Grow Through The Gospels - Matthew 15

Pastor Ed Young - Lead Pastor of Fellowship Church
Ed Young

June 17, 2024

Grow Through The Gospels - Matthew 15

Read: Matthew 15

Matthew 15:1-2 “Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!’”


During the COVID-19 pandemic, we all became serious about washing our hands, wearing masks, and standing six feet apart. This focus on cleanliness reminds me of the old adage, "cleanliness is next to godliness," a phrase popularized by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, in the 18th century. In one of his sermons, Wesley emphasized that cleanliness is a duty, not a sin, and should be observed as part of a godly life. He believed that neatness and order reflect a disciplined, godly life.

The idea of cleanliness being tied to godliness has roots in the Bible, specifically in the rituals God commanded the Israelites to follow during the time of Moses. These included handwashing before prayers and meals, which was intended to symbolize purity and readiness to approach God. However, the Pharisees took this practice to an extreme, equating physical cleanliness with spiritual purity. They believed that clean hands equaled a clean heart and that dirty hands indicated an unclean heart. But this equation doesn't hold up under scrutiny.

In today's reading, Jesus challenges the Pharisees' obsession with their man-made rules. They accused Jesus' disciples of having impure hearts because they didn't wash their hands before eating, adhering to the traditions of the elders rather than focusing on true godliness (Matthew 15:1-2). Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who outwardly appeared righteous but were inwardly corrupt. He emphasized that what defiles a person is not unwashed hands but the evil thoughts and actions that come from the heart (Matthew 15:16-20).

Jesus' message is clear: external rituals and traditions do not make us clean or acceptable to God. What matters is a transformed heart and a life that follows God's commandments. We recognize our sinful nature and the reality of living in a fallen world. We cannot change our hearts by our own strength; we must be born again. Jesus said, "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God" (John 3:5-6). Only by believing in Jesus' saving work on the cross and receiving his forgiveness can our hearts be purified. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8).


What does it mean to have a clean heart before God? Reflect on areas of your life where you might be focusing on external appearances rather than inward transformation. Are you trying to say one thing and live another?


Heavenly Father, I know that outward actions and rituals aren’t enough to make me pure before you. I need a Savior; I need Jesus to cleanse my soul and guide me. Reveal any hypocrisy in my life and lead me toward you. Strengthen my faith and commitment. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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