Session #104 A Different Track
Scripture Matthew 15:10-20
Summary After dealing with the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus addresses the multitudes and disciples in Matthew 15:10-20. In this teaching, Henson explains how easy it is to go off the wrong track and miss the kingdom track that Jesus desires us to get and stay on. Often, we consider things from the outside in when our King wants to rule and reign over our hearts that we can live from the inside out.
When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.” So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Matthew 15:10-20
After dealing with the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus addresses the multitudes and disciples in Matthew 15:10-20. This teaching explains how easy it is to go off the wrong track and miss the kingdom track that Jesus desires us to get on and stay on. Often, we consider things from the outside in when our King wants to rule and reign over our hearts so that we can live from the inside out.
A person with a “one-track mind”, when applied to the religious mind, refers to a person who is always holding on to a set of beliefs, positions and practices that represents a standard of morality and purity.
In the account in Matthew 15:1-20, the scribes and Pharisees were not the only ones with one-track minds. The multitudes listening in also followed the same mindsets and rituals. Even the disciples of Jesus had the same upbringing. After addressing the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus turned to address the multitudes with the disciples listening in and said to them ‘Hear and understand…’ (Mathew 15:10-11) This phrase is also used in Matthew 13 where Jesus appealed to the people around Him to hear and understand for there were people who hear but do not hear nor do they understand; and to understand also means to apply, to do and to live it out. It is Jesus’ appeal to all of us that it is not another teaching only but if there is a revelation or understanding, we need to live it out. In a parallel passage in Mark 7:14-16, this same message is recorded: ‘Hear Me, everyone, and understand’. This is the season that we are to hear what the Spirit is saying to us, whether to the churches in the book of Revelations or in this account.
A Different Tract
Jesus is emphasizing in this account that the real issue is not about hands but with the heart. It is not what goes into the mouth but what comes out of it that defiles a man. The Jews were concerned with the digestive tract and what goes into it through unclean food and unclean hands that cause defilement. Jesus was talking about a different tract-a moral tract.
The Pharisees were offended by what Jesus said (Matthew 15:12) as they were stuck in a one-track mind and so were not able to hear and understand what Jesus was teaching. Their mindset is tied in with their Jewish identity, that they are differentiated from others by circumcision, Sabbath and dietary Laws. To protect their identity, they added more rules and traditions to the Laws and held them higher than the Laws and this was what Jesus was trying to address. From a Jewish perspective, to attack these traditions would be to attack the Jewish people and their identity and so, they were offended and refused to accept Jesus’ teaching. The multitude and disciples were possibly challenged too and hence Peter’s request for Jesus to explain the parable to them (Matthew 15:15). This may be similar to present-day believers who just want to be told what to do without understanding.
Trekking with Jesus
Peter and the disciples, who trekked with Jesus, lost track of His teaching (Matthew 15:16) as they still found it hard to switch tracks. This account of Jesus’ patience and grace in teaching and explaining the parable to Peter and the disciples gives us hope as it would take a while too for us to realise our own one-track mind, and to get off the wrong track.
Jesus explained again in Matthew 15:17 that food, handled by hands and put into the mouth, goes into the stomach and is eliminated. In the original text, ‘ekballo’ is used and literally means to be forced out/pushed out into the latrine. In Mark 7:18-19, He explained that ‘whatever enters a man from the outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods’. This does not give us permission today to eat unhealthily or excessively as the context in Matthew 7 is about the food laws.
In Matthew 15:18-19, Jesus further explained that it is what comes out from the mouth from the heart that defiles a man, that is, his thoughts in the heart that come out in words and in actions, from murders to blasphemies (found in the 6th-9th commandments in Exodus 20:13-16). This is not exhaustive as in Mark 7:20-23, He added other sins such as deceit, lewdness, evil eye, pride, foolishness. He emphasised that it is not the food that makes you do these things that defile you but it is your heart i.e., everything about you, not just emotions or feelings (see also Proverbs 4:23, Matthew 12:34). This is consistent with what He taught in the Sermon on the Mount. He is asking His disciples and multitudes to hear and understand that the problem is with man’s heart which is sinful and defiled. If this is so, how can we watch our hearts?
The Good News
The Jews in Israel tried to keep the Law from the outside in and failed over and over again. God knows it and He Himself solves the problem of the heart. He gives the solution through Jeremiah and Ezekiel. When the Messiah comes, He will put His law in His people’s minds and write it on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33) and He will give them a new heart and put a new spirit within them (Ezekiel 36:26-27). The good news is that King Jesus offers to save us from ourselves, to get our hearts back on the right track, to rule and reign in and over our hearts with the Word of the King and by the Spirit of the King. It will not be an outward behaviour modification and compliance, but from the inside out, from hearts aligned with the King and His kingdom.
In Hebrews 8, the author also quoted Jeremiah 31 to the Jews as they wanted to go back to Judaism, to tradition and the old covenant. He was telling them not to backtrack as in Jesus Christ, they have a better covenant. In Acts 10, God gave Peter a vision of unclean animals three times to get him out of the wrong track and instructed Peter that he must not call what God had cleansed as common. Subsequently, Peter also witnessed the pouring of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his family. In Acts 15:8-9, Peter brought this report to Jerusalem and said ‘So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.’ Peter then addressed questions by the Jerusalem Council about circumcision and ceremonial Laws for Gentiles and concluded that these were not needed, that all they needed to do was to believe and receive a purified heart by faith (Acts 15:10-11, 28-29). Paul also had to address these same issues of dietary laws, Sabbath and circumcision extensively, speaking out strongly against Judaizers and false teachers (Galatians 3:28, Romans 2:28-29, Galatians 6:15 and Colossians 2: 16-17). He warned them to guard against any forms of godliness (outward religious adherence) where they praise God but their hearts are far away from God.
This teaching also applies to us. We are to remember that our hearts are not purified by what we do or eat but by believing by faith in what Jesus Christ has done at the cross. What we need now are renewed minds to know, understand and align with this kingdom truth and stop backtracking to old traditions, customs, rules and rituals. We are to live from a new heart and new life in Christ by faith, and in words and in action, enabled by the Holy Spirit.
What If Our Freedom Offends Others?
Those who want to follow a set of rules and rituals will be offended by the freedom we have in the Spirit of the King. What do we do with these people? Where possible, we help as many get back on track, to be awakened and aligned. However, not everyone will ‘hear and understand’ (parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-8). If it is not possible to help them, Jesus said to leave them alone as they were not planted by the Father i.e., of a different track and a different seed. There will be uprooting and separation at the end of the age by the angels (parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:24-30). We are not to be distracted by those on the wrong track and to follow Jesus on the right track – the kingdom track; guided by the Word of the King and led by the Spirit of the King.
Which track are you on? Religious tract or kingdom track? A guide is to check which direction you are focused on.
Are you focussing on things from the outside in – rules, rituals, regulations, traditions, customs and being happy to do the ‘churchy’ thing and think that you are alright because of that? Or are you looking at the inside out – asking the Lord to check your heart over and over again? Are you serving with the Spirit of the King? “Are you moving according to the Word of the King? Are you moving by faith with freedom so that you can love and serve others from the inside out?
God is not impressed by the number of church activities we are involved in. We are to be led by the Spirit from the heart so that we will then do what He tells us to do. It is not what our pastors or leaders tell us to do but how the Spirit leads us and how the Spirit wants us to respond from the inside out. If you are doing things from the outside in, you will backtrack to guilt and condemnation. The only backtracking you need to do is to get back to the Cross and then move forward on the right track. Let our one-track mind be on the kingdom track so that we can be single-minded to move on kingdom purposes, to be awakened, aligned and assigned for the King and His kingdom.