God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October 19 - Matthew 15; Mark 7: Pharisees' Traditions vs. the Law - Unclean is in the Heart

Today’s Reading: Matthew 15; Mark 7

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

"Religious purity" no longer depends on food or drinks. It depends on the heart.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

The Pharisees complained that Jesus' Apostles did not strictly follow the Law and traditions. Jesus countered, "Why do you ignore the Law and allow 'religious' acts to trump God's Requirements? Only things that mess up relationships are unclean." This made all foods clean. He continued, "They are blind guides for the blind."
A Gentile wanted Jesus to excise her daughter's demon. Jesus refused, stating He came only for Israel. She only asked for a scrap of His time. Jesus granted her request.
Jesus continued healing. Many people praised God. Feeling compassion, Jesus fed them with a few loaves and fish.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

The Pharisees did not understand the role of religious acts.

The Pharisees wanted to outdo everyone else in obeying the Law. If God placed a barrier to prevent people from going off a cliff, they would have put two or three barriers inside God's just to make sure no one got close to the edge. Earlier, Jesus had complained that they read the Bible but missed its Message. They considered religious acts more important than people. This philosophy anchored their tradition of giving to God what should have gone to parents and caused them to miss God's Purpose for His Chosen People. Instead, they fell into Isaiah's description, "They just use me as a cover / for teaching whatever suits their fancy" (Matthew 15:9, The Message). Those who stress law to the omission of heart are in danger of missing God.

"Religious impurities" were no longer physical impurities.

This point stood out much more then than today. To them, religious impurities were based on food, what you touched, and your genetics. God wanted to make His Chosen People stand out from the wicked people who lived in Canaan. Israel, in turn, used these distinctions to think they were better than everyone else even though they practiced the same wicked acts. Jesus took away the physical impurities and simplified them to spiritual impurities only. God only considers heart-pollutants as impurities.
We may not have dietary impurities today, but we do have religious quibbling. We argue over worship styles, obscure and unimportant theology, and which interpretation of events should be taught in school/seminary/church. I believe Jesus would have a similar statement for us today, "It doesn't matter what enters your head. What matters is what enters your heart and comes out in your actions that pollute a person."

The story of the Canaanite woman in Tyre shows both Jesus' Purpose and a non-Chosen Person's faith.

Jesus did not come to be a miracle-worker. He came to set things right for God—first with the Israelites and then with the world. Jesus did not come to fix the world's problems personally. He came to fix Israel's problems so they could go and fix the world's problems. The Canaanite woman begged Jesus to reconsider not because she was worthy (she never questioned His "dog" comment) but because she loved her daughter. Her humility to accept the second-class citizen status in God's Kingdom meant she was actually a first-class citizen in God's Kingdom—someone willing to obey God. This is why her daughter was healed. When we ask God for what we need, remember we are only worthy of the scraps left behind. The bountiful blessings God bestows shows His greatness!

Are you using God as a cover to teach whatever you fancy?

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