Matthew 15

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Read Matthew 15

That Which Defiles

15 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!”

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’”

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

The Faith of a Canaanite Woman

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand

29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”

33 His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”

34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”

35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.

Go Deeper

As we read today’s passage, we see more Jesus in the prime of His ministry. He just finished walking on water (Matthew 14) and ends up ultimately healing a young girl and feeding a crowd of four thousands with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. With each passing miracle, Jesus’s notoriety is increasing and his ministry on earth is becoming more controversial. Everything Jesus did and said was under the microscope as the crowds around him tried to discern who he actually was and what he was actually doing. Today, let’s focus on the interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees (the religious leaders of Jesus’s day) that takes place in the beginning of this chapter.

The Pharisees tried to catch and stump Jesus with a question of why his disciples didn’t wash their hands prior to eating, as was customary. While that wasn’t commanded by the Law, it had been a tradition passed down over the years from the Jewish elders and the Pharisees had adopted the practice as if it was what God had commanded them. They were more concerned with the upholding of tradition for the sake of tradition instead of the motivation behind it. Jesus points out the ways the Pharisees have lived hypocritically, showing the ways there what they say has been incongruent with their actions (v. 3-9). He then makes a radical declaration:

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Here, Jesus is telling the crowd that the dietary rules they had lived by of clean or unclean foods wasn’t of primary concern to God; He was more concerned about the condition of their hearts. Dr. Thomas Constable, a retired seminary professor and commentator, said, “The point was that, to God, what proceeds from the heart, and hence out of the mouth, is more important than what enters the mouth. Motives and attitudes are more significant than food and drink.”

Peter, looking for final clarity, asks Jesus what all this means and Jesus reiterates the point one more time: What flows out of our hearts is far more consequential than the foods that we eat. It’s a reminder for us today, too. What we consume (what we read, what we watch, what we gossip about, etc.) is shaping us into who we are. As those things take root in our hearts, we will say (and live out) the overflow of what’s in our hearts. If we’re pursuing the things of Jesus, our lives will mirror the overflow of that as well. Jesus’s point is clear: He ultimately wants our hearts because our hearts put on display what we care the most about.


  1. Which of the three scenes in this passage (Jesus with the Pharisees, the healing of the young woman, or the feeding of the four thousand) stuck out most to you in this passage? Why? 
  2. What extrabiblical traditions do you find yourself holding onto? Why is it so hard to let go of religious traditions? 
  3. What are you currently consuming the most and how is it shaping your heart?

Keep Digging

Traditions can be fun and nostalgic, but without thoughtfulness they can also stand in the way of what scripture actually says. For a quick, helpful read on traditionalism, check out this article from

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3 thoughts on “Matthew 15”

  1. The tenacity of the Gentile Mama who pled to Jesus for healing of her demon possessed daughter touched my heart. Her request was not immediately granted and she had to persevere. The disciples showed no compassion & suggested she be sent away. Nothing would deter her from pursuing the One who could deliver her child from evil. V25 says “But she came and worshipped him and pleaded again, Lord, help me!” My takeaway from this narrative is to keep pressing on despite the detours & delays fully committed in faith to pursue Jesus with all my being. “A little faith will bring your soul to heaven; a great faith will bring heaven to your soul.” (Spurgeon)

  2. Our words impact our world. Good morning, you look beautiful today! The Bible has a lot to say on words. You never have to physically touch another person to wound them deeply. All my born again, believing in God, life, I have desired for the Love that I know is only found in Him. Every time I have strayed away that longing for God has lured me back. I found a quote and this gentleman said it well. In Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World, Henri Nouwen expressed this explanation profoundly: “I know that the fact that I am always searching for God, always struggling to discover the fullness of Love, always yearning for the complete truth, tells me that I have already been given a taste of God, of Love, and of Truth. I can only look for something that I have, to some degree, already found. How can I search for beauty and truth unless that beauty and truth are already known to me in the depth of my heart?
    The more Bible I read the more Love and Truth I know. Now that is what I desire to come out of my mouth more and more. That is what I desire to be around daily with others who Love God and speak of Him. Words are powerful, use them wisely
    Thank You God for wisdom in my speech. Help me build up those around me and when rebuke is what is needed, help me to do so with Biblical truth and tenderness. I thank You for having tasted of You God, of Your Love and Truth. I look forward to the day that all I do is Worship You!!!! In Jesus name Amen.

  3. Our Wednesday night bible studies have been in 1 Peter. I actually had the thought last night , “this can’t be the same Peter who was Jesus’ disciple”. This isn’t the first account that Peter questioned the meaning behind Jesus’ parables (riddles I call them). So I looked it up… and actually I found I’m not alone in that theory.
    I tend to always lean towards the interactions between Jesus and the Pharisees. I guess because I want to know the enemies schemes. I can relate to Jesus’ reactions to the Pharisees… I can see and feel the ugliness of the heart—and I will withdraw from that relationship because I can’t handle habitual lashing of the tongue. It’s just not in me.

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