DON’T SUBSTITUTE RELIGIOUS TRADITION EMPHASIZING CEREMONIAL CLEANLINESS FOR DIVINE COMMANDMENTS EMPHASIZING INTERNAL PURITY
Donald Hagner: Matthew follows Mark in alternating passages revealing the power and identity of Jesus with confrontations with those who refuse Jesus and his message.
Grant Osborne: Two ideas are intertwined in this section—external tradition and internal purity. The first is central to vv. 1–9, the second central to vv. 10–20. Yet both combine in the theme that the life of the follower of Jesus must be controlled not so much by external codes of conduct forced from without but by the inner person of the heart that proceeds from within.
Richard Gardner: As we move into chapter 15, we find Jesus embroiled in another conflict or controversy (cf. the conflict stories in chapter 12). The immediate issue in the conflict is whether the disciples defile themselves when they fail to observe the rabbinic tradition of washing hands before eating. (According to Luke 11:38, Jesus himself failed to observe the practice.) In responding to those who pose the question, Jesus raises a more fundamental question about the rabbinic tradition itself: Does this tradition help us understand and obey the will of God expressed in the Torah? Or does it distort and sometimes circumvent the Torah and thereby mislead God’s people?
William Barclay: In this passage, there meets us the whole conception of clean and unclean. We must be quite clear that this idea of cleanness and uncleanness has nothing to do with physical cleanness, or, except distantly, with hygiene. It is entirely a ceremonial matter. For the people to be clean was for them to be in a state where they might worship and approach God; for them to be unclean was for them to be in a state where such a worship and such an approach were impossible. . .
Religion had got itself mixed up with all kinds of external rules and regulations; and, since it is much easier both to observe rules and regulations and to check up on those who do not, these rules and regulations had become religion to the orthodox Jews.
Warren Wiersbe: Tradition is something external, while God’s truth is internal, in the heart. People obey tradition to please men and gain status (Gal. 1:14), but we obey the Word to please God. Tradition brings empty words to the lips, but truth penetrates the heart and changes the life. Actually, tradition robs a person of the power of the Word of God.
Walter Wilson: Once again we have a portrayal that displays Jesus in conflict with the Pharisees and scribes, though now his adversaries are seen to come from Jerusalem, the implication being that news about the Galilean prophet has reached the center of Judaism. The debate in this instance pits the authority of the Pharisees as interpreters of their “tradition” against the authority of Jesus as interpreter of “the word of God,” with the ritual of handwashing serving as a case study. To their complaint about the disciples’ failure to observe this practice, Jesus counters with a complaint of his own, the crux of which is that his opponents are more concerned with upholding traditions meant to help people observe the law than with observing the law itself, thereby exposing themselves as hypocrites and blind guides. As an illustration, he brings into view their tradition regarding the Korban vow, which he argues contradicts the divine commandment to honor father and mother, a sure indication of its “human” origin. After issuing a cryptic pronouncement about ritual purity to the crowds (graphically describing different things going into and out of someone’s mouth), Jesus is shown fielding a question and then a request from the disciples, who want to understand the meaning of this strange statement. Again drawing on the Decalogue for illustrations, Jesus explains that what people eat and drink leaves their moral core untouched, whereas what they say has the power to defile, since it proceeds from the heart.
Stanley Saunders: The deteriorating relationship between Jesus and the religious elites now takes a more ominous turn. Scribes and Pharisees last joined forces to ask Jesus for a sign (12:38; cf. 16:1–4). The group that now challenges Jesus is from Jerusalem. Jesus has been ministering around Gennesaret, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee (14:34–36), so the scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem must come some distance for this encounter. Perhaps the Jerusalem leaders think that the locals are not up to dealing with Jesus, so they send their own people to put Jesus in his place. Jerusalem now looms on the horizon (cf. 16:21). In controversies such as this, Jesus’ adversaries are hoping to assert their own status and diminish Jesus’ authority with the crowds. The point of the attack is to discredit Jesus by demonstrating that he and his followers do not attain the high standards of purity required by tradition and practiced, presumably, by the Pharisees and scribes.
I. (:1-9) RELIGIOUS TRADITION ESSENTIALLY INVALIDATES DIVINE COMMANDMENTS
A. (:1-2) Charge of the Religious Traditionalists
“Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem, saying,
Grant Osborne: The historic present “came” (προσέρχονται) makes the coming more vivid (Wallace, 526). This is probably a semi-official delegation from Jerusalem sent to test Jesus’ knowledge and faithfulness to Torah (both written and oral). This is the only time in Matthew the Pharisees are named first (probably following Mark 7:1). The mention of Jerusalem stresses the hostility of the leaders and moves the action toward the climactic scene at the passion. It was unusual for such a lofty group to visit this backwater area of Galilee. France says this provides “a foretaste of the confrontation to come.”
- (:2a) General Charge = Violating the Tradition of the Elders
“Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?”
Michael Wilkins: The term “tradition” comes from a noun that refers to something that has been “handed over” or “passed on” (paradosis). The “tradition of the elders” (15:1) became a technical expression among the Pharisees for the interpretation of Scripture made by past esteemed rabbis that was “passed on” to later generations. . .
Traditions developed by humans can be dangerous when they supplant God’s revelation. But tradition is not wrong per se. Paul uses the same term (paradosis) to refer to the gospel truths and doctrines that he passed to the churches (1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6), and a related verb (paradidōmi) to refer to the fundamental creedal truths of the cross and resurrection that he had received and passed on to the church (1 Cor. 15:1). The essential difference between these forms of tradition and those developed within Judaism rests on the fact of Jesus’ incarnation. Jesus is the revelation of God embodied, and Paul declares therefore that the traditions he received and passed on to the church have derived from God himself through the revelation of Jesus the Messiah. That is a crucial dissimilarity for us to reflect upon.
Grant Osborne: In Jesus’ time these rules for the conduct of daily lives were transmitted orally but later were written in the Mishnah, with an entire tractate, Yadayim, filled with minute details on the washing of hands. They originally had a good purpose, to enable a people living in a culture far removed from the seminomadic culture that existed at the time of the giving of the law to understand and keep the law. They called it “building a fence around the law,” i.e., keeping the common people from inadvertently breaking the law. But the number of details quickly turned it into a burdensome set of pedantic rules.
R. T. France: It was subsequent scribal rulings that attempted to extend this principle to the eating of ordinary food, and to people other than priests (on the principle that Israel as a whole was a “priestly nation”), and it is uncertain how far this process had advanced by the time of Jesus. It is likely that ordinary people would have found no problem with the practice of Jesus’ disciples, and that this group of Jerusalem teachers are expecting of them a more rigorous standard than was yet recognized in Galilee. As a religious teacher, they perhaps imply, surely Jesus could not afford to allow his disciples more laxity than the Pharisees expected of their followers.
Jeffrey Crabtree: The apparent assumption behind the question was that unclean hands would defile (make unclean) the food, which would then defile the person (Nolland 612, 615), thus breaking fellowship with the Lord.
- (:2b) Specific Charge = Cleanliness Violation
“For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.’”
Richard Gardner: The particular tradition of washing hands before eating may have been based on a biblical text commanding priests to bathe before eating sacred food (Lev. 22:1-9). That text is part of a longer catalogue of ritual laws urging the people of God to distinguish “between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean” (Lev. 10:10), to avoid defilement from touching or partaking what is unclean (cf. Lev. 11), and to wash away defilement when it occurs (cf. Lev. 14:1-9; 15:1-33; Exod. 30:17-21).
B. (:3-6) Countercharge of Jesus
- (:3) Elevating Man’s Traditions over God’s Commandments
“And He answered and said to them, ‘And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?’”
Richard Gardner: The text provides a framework for defining the relationship between Scripture and tradition—and judges those who permit tradition to have priority over Scripture. Needless to say, it has not been difficult for interpreters to point to situations where this has been the case. In the Reformation era, Jesus’ critique of Jewish tradition was often applied to the practices and institutions of Roman Catholicism (cf. Luther: 497-498; Calvin, 1960:4.10.10 and 4.10.23; Calvin, 1972, 2:159-161; Menno Simons: 178, 362). The reign of tradition, however, is really a generic problem, not the failing of one particular branch of Christendom. Every church must ask itself: Does Scripture control our traditions, or do our traditions control Scripture?
Daniel Doriani: Jesus turns the tables on the Pharisees at once. Although he cares about their topic—true holiness—he does not answer them on their terms. Instead, he proposes a counterquestion. The Pharisees ask, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?” Jesus replies, “And why do you break God’s law for the sake of your tradition?” (15:3).
By refusing to answer, Jesus captures the agenda. This is an important strategy. We must ask the right questions and set aside the wrong ones. When there is confusion, we should try to discover what the essential issue is. When there is a discussion, we need to try to frame the debate correctly. . . Jesus asks the right question. The Pharisees asked about violations of the elders’ tradition; Jesus asks about violations of God’s law.
Charles Swindoll: Jesus didn’t take the bait. He had been breaking those unscriptural, contrived traditions since he began his ministry. If He wasn’t touching unclean lepers, he was taking corpses by the hand and lifting them back to life. And when he wasn’t fraternizing with scum-of-the-earth tax collectors, He had the audacity to heal people on the Sabbath! Knowing He was entirely in the right and they were in the wrong, Jesus answered their hypocrisy and should have convicted them of their own need for a Savior.
Jesus’ tone in this passage nears exasperation. He was fully aware of their man-made rules and regulations and couldn’t have cared less about them. He’d been dealing with this Pharisaic nonsense for months now, and this was just the latest installment of an ongoing conflict with spiritually blind guides who were leading people astray. Enough was enough! Jesus confronted them head-on.
Stu Weber: While the hypocrites claimed to enhance God’s Law through their tradition, Jesus claimed that God’s Law and their tradition were mutually exclusive. When their man-made regulations took precedence, those regulations took a person astray from the straight path of God’s Law (cf. the wide and narrow gates and roads of 7:13-14).
- (:4-6a) Explanation of the Countercharge
a. (:4) Clear Commands of God Regarding Honoring Parents
“For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and,
‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.’”
Grant Osborne: Jesus then adds the commandment against reviling or “speaking evil” of a parent, part of a paragraph detailing capital death penalty cases (Exod 21:12–21) and was interpreted not only of cursing a parent but also of insubordination against parents. Jesus wants to show how serious the responsibilities to parents were.
Leon Morris: (:4) — Jesus proceeds to draw attention to one of the ways they broke the commandment and precedes it with, “For God said.” Since the divine origin of the commandment is important, he does not allow it to drop out of sight. What God has said is not to be put on a level with what even godly scribes laid down and handed on from one to another. The commandment he selects for attention is that which commands the Israelites to honor their parents. The Jews commonly respected their parents, but Jesus points out that this attitude was due not to a scribal requirement, but to a divine command. God, no less, has prescribed that proper respect be paid one’s parents (Exod. 20:12; Deut. 5:16). With this he links a further prescription that anyone who speaks evil of parents shall be put to death (Exod. 21:17; Lev. 20:9). Scripture leaves no doubt that parents are to be honored, and that extends even to the way people speak of their parents.
(:5) — But is adversative and you is emphatic; Jesus is setting the Pharisees in contrast to God, whose words he has just quoted. “God said … but you say” means that the words of God stand in opposition to the words of the Pharisees. Whoever is general, “anyone at all.” This “anyone” is pictured as addressing either father or mother and announcing that he has made a gift to God of anything that the parent might be expected to get from him. Gift comes first in this expression, which gives it emphasis, and while it may be used of gifts in general, in the New Testament it is used mostly for gifts made to God. In his version of the incident Mark at this point has korban, a transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning “offering” and always used in the Old Testament of offerings to God. What the child is telling the parent in this saying is that he has decided to give as an offering to God what the parent might have expected would be given to him or her in old age. Anything of mine is comprehensive. The son is vowing away all that he might have used to support his parents.
Jeffrey Crabtree: To honor (Greek timaō) means to “show high status to someone by honoring” (Louw and Nida I:735). It can also mean to “provide aid or financial assistance, with the implication that this is an appropriate means of showing respect” (1 Tim. 5:3; Louw and Nida I:571). These two meanings are closely connected, as Paul demonstrated in his instructions about parental support (1 Tim. 5:3-8). Adult children and grandchildren are responsible to honor their parents and grandparents by caring for their material needs. This was Jesus’ point as well.
To curse or revile (v. 4) means “to insult in a particularly strong and unjustifiable manner” (Greek kakologeō; Louw and Nida I:434; Grimm’s 320). The Hebrew word (Ex. 21:17) means to treat with contempt or dishonor (BDB 886). This Hebrew word and form were used in Genesis 12:3 (“that curseth thee”) in God’s covenant blessing to Abram. See also Leviticus 24:14, 23, Proverbs 20:20, and Jeremiah 15:10 for other examples.
b. (:5-6a) Convoluted Circumvention of God’s Commands
“But you say, ‘Whoever shall say to his father or mother,
“Anything of mine you might have been helped by has been given to God,” 6 he is not to honor his father or his mother.’”
Richard Gardner: For Jesus, the societal obligation to care for parents that God commands in the Decalogue has priority over the seemingly sacred act of vowing to give one’s resources to a religious institution.
R. T. France: Jesus now accuses his opponents of undermining this basic principle of OT law by a formal legal device of their own invention. The scribal practice with regard to “Qorban” is described so briefly as to be quite cryptic to those not familiar with it, but Matthew’s readers were presumably well aware of this convenient manipulation of the rules for dedication of property. These rules are the subject of extensive rabbinic discussion, collected in the Mishnah tractate Nedarim, “Vows,” where the term qorbān and its equivalent qōnām occur frequently as a formula for dedicating food, money or property to God, which in practice meant to the temple treasury. Anything so dedicated was thus placed out of reach of other people who might otherwise have a claim on it, and the formula seems to have been deliberately used for this purpose. What is not so clear is how such a dedication could be made without the donor also losing the right to his own property (was it a pledge to be honored only at the donor’s death?), but the rabbinic discussion makes it clear that in some way this could be achieved.
Stu Weber: Jesus was referring to a Jewish practice in which a person gave a gift that was devoted to God so it could be kept for oneself and not used for the good of others. Part of an adult child’s obligation in honoring his parents was to care for them financially when they were in need, particularly as they grew older and were no longer able to make an adequate living. Widowed mothers or grandmothers were especially desperate for help. There was little opportunity for them to earn money, and they were unlikely to find a new husband to support them (1 Tim. 5:8). The Pharisees’ loophole (“sorry, it is all ‘devoted’ to God”) kept the younger generation from having to take care of their parents in their old age, and thus contradicted the Word of God.
- (:6b) Elevating Man’s Traditions over God’s Commandments
“And thus you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.”
R. T. France: The explicit contrasting of “your own tradition” with “the word of God” suggests a robust view of the authority of Scripture in relation to all human teaching, however venerable and however piously motivated.
Daniel Doriani: Tradition looks at the letter of the law and often seeks to manipulate it or exploit loopholes. It ignores the law’s spirit and the people whom the law protects and directs. Traditions look at the hands; God’s law examines the heart. . .
Without love for God, the quest for holiness becomes legalistic. It substitutes human tradition for God’s law and substitutes human effort for God’s grace. The traditions of the Pharisees started with God’s laws, then added mind-boggling details about rest, food, washing, and even spitting. The tradition regulated the wrong things, lesser things, and in the wrong way, leaving the heart untouched (23:16–24).
C. (:7-9) Condemnation by Isaiah as Hypocrites and False Teachers
“You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying,”
Grant Osborne: The Pharisees are people who claim to be one thing but whose actions prove them to be something else (used also of the Pharisees in 22:18; 23:13, 14, 15). Isaiah 29:13 is from an OT passage frequently used in the NT (Matt 11:5; Rom 9:20; 1 Cor 1:19; Col 2:22). What does Jesus mean when he says Isaiah actually “prophesied” about them, especially since he was speaking of the people of his own time? Jesus uses typology here; that is, the Pharisees and scribes fit the pattern perfectly and are a typological fulfillment of that passage.
Stu Weber: A hypocrite is a person who puts on an outward display that is not representative of what is truly inside.
- (:8) Hypocritical External Form of Worship
“This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me.”
Jeffrey Crabtree: Isaiah taught that God rejects hearts that are far from Him, i.e., hearts that do not love Him and are not loyal to Him. Love and loyalty are heart matters. A heart not right with God cannot produce a life right with God.
Some Christian groups today also rely heavily on tradition at the expense of Scriptural authority. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, teaches three sources of authority:
(2) the infallibility of the pope when speaking ex-cathedra, i.e., “as the head of the Church on earth concerning faith and morals” (Cairns 427), and
(3) church tradition.
Roman Catholic doctrine has long taught that Scripture alone is not enough for salvation and holy living and that church tradition “as it was expressed in the decrees of popes and councils, [is] the only permissible, legitimate and infallible interpreter of the Bible” (Dowley 366). In 1545, the Council of Trent affirmed that the Bible and tradition are equally authoritative. This remains the official position of the Roman Catholic Church. . .
Tradition, whether individual, local church, denominational, or that of the entire visible church, can serve well only as long as it agrees with and remains subservient to Scripture.
- (:9) Humanistic Subverting of Divine Truth
“But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
II. (:10-20) DEFILEMENT COMES FROM WITHIN NOT FROM WITHOUT
A. (:10-11) Addressing the Multitude — Source of Defilement = Internal Not External
“And after He called the multitude to Him, He said to them, ‘Hear, and understand.’”
Stu Weber: Listen and understand is essentially the same as, “He who has ears, let him hear” (11:15; 13:9,43). Only those who would “hear” with a heart of faith and “understand” would accept Jesus’ answer to the question of the Pharisees and scribes.
- (:11a) Negatively Stated
“Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man,”
- (:11b) Positively Stated
“but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”
Grant Osborne: The key contrast is between “into” (εἰς) and “out of” (ἐκ). It is not external things like food coming “into” the mouth that produce impurity but those thoughts and words from the heart that proceed “out of” the mouth that make a person impure. The rabbis should not disagree with this second point, but the whole import hits too close to home. Jesus already said this in 12:34 of the Pharisees, “For it is from the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” One’s words reflect the heart, and that is the true source of defilement. Words and actions, not external piety, are the true measure of a person.
B. (:12-14) First Interaction with Disciples – False Teachers Will Ultimately be Judged
- (:12) Powerful False Teachers Oppose God’s Truth
“Then the disciples came and said to Him,
‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?’”
Michael Wilkins: Jesus’ disciples report that Jesus has “offended” or “scandalized” (skandalizō) the Pharisees. They rightly understand that Jesus has elevated himself as critic of their entire religious tradition, which would undercut their influence with the people.
Jeffrey Crabtree: It was no wonder the Pharisees were offended. Jesus appeared to have set aside a significant portion of the law, had publically disagreed with the Pharisees and scribes, had struck down the tradition of the elders—and that openly, and had thus publicly challenged the authority of these men, their elders, and their traditions.
Charles Swindoll: We can sense that the disciples were getting a little nervous about Jesus’ confrontational tone with His opponents. Away from the public eye, they came to their Master and notified Him that he had offended the Pharisees. . .
- (:13-14) Powerful False Teachers Can be Ignored Because They Are Irrelevant and Headed for Judgment
a. (:13) Plants Not Planted by God — No Root and No Life
“But He answered and said,
‘Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be rooted up.”
Leon Morris: In this way Jesus makes clear his contempt for the teachers who so confidently claimed to know the ways of God, but who had not been “planted” by the God to whom they so brazenly appealed. So far from being reliable expositors of the kingdom of God, the Pharisees were not even in the kingdom.
Stu Weber: Jesus’ calm confidence came out of the assurance that the Pharisees would be judged justly—both by God (15:13) and by the natural consequences of their own blindness (15:14). The plant terminology (15:13) brings to mind the parable of the weeds (13:24-30, 36-43). The hardened hearts of the Pharisees were not products of God’s work. Although they claimed to represent God, they were actually some of the “weeds” planted by the Evil One. They were among those who, in rebellion against God, did evil themselves and caused others to do evil as well (13:41). So they would experience God’s judgment. We will always have false religion in this world.
David Turner: Perhaps the disciples are concerned that the opposition of the Pharisees will be exacerbated by Jesus’s scathing words. Or if Josephus can be trusted (J.W. 1.110–12; Ant. 13.399–404), perhaps they are nervous about Jesus’s directly confronting the most popular interpreters of the law.
b. (:14) Blind Guides — No Sight and No Future
“Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind.
And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.’”
Grant Osborne: There is no use debating with those who are intractable. You expect them to oppose whatever you say, so leave them alone.
R. T. France: The Pharisees’ adverse reaction to Jesus’ words neither surprises nor dismays him; so direct a challenge to an essential principle of rabbinic thought could hardly expect any other reaction. But they are irrelevant, plants not planted by God and blind guides. We shall hear much more of Pharisees and scribes before the gospel is over, and Jesus will be engaged in hot debate with them again in Jerusalem (22:15–23:39). But already from the new perspective of the kingdom of heaven they are side-lined: “Leave them alone.” . . .
If these leaders of Israel have themselves missed the way in their understanding of what it means to be the people of God (as vv. 7–9 have powerfully alleged), their influence on other Jews can only lead them into the same “ditch” of distorted religious values. It is to draw people away from that damaging influence that Jesus has launched his appeal over their heads to the crowd (v. 10), as he will do again in 23:1–12.
Warren Wiersbe: Why be afraid of rootless plants that are dying, or blind guides who cannot see where they are going?
Donald Hagner: The absurdity of the situation of the Pharisees and their disciples is set forth in the proverbial image of a blind person leading another blind person, both of them falling into a pit (cf. Luke 6:39). It would be hard to find a more vivid image of lostness, hopelessness, and futility.
C. (:15-20) Second Interaction with Disciples – Defilement is a Heart Issue
- (:15-16) Dull Disciples
“And Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Explain the parable to us.’
And He said, ‘Are you still lacking in understanding also?’”
Grant Osborne: Jesus is incredulous that the disciples, after all that has transpired and all the teaching they have received at his feet, can still be so “dull” (ἀσύνετος), uncomprehending, senseless, and foolish. Jesus told the crowds to “listen and understand” (v. 10), and now his very disciples have failed to do so. They should have understood immediately what Jesus said.
- (:17-19) Moral Lesson Based on a Biology Analogy
a. (:17) Biology Analogy
“Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated?”
R. T. France: This earthy description of the alimentary system (a tighter version of Mark’s rather sprawling formulation, Mark 7:18–19) makes the point that physical food, while it goes into and through the body, is merely an aspect of animal existence and does not affect the heart, understood here as generally in biblical literature as the seat of thought and will (rather than of emotion, as in our idiom today). And since Jesus is going on to locate true purity and impurity in the heart and its products, the nature and origin of that food cannot therefore affect the matter. It is not a matter of what you eat but who you are; for the same principle cf. Rom 14:14, 17; 1 Cor 8:8; Heb 9:10.
b. (:18-19) Moral Lesson
“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart,
and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”
Jeffrey Crabtree: Matthew listed seven examples of activities that defile a person before God. Mark’s list (7:21) has thirteen. Matthew included one not in Mark’s list, false witness, which shows that neither list is meant to be exhaustive, only representative. Both lists teach that people who live in sin are not right with God.
Grant Osborne: This is the true characteristic of the “hypocrite” (v. 7), a person who works hard at looking good and centers on all the external things but ignores the true source of the defilement, the inner reality of the heart.
Leon Morris: The list is no more than a sample of the evils that proceed from the heart. All sin defiles, and we should understand Jesus to mean that his followers must avoid evil of any sort. To follow the example of the Pharisees and concentrate on avoiding ceremonial defilement is to waste time and energy. Much more important is the avoiding of evil deeds, which really do defile the doers.
- (:20) Thesis Summarized – Defilement is a Heart Issue
“These are the things which defile the man;
but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”
Richard Gardner: In short, Jesus defines defilement in moral terms rather than ceremonial. It is not failure to observe a particular ritual of cleansing that defiles or profanes, but failure to act with wholeness in our relationships with God and fellow humans. Jesus underscores this point in his concluding pronouncement in verse 20, which recalls the issue raised at the outset of the story (v. 2) and proclaims the disciples innocent of any substantive offense.