Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters fifteen through seventeen of this New Testament book. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find another—and one of many—encounter between Jesus and the scribes and the Pharisees. As you read the words which are found in the gospel narratives written by the apostles Matthew and John, as well as the beloved physician Luke, and John Mark, you will find that Jesus continually found Himself in the trenches within religion, legalism and hypocrisy, as He would repeatedly find Himself at odds with the scribes and the Pharisees as they would not only murmur and complain against the actions of His disciples, but you will also find that they would murmur and complain against His actions and words. What’s more, is that as you read the four gospel narratives written by the New Testament authors you will find that the scribes and Pharisees would also seek to test and tempt Jesus with their questions—and not only test and tempt Him, but would also at times seek to seize Him by force and put Him to death. You cannot read the four gospel narratives written by the New Testament authors and not encounter the awesome reality that the scribes and the Pharisees would seek to tempt and Jesus with their questions—not only questions regarding the Law of Moses, but also questions regarding their own traditions, and whether or not it was lawful to heal on the sabbath. It is impossible to navigate through the four gospels and not be brought face to face with the fact that Jesus would continually find Himself at odds with the religious establishment that had been present within the land for centuries. By the time Jesus emerged on to the scene and was manifested in the midst of the land of Judaea and Galilee you will find Him almost immediately in the trenches with religion, and almost immediately confronting the constant assaults and attacks they would mount against Him and His disciples. Even more than this—within the four gospels you will find that the single greatest opposition Jesus would face and encounter within the three and a half years of public ministry was from the religious system and the religious groups which were present in that generation.
We cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this incredibly unique concept and truth, for you cannot truly understand the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ without also understanding His direct confrontation(s) with the scribes and the Pharisees. The more you read the four gospel narratives found in the New Testament you will find that although Jesus would confront demons and unclean spirits, His greatest confrontations would not be with those unclean spirits and devils but would be with religion. In fact, I would dare say that the single greatest conflict Jesus faced and experienced within His public life and ministry was not necessarily with the demons and unclean spirits which would possess and captivate the hearts and lives of countless men, women and children during those days, but with the spirit of religion. It’s worth noting that when it came to the demons and unclean spirits which Jesus would encounter and interact with on a continual basis—they all knew and recognized His authority, as well as His divine nature. You cannot read the gospel narratives without finding accounts where the demons and unclean spirits would acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, and would even speak concerning His authority in the midst of the earth. There would be countless times when the demons and unclean spirits which Jesus encountered on a continual and daily basis would recognize and acknowledge His authority more than the scribes and Pharisees would. What makes this all the more tragic is that the scribes, the Pharisees, the elders of Israel, the Sadducees, and the priests had access to the Law of Moses which had been passed down through the generations. Not only would the scribes, the Pharisees, and the religious system of that day have access to the Law of Moses, but they would also have access to the prophets and the words which the prophets had spoken—not only concerning that day and generation, but also concerning the hearts, the minds and the nature of men.
I am convinced that when you read this passage of Scripture and the words which are written concerning the narrative of the scribes and Pharisees who were present during the days of Jesus, it is absolutely necessary that you consider the various accounts of the scribes and Pharisees which were present and manifested within the life and ministry of Jesus. You cannot truly understand just how dangerous and how deadly the religious spirit with its legalism and hypocrisy was without and apart from seeing the full and complete picture of the scribes and Pharisees, and how they would constantly assault and assail Jesus within and throughout His days of public ministry. That which you find in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew is a powerful example of the animosity the scribes and the Pharisees would have toward and against Jesus the Christ—and not only against Jesus, but against His disciples. There were specific times when the quarrel and complaint of the scribes and Pharisees would be directed toward Jesus Himself, however, there were other times when the scribes and Pharisees would actually direct their argument and their quarrel with and toward His disciples It is on this particular occasion where we find the scribes and the Pharisees directing their assault and their attack against the disciples—and not only directing their assault against the disciples, but against the apparent violation of the disciples against traditions which they themselves had adapted and created throughout the generations. If we are to truly understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it is necessary to consider the tremendous reality that the scribes and the Pharisees would come unto Jesus with and for one specific reason and purpose—namely, to complain to Him concerning the disciples. The scribes and the Pharisees would at times direct their assaults against the words and actions of Jesus—particularly and especially when they felt as though Jesus had absolutely no care or concern for their traditions, nor for the Law of Moses. The scribes and the Pharisees would complain to Jesus because of His words and His actions, which they felt were a direct violation of everything they themselves had sought to observe and practice. It would be on this occasion the scribes and the Pharisees would find fault and offense with the disciples of Jesus and their apparent lack of concern and regard for their traditions.
FINDING OFFENSE WITH JESUS! FINDING OFFENSE WITH THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS! FINDING FAULT WITH JESUS! FINDING FAULT WITH THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS! I sit here today and can’t help but be absolutely and completely gripped and captivated with the fact that the scribes and the Pharisees—ultimately the religious community and establishment—would take and find great offense and fault with Jesus and His disciples, and would waste absolutely no time, nor any opportunities seeking to voice their complaint and argument to Jesus. There were times when their arguments and complaints would be thought within their hearts and within their minds, while there were other times—as we see on this particular occasion—when their argument and complaint would be toward and against the disciples of Jesus and would be voiced in the hearing of the disciples. There is not a doubt in my mind that the disciples of Jesus were not aware of this complaint and argument the scribes and Pharisees would have against them and their apparent lack of regard and concern for the traditions of the elders of Israel which had been passed down throughout the generations. What’s more, is that even within this passage of Scripture you will find the disciples later coming unto Jesus and asking Him if He was indeed aware of the fact that the scribes and the Pharisees were offended by the words which He had spoken unto them. It’s worth noting and pointing out when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that not only do we find the scribes and the Pharisees offended with the disciples of Jesus, but we also find them being offended with the words Jesus would speak unto them in their hearing. What would begin with the scribes and the Pharisees voicing their complaint and their argument in the presence of Jesus concerning the disciples and their lack of concern and regard for the tradition of men would transition to the disciples not only asking Jesus if He was aware that His words offended the scribes and the Pharisees, but also Jesus’ words spoken unto the disciples concerning their understanding of the words which He had spoken. It is with this in mind before we continue within these chapters that I feel the need to present you with the words found in the opening verses of the fifteenth chapter. Consider if you will the following words found in the fifteenth chapter beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse of the chapter:
“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the traditions of the elders? For they was not their hands when they eat bread. But He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth his father or his mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightiest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your traditions. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:1-9).
“And He called the multitude and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came His disciples, and said unto Him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But He answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the 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 unwashen hands defileth not a man” (Matthew 15:10-20).
The words which are found in the first twenty verses of the fifteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew put on clear and present display a contrast between the traditions of man and the commandments of God—and not only the contrast between that which was created by man, but that which was commanded by God. You cannot read the words found in this passage of Scripture and not encounter the awesome and tremendous reality that the scribes and the Pharisees would come from Jerusalem unto Jesus with one very specific reason and purpose—namely, to complain and murmur before and unto Him concerning His disciples which seemed to violate their traditions. The scribes and the Pharisees would come unto Jesus from Jerusalem because they were greatly and deeply offended with Jesus’ disciples because they perceived them as greatly offending their traditions—traditions which they themselves had created and formulated throughout the years. In the final verses of the fourteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus in the land of Gennesaret, and how when it was noised and rumored that Jesus was within their borders and their land they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto Him all that were diseased. It would be in the land of Gennesaret that crowds and multitudes would beseech Jesus that they might only touch the hem of His garment—and as many as touched the hem of His garment were made whole. It would be in the land of Gennesaret that men and women would seek to touch the hem of the garment of Jesus—much like the woman with the issue of blood had done when Jesus was on His way to the house of Jairus to bring healing to his daughter. In the final verses of the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find crowds and multitudes of people coming unto and being brought unto Jesus that they might but touch the hem of His garment that they might be made whole, and yet in the opening verses of the fifteenth chapter we find the scribes and Pharisees coming from Jerusalem unto that place that they might complain about the disciples of Jesus.
If there is one thing we must recognize and understand when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that the complaint and the argument of the scribes and Pharisees which came from Jerusalem was completely and altogether centered around the actions of His disciples which were undoubtedly present within the city of Jerusalem. The scribes and the Pharisees of Jesus would watch and observe the disciples of Jesus—perhaps even as adamantly and closely as they would watch Jesus—and they would seek for any occasion to find fault with them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this tremendous and incredible reality, for I would dare say that one of the greatest characteristics of the scribes and the Pharisees—yea, even religion and the religious spirit in general—was the watch and keep a careful and close eye on the disciples of Jesus to find fault and occasion for wrongdoing with them. Scripture clearly points out and reveals that the scribes and Pharisees kept a careful and close eye on Jesus for two distinct reasons—the first would be to find fault and occasion to condemn and criticize Him, while the second would be to find occasion to seize and put Him to death. The more you read the gospel narratives found in the New Testament the more you will find that the scribes and the Pharisees would keep a careful and close eye on the disciples of Jesus—and even Jesus Himself—in order that they might find reason and grounds to condemn, assault, assail, and criticize them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this reality, for one of the key characteristics of the religious spirit is to watch and keep a careful eye on both Jesus and His disciples that they might find fault with them. The scribes and the Pharisees would never demand that the disciples of Jesus be put to death, however, when it came to Jesus Himself they would both seek to find fault and occasion with Him, as well as to find the means to seize Him that they might put Him to death. The scribes and the Pharisees would keep a careful and close eye on the disciples and Jesus, for they would always be looking for reasons to criticize and condemn them. More often than not the scribes and the Pharisees would hear and listen to the words which Jesus spoke and seek to find reason to criticize and condemn Him for the words which He would speak. Now we have them turning and directing their attention beyond Jesus alone and moving toward His disciples.
The fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew would begin and open with the scribes and Pharisees making the journey from Jerusalem with one thing on their mind and one thing to accomplish—namely, to point out the fault they had found in the disciples of Jesus. Please do not miss and lose sight of this, for what we must realize and recognize concerning the scribes and Pharisees is that they would always look for any reason and any occasion to find fault within Jesus Himself—and even His disciples. The passage of Scripture before us points to one of the most potent assaults and attacks of the religious spirit, and that is to not only find fault with the disciples of Jesus the Christ, but also to point out those faults. The more you read the words found in the four gospel narratives the more you will find that the scribes and the Pharisees not only loved finding fault with Jesus’ disciples, not only loved finding fault with Jesus Himself, but also loved finding fault with sinners, as well as those who would violate the commandments which were found in the Law of Moses. As you read the words found in the four gospel narratives you will find the scribes and the Pharisees finding fault with the disciples of Jesus on this particular occasion, while in the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John you will find the scribes and the Pharisees seeking to find fault with a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. In the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel which was written by the apostle Matthew you will find the scribes and the Pharisees finding fault and taking offense with Jesus concerning His eating and sitting down with publicans and sinners. I am absolutely and completely convinced that if we want to understand the religious spirit and why it was so dangerous and deadly—not only within and during the days of Jesus, but also during the generation in which we are living today—it is important that we consider these two chapters and passages of Scripture and read of how the scribes and the Pharisees would seek to find fault and occasion with disciples, with publicans, and with sinners alike. The religious spirit not only has a quarrel with the disciples and saints of Jesus the Christ, but it also has a quarrel with sinners and those who are caught, entrapped and entangled in sin. With this in mind, please consider the following words which are found in these two chapters found within these two passages of Scripture:
“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, He saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:9-13).
“And one of the Pharisees desired Him that He would eat with him. And He went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisees’ house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if He were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto Him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And He saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I supposed that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with Him began to say within themselves, Who is that that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:36-50).
“Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning He came again into the Temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condmended thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:1-11).
With each of these passages we find the scribes and the Pharisees not only finding fault with the disciples of Jesus, but we also find the scribes and the Pharisees finding fault with sinners—and even Jesus Himself for interacting with sinners. In the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Matthew describing his being called by Jesus the Christ—and not only his being called by Jesus the Christ, but also what would take place immediately after that calling. Matthew would leave everything that he might walk with and follow Jesus, and in the very same passage of Scripture we find many publicans and sinners sitting down to dinner with Jesus. What’s more, is that not only would we find many publicans and sinners sitting down with Jesus and His disciples, but we also seem to find Jesus having no issue and taking no offense with publicans and sinners sitting down to dinner with Him. It’s interesting and worth noting that while Jesus Himself would take no offense and find no fault with sinners and publicans sitting down to dinner with Him and His disciples, the scribes and the Pharisees would themselves find fault with these actions. What’s more, is that even when a Pharisee named Simon would invite Jesus into his own home that he might have dinner and fellowship with Him, he himself would find fault and take offense—not only with Jesus Himself, but also with the woman who had entered into the home without any invitation. Simon would invite Jesus into his home that he might have fellowship with Him, and yet there would come in the midst of it a woman—and not only a woman, but a woman who was a sinner, and one who might very well have had a sordid past and reputation. Scripture clearly points to the fact that when this woman came into the house without any invitation, and when this woman came into the house kneeling behind Jesus anointing His feet with a fragrant perfume, washing His feet with her tears, and drying them with the hairs of her head, Simon would think and reason within himself concerning Jesus, and that if Jesus knew what type of woman this was—that she was a sinner—He would not allow her to touch Him. It would be within the house of religion that the righteous and holy Son of God would enter in the midst of it, and it would be in the house of religion where one who was a sinner would enter without invitation—and would not only enter without invitation, but would also essentially steal the show as she would pour out her heart, pour out her soul, and pour out her worship before and unto the Lord Jesus the Christ.
In the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John you will find Him writing and recording of an interaction Jesus would have in the Temple of the LORD, as it would be while Jesus was teaching in the Temple that the scribes and Pharisees would bring unto Him a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. What’s more, is that not only would the scribes and Pharisees bring this woman into the Temple to accuse her before and in the company of Jesus and those which were present, but these scribes and Pharisees would bring her into the Temple that judgment might be passed down upon her. Moreover, the scribes and the Pharisees would bring this woman in the Temple of the LORD that they might find reason and occasion to tempt Jesus that they might find further grounds to accuse and condemn Him during those days. It would be there in the Temple of the LORD the scribes and the Pharisees would seek to accuse and condemn one who was caught in sin, and would also seek to use this woman’s sin to find fault with Jesus. Pause for a moment and think about that reality and concept, for not only would the scribes and Pharisees bring this woman who was caught in the act of adultery into the presence of Jesus that they might find reason and fault with Him, but they would also bring this woman into the presence of Jesus that they might find reason to accuse and condemn her. The scribes and the Pharisees would bring this woman who was caught in the act of adultery into the presence of Jesus—and not only in the presence of Jesus, but also into the courts of the Temple and house of the LORD. The scribes and the Pharisees would bring this woman who was caught in the act of adultery that they might accuse, condemn and judge her, and in the process of seeking to judge her they would also seek to find fault with Jesus. ACCUSING SINNERS AND FINDING FAULT WITH JESUS! CONDEMNING SINNERS AND FINDING FAULT WITH JESUS! The scribes and the Pharisees took great offense with this woman who caught in the act of adultery, and they would use her sin and her indiscretion as means to further find fault with Jesus.
The more you read the four gospel narratives found within the New Testament the more you will find the religious spirit as manifested in the midst of the scribes, the Pharisees, the elders, the Sadducees, and the like seeking to find reason to accuse and condemn—not only Jesus, and not only His disciples, but also sinners as well. I sit here today and I can’t help but be absolutely and completely gripped and captivated with the fact that the scribes and the Pharisees would continually and repeatedly keep a cautious eye on both sinners and saints alike that they might find reason to accuse and condemn them in the presence of Jesus. It’s worth noting that when it came to finding fault with and condemning sinners and the disciples of Jesus, the scribes and the Pharisees didn’t keep their thoughts, their opinions, nor their accusations against both to themselves. Instead of merely keeping their accusations, their judgment and their condemnation within their hearts and minds they sought to publicly voice them in the presence of Jesus, as well as within the presence of others. Upon reading the gospel narratives found within the New Testament you will find the scribes and the Pharisees taking great offense with saints and sinners alike—and not only taking great offense with them, but also voicing their judgment in the presence of Jesus. That which we find in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is a truly powerful picture of the scribes and the Pharisees seeking to find great fault and great offense with the disciples of Jesus—and not only finding fault with them because of something they did which violated the commandment of the living God, but something which violated their traditions. It’s worth pointing out and noting that when Jesus heard the complaint, the accusation and the judgment of the scribes and Pharisees He responded not to their accusation against them, but rather turned the tables and flipped the script on the scribes and Pharisees themselves. Jesus would speak directly unto the scribes and Pharisees and speak to them of how their traditions would not only be in direct violation of the commandments of the living God, but also that they were those who the prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning when he spoke of those who drew near unto the LORD with their mouth, and honored Him with their lips, and yet their hearts were far from Him. Essentially, that which Jesus was speaking and declaring unto the scribes and the Pharisees was that they themselves violated and transgressed the commandment of the LORD to keep their traditions—and not only transgress the commandment of the LORD, but also that they were those who merely drew near to the LORD with their lips and with their mouths, and yet their hearts were far from Him.
Upon continuing to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus going on to declare unto the scribes and Pharisees that in vain they did worship the LORD, and how they taught for doctrines the commandment of men. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to speak unto the disciples concerning the heart and its direct connection with the mouth and that which proceeded forth from it. Beginning with the tenth verse of the fifteenth chapter you will find how Jesus would call the multitude unto Himself and declare unto them that it was not which went into the mouth that defiled a man, but that which came out of the mouth which defiled them. Continuing to read the words found in these passages of Scripture you will find Jesus further explaining unto the disciples that whatever enters into the mouth goes into the belly and is passed forth from the body, but those things which proceed forth out of the mouth come directly from the heart. It is here within these verses that Jesus directly links and connects the heart and the mouth—and not only the heart and the mouth, but also the words which proceed forth out of our mouth and the heart. Jesus clearly and emphatically declares that the words which proceed out of our mouths are a direct reflection of our hearts, and that it is out of our heart that sin, transgression, wickedness and iniquity are manifested in the midst of our lives. That which proceeds forth from out mouths has never been and will never be separate and independent from our hearts. IT would even be Solomon the son of David who would declare that we must needs guard our hearts, for out of the heart flow the wellspring of life. It would be Solomon the son of David who recognized and understood that it would be out of our heart that all the issues of our life would flow forth, and that it was our hearts which was at the center and crux of everything we think, everything we speak, and everything we do. I have always believed that the truest litmus test concerning the condition of our hearts is the words which proceed forth out of our mouths. If you want to truly understand that which is in the heart of another individual you need only listen to the words which proceed out of their mouths. It is the words which proceed forth out of your mouth, and the words which proceed out of my mouth that are the truest and ultimate expression of the nature and condition of our hearts. It is with this in mind I would like to call and draw your attention to the words which James the half brother of Jesus wrote in the epistle found in the New Testament beginning with the first verse of the chapter:
“My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter of little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: but the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, fully of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therefore curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? Either a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:1-18).
O WOMAN, GREAT IS THY FAITH! BE IT UNTO THEE EVEN AS THOU WILT! (“VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU, I HAVE NOT FOUND SO GREAT FAITH, NO, NOT IN ISRAEL”). THE GREAT FAITH OF A ROMAN CENTURION! THE GREAT FAITH OF A WOMAN FROM CANAAN! FINDING GREAT FAITH IN TYRE AND SIDON! BE IT UNTO THEE EVEN AS THOU WILT & GO THY WAY; AND AS THOU HAST BELIEVED, SO BE IT DONE UNTO THEE! JESUS WITNESSES AND BEHOLDS GREAT FAITH IN HIS PRESENCE AND THEN SENDS THE CENTURION AND THE CANAANITE WOMAN OUT OF HIS PRESENCE—NOT ONLY TO BELIEVE, BUT ALSO TO WITNESS WHAT THEIR FAITH HAD ACCOMPLISHED AND WHAT THEIR FAITH WOULD ACCOMPLISH! THE CHALLENGE OF LEAVING THE PRESENCE OF JESUS KNOWING YOUR FAITH IS WHAT WILL ACCOMPLISH WHAT YOU DESIRE! JESUS PRAISED THE FAITH OF THE CENTURION AND THE CANANNITE WOMAN AND SENT THEM FORTH TO RECEIVE WHAT THEY BELIEVED FOR AND REQUESTED! JESUS SAW THE FAITH OF THOSE WHO ENTERED INTO HIS PRESENCE AND IT ACCOMPLISHED MUCH IN HIS PRESENCE! FAITH BEHELD IN THE PRESENCE OF JESUS AND RECEIVING WHAT WAS DESIRED IN THE PRESENCE OF JESUS! FAITH WHICH SEES ITS DESIRE FULFILLED IN THE PRESENCE OF JESUS; FAITH WHICH IS SEEN IN THE PRESENCE OF JESUS AND HAS TO WAIT TO SEE ITS DESIRE FULFILLED! THE WOMAN OF CANAAN CAME OUT OF THE COASTS AND CRIED UNTO HIM! THE WOMAN CAME AND WORSHIPPED HIM! THE INITIAL WORDS SPOKEN WAS THE DECLARATION OF THE NEED! THE SECONDARY RESPONSE WOULD BE THE CRY FOR HELP! THE THIRD RESPONSE WOULD BE THE RESPONSE OF FAITH! THE DECLARATION OF NEED, THE CRY FOR HELP, THE RESPONSE OF FAITH!
As you continue reading the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of this gospel narrative you will find and read an incredibly powerful narrative that is found within the life and ministry of Jesus, for as He went into the region of Tyre and Sidon there would come a woman of Canaan who would cry out in His presence as she cried out for mercy. It is in the first words spoken by the Canaanite woman she would cry out to the Son of David and ask for mercy, while it would be in the second response of this woman she would actually cry out for help. In the initial statement and words spoken by this woman we find her crying out to Jesus as the Son of David—as the Son of authority and dominion—as she would speak of her daughter being grievously vexed with a devil. In the second response she would not cry out to Jesus using and speaking the same words, but this time she would cry out unto Jesus as Lord, and ask Him to help her. HAVE MERCY ON ME; HELP ME! We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words found and written within this passage of Scripture, for in the initial cry of this woman we find her crying out to Jesus the Son of David to have mercy on her, and then voicing her need in the sight, in the hearing and in the presence of Jesus. When the woman would not only see that Jesus answered her not a word she would continue to cry out after Him, and would eventually come before Him, worship Him, and cry out asking Him to help her. It’s interesting and worth noting that initially Jesus would not answer the woman a word, and it would be His disciples who would come and beseech Him that He would send her away. It’s important to keep in mind that this would be one of multiple times the disciples would ask Jesus to send others away, for on both occasions when Jesus would feed the multitudes the disciples would ask Him to send them away, and when it came to the children they would even ask Him to send them away. Here we have the disciples again trying to send someone away—and not just sending anyone away, but sending away someone who was truly in desperate need. It’s incredibly intriguing to think about and consider how the disciples would seem to ask Jesus to send away those who were in need—perhaps even those who inconvenienced their agenda and their schedule—and on three of these occasions Jesus would declare unto them that they did not need to go away or be sent away. The disciples would seek to have this woman sent away, and yet not only would Jesus not send her away, but because of her faith which was great in His sight, she would receive what she asked for and desired.
I find it absolutely remarkable that there were two times within the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew when Jesus would see and observe—and not only see and observe, but also praise great faith which was found within His presence. It would be in the narrative and account of the Roman centurion who would come into the presence of Jesus and who would express and demonstrate great faith in His presence when declaring that all Jesus had to do was speak the word—and speak the word right where He was at—and his servant would be healed. This centurion would speak in the hearing and presence of Jesus that he was a man under authority and a man in authority, and all he needed to do was tell this and that servant to “Go,” and to “Do,” and they would obey. This man recognized that all Jesus needed to was speak the word—even from where He was and without needing to journey with him to his home—and his servant would be healed. Jesus would hear the response of this centurion and would not only praise the great faith which was found within his heart and soul, but would also send him forth from His presence believing that it would be unto him as he believed. A similar reality would be manifested within the life of the Canaanite woman, as Jesus would initially choose not to respond to her cry for mercy and would also declare unto her that it was not meet, nor was it fit to give unto the dogs that which belonged to the children. Essentially what Jesus was saying and speaking unto her was that it wasn’t meet for Him to give unto her that which was and had been reserved for the children of the kingdom—for the Jews and the seed of Abraham. The woman would hear the words which Jesus spoke unto her, and it was what she said and how she responded next that would cause Jesus to praise and strengthen her faith. The woman would declare unto Jesus that even the dogs eat the crumbs from off the master’s table, and when Jesus would hear this response He would both praise and strengthen her faith. What’s more, is this woman would be sent forth from the presence of Jesus knowing that it would be unto her as she would and as she believed. Jesus would do for and unto this woman a similar thing as what He did unto the Roman centurion, for Jesus would first strengthen her faith “O woman, great is thy faith,” and then He would challenge her faith “be it unto thee even as thou wilt” as He would send her forth trusting and believing that what she came into His presence for would be done unto her as she would. It would be more about her faith—that faith which Jesus declared was great—that she would depart from His presence trusting and believing that she would have what she desired.
I find it absolutely wonderful and beautiful that this woman would have her faith strengthened—this woman who wasn’t even of the seed of Abraham, and this woman who wasn’t even a Hebrew or Jew. It is truly something astounding to think about and consider that on both occasions when Jesus declared and proclaimed that He witnessed and beheld great faith it would come from those who weren’t of the seed of Abraham, but were in all reality Gentiles. The Canaanite woman would indeed be a Gentile and yet her faith would be praised and strengthened by Jesus, while the Roman centurion would also be a Gentile and his faith would be praised and strengthened in the presence of Jesus. What I so love and appreciate about both of these great narratives and accounts of faith is that they not only believed and trusted enough in Jesus to come unto Him and voice their need and desire, but they also trusted enough in His presence to hear the declaration that according to their faith would it be as they desired and needed. These individuals would be faced with the daunting and incredible challenge to leave and depart from the presence of Jesus not hearing Jesus declare that He had met their need, nor even seeing the fruit and manifestation of that which they desired of Jesus. Scripture records and reveals that the daughter of this woman would be made whole from the very hour Jesus strengthened her faith and sent her on her way with the promise that as was her faith, so would be the outcome of her desire and request. A similar reality would be true of the Roman centurion, as the Roman centurion would not see his servant healed, nor would hear any report that his servant was healed. What I love even more about this is that this was in the days before cell phones—before text messages, before tweets, before e-mails, before phone calls, before Facebook posts, before Instagram instant messages, and before all the means of electronic communication. I am trying to picture what these two scenarios would have been like had they played out during our generation with modern technology, and how many of us would have left the presence of Jesus and immediately sent a text message, or would have immediately picked up the phone and called home, or called someone who was there with that individual that was in need. Stop and think about what this situation would have been like and how it would have played out during our generation in our society in the age of technology.
OH THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT WAITING ON THE LORD! THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT WAITING TO SEE WHAT THE LORD HAS DONE! THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT WAITING TO SEE WHAT THE LORD WILL DO! THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT NOT KNOWING WHETHER OR NOT THE LORD HAS RESPONDED TO YOUR CRY AND HAVING TO MAKE THE JOURNEY OF FAITH WONDERING IF YOUR FAITH WAS STRONG ENOUGH! THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT LEAVING AND DEPARTING THE PRESENCE OF THE JESUS AND HAVING TO WAIT TO SEE IF HE ACTUALLY ANSWERED AND RESPONDED TO YOUR CRY AND TO YOUR FAITH! I am absolutely and completely convinced that one of the truest and greatest challenges surrounding faith is not only that of it being challenged, but also having to wait on the manifestation and fruit of its desire. In the case of both the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman there was an immediate desire and need that was presented in the presence of Jesus, and in both cases Jesus praised the faith of these Gentiles, however, neither individual would see the fulfillment of their faith until they would return home and see the manifestation of their need. If you read both narratives you will quickly discover that while both of their needs and desires were met in the same hour they were in the presence of Jesus—they would not see the direct fulfillment of that desire until they would return unto their homes. Neither the centurion, nor the Canaanite woman would leave the presence of Jesus seeing the direct answer to their prayer, and would have to make the journey of faith unto their homes—unto that place where the need actually was. I can’t help but wonder what that journey was like as they would have to leave the presence of Jesus with their faith being challenged, as Jesus would in essence declare unto both of them that it would be unto them as their faith believed and trusted. Jesus would indeed strengthen their faith while in His presence, and would indeed speak of their faith being great, however, Jesus would send them forth from His presence trusting and believing for what they desired upon entering into His presence. They would enter into the presence of Jesus with a need and a desire, and yet neither one of them would leave the presence of Jesus knowing what they would return home to. What we do in fact know is that for the servant of the centurion to be healed, and for the daughter of this Canaanite woman to be made whole their faith would have had to continue trusting and believing—even after they left the presence of Jesus. Both would hear Jesus’ words speak to them and declare that their faith was great in the sight of both God and the eternal Son, however, their faith would have to continue believing and trusting as they left the presence of Jesus.
I asked the question of how this would work within our modern context and in our modern generation, for how many of us would have entered into the presence of Jesus—and perhaps would have even heard Jesus speak of and praise our faith for being great—and yet as soon as we heard the words of Jesus we would pick up the phone and call our spouse at home, or perhaps our child or children at home, or perhaps another servant who was in the house? How many of us would have departed from the presence of Jesus and immediately sent a text message inquiring of the condition of this servant and this daughter? How many of us might have sent an e-mail, or an instant message of some sort as we were trying to determine and decipher whether or not our need had in fact been met? We do know that in both the case of the servant of the Roman centurion, as well as the daughter of the Canaanite woman their need was met in the selfsame hour they entered and departed the presence of Jesus, however, neither one would know what the outcome of their journey into the presence of Jesus, nor their journey away from the presence of Jesus would produce. Neither the centurion, nor the Canaanite woman would depart from the presence of Jesus actually seeing the direct manifestation and fulfillment—not only of their entreating of Jesus, but also of their faith which Jesus would praise and commend. I have to admit that there is actually something truly remarkable and astonishing about this reality and concept of waiting to see the fulfillment of our desire, and waiting to see the manifestation of our need, and not being able to instantly inquire of it. There is something truly powerful about the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman leaving the presence of Jesus knowing that they would receive according to what they believed, and they would receive according to what they had believed and trusted for. What makes this even more interesting is when you think about the fact that Jesus would declare unto that it would be according as they believed they would receive what they desired. IT would be true that both would enter into the presence of Jesus the Christ, and it would be true that both would inquire and entreat the LORD concerning their need, however, when they departed from the presence of Jesus they would do so knowing that it would be according to their faith—it would be according to what they believed—they would receive what they desired and entreated Jesus for.
There is not a doubt in my mind that one of the greatest challenges of faith is not necessarily bringing our need before and into the presence of Jesus, but our departing out of and our departing from the presence of Jesus—perhaps wondering if our need would in fact be met. Neither the Canaanite woman, nor the centurion would leave and depart from the presence of Jesus seeing the direct fulfillment of their need and their desire, and both would depart from the presence of Jesus knowing that they would receive according to what they believed. Neither the Roman centurion, nor the Canaanite woman would actually hear the words spoken by Jesus that their need had been met, for the centurion would not hear that his servant would be healed, nor would the Canaanite woman hear that her daughter would be delivered from the evil spirit which had grievously tormented and oppressed her. The only thing these individuals would know when they departed out of the presence of Jesus was that it would be their faith—it would be their trust, their belief, and their confidence—that would actually accomplish and bring about the direct fulfillment of their desire. Oh that we would recognize and understand this, for there is something powerful about departing from the presence of Jesus and having to make the journey of faith to the place of need—perhaps wondering whether or not our faith was strong enough to actually bring about the manifestation and fulfillment of what we initially desired in the presence of Jesus. Both the Canaanite woman and the Roman centurion would depart from the presence of Jesus needing to make the journey of faith home to the place of their need—a journey that would be completely and utterly different from their journey into the presence of Jesus. It’s worth noting and pointing out that both would make their journey into and unto the presence of Jesus, and both of them would make their way into His presence with a need and desire, however, they would both leave and depart from His presence with a certain degree and level of expectation and anticipation in their hearts concerning the need they presented in the presence of Jesus.
If you continue reading within this narrative found in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel written by the apostle Matthew you will find that after the apostle wrote of this woman’s daughter being made whole the very same hour she entered into the presence of Jesus, he would once more write of Jesus’ interaction with the crowds and the multitude. I am absolutely and completely convinced that you cannot read the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew without coming face to face with Jesus in the midst of the crowds and Jesus in the midst of the multitude. Within the gospel narrative you will find the individual and personal ministry of Jesus with those who would be brought into His presence, or those who would make their way into His presence, however, you will find within this gospel an absolutely wonderful and powerful picture of Jesus in the midst of the multitude and Jesus in the midst of the crowd. As you read the four gospel narratives you will find Jesus sitting on mountainsides, Jesus sitting in ships, Jesus entering into people’s homes, teaching in synagogues, teaching in the Temple, and even meeting and encountering people in the streets as He would journey from one place to another. It is within the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew where we find such a great and tremendous narrative of Jesus in the midst of the crowds, as almost immediately after He began preaching repentance for the kingdom of heaven was at hand large crowds and multitudes would gather themselves before and unto Him. In the twenty-ninth verse of the fifteenth chapter we find Jesus departing from the region and coasts of Tyre and Sidon and coming unto the land and region of Galilee. Upon entering into the land of Galilee the apostle Matthew writes and records how He went up into a mountain and sat down there on the mountain. As Jesus sat there on the mountain great multitudes would come unto him bringing with them those that were alme, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others as they cast them down at Jesus’ feet. The apostle Matthew would go on to write and record how Jesus would heal those who were brought into His presence insomuch that the multitude wondered when they saw the dumb speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. Moreover, all those who saw and witnessed and beheld the great works and wonders which were being performed among them in their midst would glorify the God of Israel. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for there were those moments when Jesus would engage Himself in personal, individual, private and intimate ministry, but there were other times when Jesus would minister in the midst of great crowds and multitudes as all the lame, the sick, the blind, the dumb, the deaf, those possessed with evil spirits, and perhaps even those with leprosy would enter and be brought into the presence of Jesus.
The final verses of the fifteenth chapter contain words which are truly and absolutely captivating, for it is within these verses where we again find Jesus in the midst of the crowds and multitudes with His disciples, and once more Jesus looking upon the crowds and the multitudes with compassion. The apostle Matthew would write how Jesus called the disciples unto Himself and declared how He had compassion on the multitudes because they had continued with Him for three days, and have had nothing to eat. What’s more, Jesus would go on to declare unto these disciples that He was not willing, nor would He send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand when reading the words found in this passage is that this wouldn’t be the first time Jesus would encounter a great crowd and multitude, and the need would arise—not only to meet their physical needs in terms of healing, but also meet their physical need in terms of feeding them. It is something wroth noting and pointing out that there are two specific instances and occurrences within Scripture where Jesus would heal all those who were brought into His presence, and would even issue healing over the period of days, and eventually and ultimately there would come the point and place where Jesus would recognize that beyond merely their need for physical healing there was also the need for physical feeding. While it was true that these great crowds and multitudes would enter into the presence of Jesus with physical needs in terms of healing of their physical bodies—the more time they spent in the presence of Jesus the more they would find themselves in need of physical sustenance. There were two occurrences within the gospel narrative where Jesus would issue healing within the lives of countless men and women who came into His presence and who were brought into His presence, and there were two instances when the crowds and multitudes would grow hungry after spending so great a time in the presence of Jesus the Christ. On both occasions and occurrences Jesus would recognize the need and would recognize the hunger and would seek to feed them. What’s worth noting is in the first occurrence we find the disciples entreating Jesus to send the crowds and multitudes away and out from His presence, while in the second occurrence we find the disciples responding differently. In both occasions Jesus would ask the disciples what they had present among them, while the first time there would be five loaves of bread and two fish, and the second time there would be seven loaves of bread and a few fish. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and captivating reality, for not only would Jesus bring healing to physical bodies, but Jesus would also feed those who entered and came into His presence—those who would abide with Him as He interacted and engaged with the crowds and the multitudes.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close it is worth noting and pointing out that as much as Jesus was One of the multitudes, He was also one of the individuals. As much as Jesus taught in the synagogues, He was also one who was willing to fellowship and break bread in homes. If there is one thing I so love about Jesus the Christ it’s that He was not only willing to enter into the synagogues and teach those gathered together in the midst of them, but He was also willing to enter into the homes of others. There were at least five specific occurrences found within the four gospel narratives when Jesus would enter into the homes of those He would interact with along the way during the three and a half years of public ministry in the earth. Jesus would enter into the home of Simon also called Peter where Peter’s wife and mother-in-law would be present. Jesus would enter into the home of Jairus upon hearing the request of Jairus’ daughter being sick unto the point of death. Jesus would enter into the home of the apostle Matthew and would entertain and fellowship with publicans and sinners. Jesus would enter into the home of Zacchaeus after expressly declaring unto him that he must needs enter into his house. Jesus would enter into the home of Simon the Pharisee after this religious leader would invite Him into His home to fellowship with him. Jesus would also enter into the home of Mary and Martha where Martha would serve, and Mary would sit at the feet of Jesus. One of the greatest truths found within the four gospel narratives is that as much as Jesus would enter into and teach within the synagogues, He would also enter into people’s homes and would meet them right where they were. Jesus had absolutely not qualm, nor any issue with entering into the homes of others—even the homes of Pharisees and publicans. How truly awesome and wonderful it is to think about and consider the reality that Jesus would indeed teach in the synagogues, and He would indeed teach in the Temple, however, He was not above, nor was He afraid of entering into people’s homes and breaking bread and fellowshipping with them. In fact, I would dare say that Jesus was just as comfortable within people’s homes as He was within the synagogues—and even His Father’s house which was present in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. Oh that we would take a good, long and hard look at our lives and see whether or not we are such who are not only willing to interact with people in the churches and houses of worship in our midst, but whether or not we are willing to enter into the homes of those before and around us and truly break bread and experience fellowship with others.