reforming Worship, 41)


Isaiah explained that their worship was “in vain.”  They worshiped for appearances, not out of love for God.  When we claim to honor God while our hearts are far from him, our worship means nothing.  It is not enough to act religious.  Our actions and our attitudes must be sincere.  If they are not, Isaiah’s words also describe us.  The Pharisees knew a lot about God, but they didn’t know God.  It is not enough to study about religion or even to study the Bible.  We must respond to God himself.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 303-4)


For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.  Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.  Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone.  God accepts penalties which belong to man alone.  (John Stott, The Cross of Christ)  


Religion can never be founded on any ceremonies or ritual, religion must always be founded on personal relationships between human beings and God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 137)


Gospel Application:  Jesus saves us from ourselves, the wrath of God, the world and the Devil.  There is no other name under heaven by which you may be saved. (Acts 4:12)


Heidelberg Catechism: Question number 60  Q. How are you right with God?


  1. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:21-28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Phil 3:8-11).

Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all of God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them (Rom 3:9-10), and even though I am still inclined towards all evil (Rom 7:23), nevertheless, without my deserving it at all (Ti 3:4-5), out of sheer grace (Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8), God grants and credits to me the perfect salvation, righteousness, and holiness of Christ (Rom 4:3-5; Gn 15:6; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 1 Jn 2:1-2), as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me (Rom 4:24-25; 2 Cor 5:21).

All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart (Jn 3:18; Acts 16:30-31).


If in your heart you are greedy, sensual, power-hungry, and happy with it, then you are a phony.  For your own sake and for the rest of us, please do one of the following:  (1) Give up the church.  Better to be a full-fledged pagan than a pagan in a religious suit.  God isn’t fooled anyhow, and fewer people will be discouraged by your hypocrisy.  Or, the better decision, (2) give up your hypocrisy and give your life to Jesus.  Let his Spirit renew you from the inside out.  Be real about faith, starting today.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 303)


Spiritual Challenge:  Guard your heart.  Where do your affections lie?  (Heb 4:12)  They will reveal your savior.  Your trust in yourself, your deceitfully wicked heart, your pride and arrogance make you your own worst enemy.  Have faith in Jesus for your salvation.  Only He can change your heart. (Jer 31-34; Ez 36:26-27; Acts 15:8-9; 2 Thes 2:17; Heb 4:12; 8:9-16; 12:1-3)


The organ for seeing God is the heart.  The intellect alone is not enough.  That is why I pray for God to grant you the eyes of both intellect and heart. (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, 92)


We need to ask ourselves if we have received a changed heart by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  This sort of self-examination is a spiritually healthy thing to do.  In fact, this is what the apostles often exhorted their readers to do (2 Cor 13:5; Phil 2:12; 2 Pt 1:5-11).  The first order of business is to know our own souls.  Are we trusting in the finished work of Christ alone for our salvation?  Is there evidence of God’s grace in our lives?  Are we growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-24), and in the virtues mentioned in Christ’s beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12)?  (Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?, 50-1)


Do you want a new heart?  The only place you will ever get it is from God the Father and from Jesus, who made the gift possible.  Come to God.  Ask Jesus for it.  The Pharisees would not come, which is why they perished in their sins.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 286)


Only the Holy Spirit can change us from the inside out.  This is the only way we can obey the exhortation in 2 Cor 6:17 (quoting Isa 52:11) to “come out from among them and be separate.”  We cannot be casual about holiness, but rather we must by the power of the Holy Spirit pursue purity.  We must be holy as God is holy (1 Pt 1:16; Lv 11:44) by cultivating our hearts.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 205-6)


Never think about getting ready for Christ (to accept you).  He doesn’t want anything of yours.  You need not prim and dress yourself to come to Christ.  Even your frames and feelings are not the wedding garment.  Come naked.   But sir, I am so careless.  Come careless then.   But I am so hard-hearted.  Come hard-hearted then.  I am so thoughtless.  Come thoughtless then.  And trust Christ now. (C. H. Spurgeon, “Terrible Convictions and Gentle Drawings”)


The right heart is a heart sprinkled with the blood of Christ, and renewed by the Holy Spirit, and purified by faith.  Never let us rest till we find within ourselves the witness of the Spirit, that God has created in us a pure heart (Ps 51:10), and made us a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 129)


Like Scripture writers, Augustine thinks of the heart not just as the seat of emotion or desire but also as the governing center of a human being–the human being at his center, at his core, considered in his fundamental orientation.  From the heart “flow the springs of life” (Prv 4:23).  Hence, in Scripture, integrity is a pure heart (Mt 5:8); where integrity is lacking, it is the heart that is “perverse” and “devious above all else” (Jer 17:9).  Accordingly, when Paul wants to describe the source of our new power, love, and integrity, he testifies that Jesus Christ has taken up residence at the governing center of human lives:  he “dwells in our hearts” (Eph 3:17).  Depending on its orientation, then, the fact that “the heart wants what it wants” may be our shame or our salvation.  (Augustine, The City of God, 14.13)  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 62-3)


Quotes to Note:

Not all religious leaders clearly see God’s truth.  Religion can lead you into a pit if you follow teachers who are blind to the truth.  All teachers who fail to recognize the supreme authority of Jesus, as Savior and chief interpreter of the Scriptures, are heading that way.  Follow them, and you’ll fall in too.  But if you follow teachers who follow Jesus, the daffy ideas of a thousand crackpot religions won’t confuse or bother you.  Choose your mentors carefully!  Make sure that those you listen to and learn from are those who teach and follow the principles of Scripture.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 306)


We must be quite clear that this idea of cleanness and uncleanness has nothing to do with physical cleanness, or, except distantly, with hygiene.  It is entirely a ceremonial matter.  For the people to be clean was for them to be in a state where they might worship and approach God; for them to be unclean was for them to be in a state where such a worship and such an approach were impossible.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 128)


This uncleanness was transferable; it was, so to speak, infectious.  For instance, if a mouse touched an earthenware vessel, that vessel was unclean and unless it was ritually washed and cleansed, everything put into it was unclean.  The consequence was that anyone who touched the person who had so become unclean also became unclean.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 129)


Jesus insists that the true direction in which the OT law points is precisely what he teaches, what he is, and what he inaugurates.  He has fulfilled the law; therefore whatever prescriptive force it continues to have is determined by its relationship to him, not vice versa.  It is within this framework that Jesus’ teaching in this pericope theologically anticipates Rom 14:14-18; 1 Cor 10:31; 1 Tm 4:4; Ti 1:15, and that historically it took some time for the ramifications of Jesus’ teaching to be thoroughly grasped, even by his own disciples.  Once again it is a mark of Matthew’s fidelity to the historical facts that he does not overstate Jesus’ teaching, and a mark of his literary skill that he does not find it necessary to draw Mark’s parenthetical conclusion (Mk 7:19b), even though he obviously shares it.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 352)




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