GOOD MORNING SIBLINGS!
Today’s readings are Matthew 15-17
I want to start our readings today by pointing out that not all traditions are bad. Many of them (both good and bad) have their roots in a desire to honor the Father. Where they go south is if they end up contradicting or teaching others to contradict YHWH’s Word, or promoting transgressing the Father (doing something He has clearly told us not to do.)
We see Messiah uphold some traditions in the Word. For example, there is a Bible study that is still going on today which is a tradition among Believers known as “The Torah Cycle”. This is a reading plan that is followed which reads certain portions of Scripture each week in order to have read the entirety of the first five books of the Bible in either 1, 2, or 3 years, depending on which cycle you are reading on.
Soon, we will see Messiah in a synagogue on Sabbath reading that week’s Torah Portion of the cycle. We know this because the Bible tells us what portion of Scripture He read then and it lines up with the ancient cycle still in use today. This is a tradition of men, to read Scripture in this cycle type format, but it is one that honors the Father and is used as a method to ensure His word is read, studied, and known. We’ll talk more about that when we get to it in the Gospels.
But today our reading opens with traditions that the Messiah most assuredly does take issue with and, as we’ve seen, he’s not one to mince words or quietly wait for an opportune time to meekly mention His opinion. Messiah comes out swinging!
We see that the Pharisees and some of their scribes had traveled from Jerusalem to question Messiah. I imagine this was either a new delegation (to relieve the previous) or an additional delegation, which I think is more likely. At this time, we can only imagine how heated this Messianic investigation has become with Messiah performing miracles in their faces left and right, so it is understandable that the investigation pool is going to become more populated as evidence mounts. In this case, the text tells us that they specifically came from Jerusalem just to question the Messiah on this one issue: Why do He and His apostles not wash their hands before eating?
Now, this is not normal hand washing they are talking about. There was a tradition that stated you could touch anything in the market and as long as you washed your hands up to the wrist you were not considered unclean. This was a very intensive ritual hand washing and it was absolutely treated as law – even though there is no Biblical requirement for it.
Let me give you a little background:
Why did THEY do that?
Originally, the Levitical priests had a bowl to wash their hands in before going Into the temple to make the sacrifices (Exodus 30:17-21). The Pharisees reasoned that their home was the temple, they represented the priests in that temple, and breaking of bread was considered a sacrifice to YHWH and so thus they devised this elaborate hand washing to mimic the priests.
So now that we know all of this, we can see that this actually had nothing to do with YHWH’s law but everything to do with rituals that man had made up. Sure, they can say this was rooted in YHWH’s law but in coming up with their own rules and treating them as if they were on par with YHWH’s commandments when in essence they were almost superstition-like in their execution, they were wrong.
Further, by admonishing and requiring others to follow this law while allowing them to transgress a commandment of YHWH to fill their coffers (more on that in a minute) they were in essence substituting their law for YHWH’s in this regard.
When they call Messiah and His apostles on not washing their hands according to the tradition for the elders, He doesn’t even address that at the start, He pretty much shoots back immediately “Why do you disobey the commandments of YHWH by not honoring your mother and father?”
This seems a bit out of place unless you understand that Messiah was calling out another situation in a bit of a standoff.
They accused Him of doing something to forsake a manmade tradition, which had no actual authority, and He fires back with a true sin, them willfully going against one of YHWH’s commandments and encouraging others to do so.
Why did He say that?
So here is what was going on at the time. The Pharisees were allowing people to give money to the temple rather than supporting their elderly parents. Then, they could simply say that they didn’t have any money left for their parents because they were devoting their money to YHWH. It sounds like this was even encouraged by the Pharisees as a way for generating more revenue. This is, of course, the fifth commandment, to honor your mother and father, and as we have stated before: Messiah upheld all of the commandments of YHWH- and taught others to do the same.
He went on to say :
“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:9
Translation: They talk a good game but in reality they don’t teach my law, they teach a law they made up themselves and hold it above mine.
There is a verse that has become pivotal due to certain denominations use of it, but today we’re going to dig a little deeper and you may come away with a different understanding.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18
You’ll recall that these events are taking place in the Middle East at a time in which names like John, Mary, and Peter did not exist and certainly were not used in this region. Peter’s Hebrew name transliterates to Kefa, but His Greek name is Petros, which is Greek for rock (Kefa is Aramaic for the same), but not just any rock, a small pebble or small stone.
Now the word used for rock in this statement is petra, which is Greek for a large mass of rock, or bolder. So to make it simple, we can say that Peter’s name means pebble and Messiah was saying He was going to build His church on a bolder. How can that make sense? Here is the key: There were no commas in the original texts, those were added by scribes in places where they felt they were needed in order to make the text make sense.
Now, by the time this particular passages was translated with commas, there was already a doctrine in place stating that Peter had been the first pope and so, to the mind of translator, the placement of commas made perfect sense, as it does to us just reading this sentence at face value.
But what if… Take this sentence and remove the commas and imagine that Messiah was referring to Himself when He said “this Rock”. But first we need to realize that any way you read this, it is still a play on words with Messiah equating Peter to a smaller stone and the church as being built on a larger one.
And I tell you you are Peter and on this Rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And I tell you you are a pebble and on this Rock I will build my church…
Now, let us look back at this entire exchange in context and please allow me the liberty to paraphrase that one sentence, which I will put in italics. Read it and see if you see what I see, that in context, Messiah is saying that He will build the church on faith in Him. The statement begins with Peter stating His faith in who Messiah is and it is immediately followed with Messiah stating the powers He will give to His apostles as a result of their faith.
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you you are a pebble and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (italics are my paraphrase). I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. Matthew 16:13-20
Again, note: The italicized text was paraphrased by me. Please look it up in whatever translation you prefer. Also, click here to see the interlinear in which you can see the two different uses of words for rock. Test it. If it doesn’t line up with YHWH’s Word, toss it. So in context, Messiah was asking them who they thought He was and Peter just confirmed that he believed Yeshua was the Messiah, and from that statement of faith, Messiah declares that people like Peter are the stones, and He, Himself, is the rock upon which the assembly will be built.
Now, let us look at a few verses
therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ – Isaiah 28:16
let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” -Acts 4:10-12
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. – Psalm 118:22
I just wanted to present that possible interpretation to you today. Something for you to test.
THIS IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW – The original word for “church” used here is ekklesia, which means “called out ones.” The context it is typically used in throughout the Bible means called out ones, assembly of people, or community of people.
This is important to know because having it translated as “church” has led many people to believe that, at this time of Messiah walking the earth, churches much like we have among us today were being planted.
In reality, the synagogues remained the center structures of the faith and when gentiles joined themselves to the faith they then began attending the synagogues.
If possible, try to re-orient your map so that, for the rest of the NT, whenever you see the word “church” in your Bible, you step back and realize that this was an assembly of followers of Messiah, far more Jew than Gentile. Rather than your modern first baptist around the corner. This is not in any way a manner of speaking against churches today. I think those were a natural progression, especially as Christianity began to rapidly burn bridges between ourselves and our Jewish brethren.
The yeast of the Pharisees and the Saduccees
Messiah warns His prophets to be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Saduccees. The truth of the matter is, in this time, these two groups of people found themselves at odds with Messiah but at the same time they were following YHWH’s law for the most part, while adding additions to it and following those as well.
You recall that in the sermon on the mount Messiah used the Pharisees as an example of how perfect one must be in order to “earn” their way into the kingdom of Heaven by saying
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 5:20
You see, the Pharisees were obeying the Father, despite their grievous errors, they did walk more in obedience to Him than any other group at this point – BUT they had some serious heart issues. They obeyed out of pomp, circumstance, and self righteousness while in their hearts they were a prideful and stubborn people.
Because He loves us, we are saved by His grace.
Because we love Him, we keep His commandments.
At this point Messiah is warning them that it’s the little bit of sin that can cause the whole house to fall. A little bit of leaven leavens the whole lump. If anyone has ever made bread you know that it only takes the tiniest bit of yeast for a large lump of dough to rise as it grows and multiplies. The Pharisees went through the motions and in their eyes they were truly followers of YHWH – and they even obeyed His commandments for the most part (or more than others in their time), but Messiah saw their hearts and that told a different story.
This is another reminder which He gives us each Passover when we are commanded to remove the leaven from our homes (Exodus 12:15) and spiritually, we work to examine and remove the leaven from our lives.
I have so much I want to discuss in Matthew but there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for me to write it all or for you to read it.
In closing out these notes, I want to let you know that we will revisit some of this when we come around to it again in Mark, especially the part about the hand washing because some translations have added to the text there so we’ll definitely discuss that. I also want to add that after reading the foundational Scriptures, Matthew 15:24 is a lot more comforting to me, knowing that I am grafted into that family tree (Isaiah 56, Romans 11).
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 15:24
I missed that verse for years and even thought that Messiah had just come for the Christians! In fact, I was taught that He had given up on the Jews and come for us instead. ? Just goes to show some of crazy things you’ll believe when you let other people read the Word for you.
You won’t recognize a counterfeit if you don’t know the original.
Test everything, hold tight to what is good.~ 1 Thess 5:21
We are saved by Grace alone: Obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit!
May YHWH bless the reading of His Word!