The Pharisees and scribes that came from Jerusalem in verse 1 would have been of considerable import and influence during the day. They accuse the disciples (and therefore, Jesus) of breaking the tradition of the elders by eating without having washed their hands. This was not a matter of hygiene on their part, but is a good example of the extra-biblical customs they were fond of imposing upon people – this one is supposed to have been based on the ritual purity commandments for priests (i.e. Exodus 30:17-21), extending them to apply to people and situations beyond that of God’s word .
The response from Jesus is to throw it right back at them. The Pharisees were breaking the commandment of God – not the traditions of elders! By making a claim that their money or property was vowed as a gift to God, they would exclude it from their wealth in consideration of their parents in need, and be excused for not caring for them by their own interpretation of the law – and who knows if they ever actually would give the possessions anyway, even after they died? Jesus does not mince any words in exposing this hypocrisy (verse 7-9). The prophecy quoted in verses 8-9 is from Isaiah 29:13. The disciples then point out the obvious to Jesus – that the Pharisees were offended by what He had said. But Jesus is not surprised by the opposition of the Pharisees, and tells the disciples that they are intentionally blind to the gospel. Verses 10-20 then are His lesson to them that it is not what goes into the body that corrupts us, but what comes from our hearts.
The conversation with the Canaanite woman in verses 21-28 seems to be harsh toward her, but we must realize that Jesus came to the regions of Tyre and Sidon (verse 21) not by accident – He would be expecting encounters with Gentiles! Her faith did pass the test, and her daughter was healed. Remember that He had already healed the Centurion’s servant.
He then goes on by the Sea of Galilee healing still more in verses 29-31. Verses 32-39 detail the feeding of the four thousand – this was just the number of men, not including women and children. This numeration, as well as that of the feeding of the five thousand could be an indication of what sort of size crowds the scripture speaks of in other places. All were fed and satisfied with just seven loaves of bread and a few fish, and the seven baskets of food gathered up afterward represents more than what they even started with.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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