Matthew 15

Matt 15:2 they wash not their hands when they eat bread

Bruce R. McConkie

"The law of Moses required purifications in certain cases, but the Rabbis had perverted the spirit of Leviticus in this, as in other things, for they taught that food and drink could not be taken with a good conscience when there was the possibility of ceremonial defilement. If every conceivable precaution had not been taken, the person or the vessel used might have contracted impurity, which would thus be conveyed to the food, and through the food to the body, and by it to the soul. Hence it had been long a custom, and latterly a strict law, that before every meal not only the hands but even the dishes, couches, and tables should be scrupulously washed.

"The legal washing of the hands before eating was especially sacred to the Rabbinist; not to do so was a crime as great as to eat the flesh of swine. 'He who neglects hand-washing,' says the book Sohar, 'deserves to be punished here and hereafter.' 'He is to be destroyed out of the world, for in hand-washing is contained the secret of the ten commandments.' 'He is guilty of death.' 'Three sins bring poverty after them,' says the Mishnah, 'and to slight hand-washing is one.' 'He who eats bread without hand-washing,' says Rabbi Jose, 'is as if he went in to a harlot.' The later Schulchan Aruch, enumerates twenty-six rules for this rite in the morning alone. It is better to go four miles to water than to incur guilt by neglecting hand-washing,' says the Talmud. 'He who does not wash his hands after eating,' it says, 'is as bad as a murderer.' The devil Schibta sits on unwashed hands and on the bread. It was a special mark of the Pharisees that 'they ate their daily bread with due purification,' and to neglect doing so was to be despised as unclean. . . ." (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 2: 400.)

Matt 15:5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift

"The practice referred to as 'corban' is that a son, if he were of independent age, could pledge his property to God, and thus it would not be available to be used to support needy parents, although the son could continue to use it for himself as long as he lived. Such a vow (which was permitted by the religious leaders) became more binding than the command of God, and hence the law of God was made 'of none effect' by the tradition.

"Having thus shown the delegation that they themselves were guilty of gross negligence and corruption far greater than eating with unwashed hands, Jesus then proceeded to explain that defilement that comes from within the heart is worse than defilement from the soil on one's outer body." (Robert J. Matthews, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels, ed. by Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, 299.)

Bruce R. McConkie

"This is the picture Jesus is painting: Parents, perhaps aged and decrepit, are hungry, naked, and homeless. They cry out for a crust of bread; they need a homespun robe to cover their nakedness; they have not where to lay their heads during the long cold nights. But they have children-children who are prosperous and well to do; whose fields are fruitful; whose granaries are full; whose flocks graze on a thousand hills. Surely there is enough for all and to spare. But no, the children say: 'It is corban.' That is: 'We have vowed it to sacred purposes. You, our parents, may go cold and hungry and homeless; our property is not available to help you. We have a great zeal toward the Lord, and our property is vowed to him; and we cannot break our vows.'

"Or: 'It is corban; I have vowed that my property shall be as if it were dedicated to sacred purposes, and though I may continue to use it all my life, you shall have none of it because of my vow.'

"Or: 'It is corban; I have vowed that 'whatsoever thou mightest be profited by' cannot be used for your benefit; that is, I have vowed that my property shall not be used for your support; and it is more important that I keep my vow than that I fulfill my obligation to support my parents. The oral traditions of the elders take precedence over the divine law written by Moses.'

"It seems difficult to believe that religion could sink to such depths, and that a people who professed to serve the Jehovah of their fathers could so easily clear their consciences and feel themselves free from keeping his law. Already Jesus has called them hypocrites and said their worship is in vain, and these are only the beginning of the harsh invectives he will hurl upon their sin-ridden souls." (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 2: 408.)

Matt 15:6 Thus have ye made the commandment of god of none effect by your tradition

"...traditionalism, in its worship of the letter, really destroyed the spirit of the Divine law. An instance will here suffice...The following quotation from the Mishnah (Sanh. vii. 8) curiously illustrates...'He that curseth his father or his mother is not guilty, unless he curses them with express mention of the name of Jehovah.' In any other case the sages declare him absolved! And this is by no means a solitary instance of Rabbinical perversion. Indeed, the moral systems of the synagogue leave the same sad impression on the mind as its doctrinal teaching. They are all elaborate chains of casuistry, of which no truer description could be given than in the words of the Saviour (Matt. 15:6): 'Ye have made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.' (Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, end of Chap. 6)

Matt 15:7 well did Esaias prophesy of you

Bruce R. McConkie

"This quotation from Isaiah (Isa. 29:13), describing perfectly as it did the apostate condition of the Jews, was also the one used by Lord Jesus when he appeared in glory with his Father, to Joseph Smith in the Spring of 1820, to usher in the dispensation of the fulness of times...As with so many ancient prophecies, these words of Isaiah are subject to the law of dual fulfillment. In both instances our Lord gave a substance rather than a verbatim quotation." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1: 367.)

Matt 15:9 teaching for doctrines the commandments of men

Gordon B. Hinckley

"It was said of old that 'where there is no vision, the people perish: . . .' (Prov. 29:18.) Vision of what? Vision concerning the things of God, and a stem and unbending adherence to divinely pronounced standards. There is evidence aplenty that young people will respond to the clear call of divine truth, but they are quick to detect and abandon that which has only a form of godliness but denies the power thereof, 'teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.' (Matt. 15:9; see Joseph Smith 2:19.)

"I have sincere respect for my brethren of other faiths, and I know that they are aware of the great problem they face in a dilution of their teachings as some try to make their doctrine more generally acceptable. Dr. Robert McAffee Brown, professor of religion at Stanford, was recently quoted as saying:

'Much of what is going on at present on the Protestant scene gives the oppression of being willing to jettison whatever is necessary in order to appeal to the modern mentality... It is not the task of Christians to whittle away their heritage until it is finally palatable to all.' (The Daily Herald, [Provo, Utah], August 12, 1965, p. 13-A.)

"To this we might add that what is palatable to all is not likely to be satisfying to any, and particularly to a generation of searching, questioning, seeking, probing young men and women." (Conference Report, October 1965, Second Day-Morning Meeting 53.)

Matt 15:11 that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man

L. Tom Perry

"Church leaders have implored and pleaded with the Saints to use the right language. President Spencer W. Kimball said, 'When we go to places of entertainment and mingle among people, we are shocked at the blasphemy that seems to be acceptable among them. The commandment says, 'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.' (Exodus 20:7.) Except in prayers and proper sermons, we must not use the name of the Lord. Blasphemy used to be a crime punishable by heavy fines. Profanity is the effort of a feeble brain to express itself forcibly.'

"President Stephen L Richards wrote, 'How regrettable it is that man, seemingly oblivious to this honorable and sacred relationship, should profane his [God's] holy name and blaspheme Christ. Do you think that a son can damn his father and love him?'

"The Savior himself said, 'Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man' (Matthew 15:11).

"Many times in our effort to control our speech, we employ other words as substitutes. Sometimes, however, these substitute words are so close to vulgar and profane words that they remind the people who hear them of the words we want to avoid." (Living with Enthusiasm, 116-17.)

George Q. Cannon

"Do angels take the Lord's name in vain? The idea is so ridiculous that we scarcely like to ask the question. ... How dare we do that which angels dare not do? Is it possible for us to argue that that which is forbidden in heaven is praiseworthy on earth? ...

"Though we are sure no boy can tell us any advantage that can arise from the abuse of God's holy name, yet we can tell him many evils that arise therefrom. To is unnecessary and consequently foolish; it lessens our respect for holy things and leads us into the society of the wicked; it brings upon us the disrespect of the good who avoid us; it leads us to other sins, for he who is willing to abuse his Creator is not ashamed to defraud his fellow creature; and also by so doing we directly and knowingly break one of the most direct of God's commandments." (Juvenile Instructor, 27 Sept. 1873, p. 156)

Matt 15:12 Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended?

The disciples seem concerned about the harshness of Christ's message and how it was received. Yet we should be thankful that Christ was more concerned with teaching the truth than protecting the feelings of the Pharisees. To the righteous, the truth does not need to be sugar-coated, and to the wicked, no coating can take away the sting, for 'it cutteth them to the very center' (1 Ne 16:2). Besides, the rabbinical doctrines were offensive to Christ-they had distorted that law which He had given-a law given specifically to bring the Jews to Him. Christ's point was that the Pharisees had missed the point. Indeed, they had looked 'beyond the mark' (Jacob 4:14).

Matt 15:13 every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up

Boyd K. Packer

"We may safely study and learn about the theories and philosophies of men, but if they contradict the plan of redemption, the great plan of happiness, do not 'buy into' them as truth. If you do, you may be putting a mortgage on your testimony, on your knowledge of premortal life, on the creation of man, on the Fall and the Atonement, on your Redeemer, the Resurrection, and exaltation; for 'every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up' (Matthew 15:13).

"If you 'buy into' the philosophies of men, you may have your testimony repossessed. Your respect for moral law may go with it, and you will end up with nothing. 'Everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead' (D&C 132:13)." (Things of the Soul, 52.)

James E. Talmage

"What were the plants of Pharisaical tradition but noxious tares, doomed to be rooted up and burned?

"Only the wheat of Divine planting shall be gathered into the garner of the Lord. But, as so impressively taught in parable, the wholesome grain and the poisonous tares are allowed to grow together for a season, lest perchance the premature extirpation of the weeds imperil the wheat...With God as with man there is a time of seeding and a time of harvest." (The Vitality of Mormonism, 356.)

Matt 15:19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts

"We like to think, sometimes, that the way we speak is no real indication of what is in our hearts or who we really are. We are wrong in this. The words we speak, and the ways we speak them, do shape and reflect our character.

"Brigham Young insisted that the tongue does not operate independently of the heart: 'If there is nothing in the heart which governs us, and controls to an evil effect, the tongue of itself will never produce evil.' Words do not spring spontaneously into existence; they are a product of our very natures. Good words issue from goodness in the heart, evil words from evil in the heart." (Marilyn Arnold, LDS Church News, 1991, 05/11/91)

Dallin H. Oaks

"The laws of man are never concerned about a person's desires or thoughts, in isolation. When the law inquires into a person's state of mind or intent, it only seeks to determine what consequence should be assigned to particular actions that person has taken.

"In contrast, the laws of God are concerned with spiritual things. Spiritual consequences are affected by actions, but they are also affected by desires or thoughts, independent of actions. Gospel consequences flow from the desires of our hearts...

"In other words, God judges us not only for our acts, but also for the desires of our hearts. He has said so again and again. This is a challenging reality, but it is not surprising. Agency and accountability are eternal principles. We exercise our free agency not only by what we do, but also by what we decide, or will, or desire. Restrictions on freedom can deprive us of the power to do, but no one can deprive us of the power to will or desire. Accountability must therefore reach and attach consequences to the desires of our hearts.

"This principle applies both in a negative way-making us guilty of sin for evil thoughts and desires-and in a positive way-promising us blessings for righteous desires." ("The Desires of Our Hearts," Ensign, June 1986, 64)

Matt 15:24 I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel

Prior to the Crucifixion, the gospel was specifically sent to the house of Israel. Christ's initial denial of the faithful woman was in deference to the command of his Father, that his ministry be among the Jews. There may be several reasons for this injunction. To hear the gospel first may have been a privilege earned in the pre-mortal sphere. Furthermore, the timetable of the Lord required it; the times of the Gentiles would not be ushered in before the Jews rejected the Messiah. The house of Israel had rejected the Lord since the days of Samuel and before. It seems they would be given one more opportunity to accept his teachings. If they were to reject Him (which the Lord knew they would), then the cup of their iniquity would be full. They would deserve all the cursings promised according to the covenants of their fathers (see Deut 27 & 28). Jesus was their Messiah. He was theirs to accept or reject, and so the gospel was preached to them first, that the scripture might be fulfilled, 'many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first' (Matt 19:30)

Neal A. Maxwell

"In this respect, Jesus gave us a needed lesson about timing. Did He not send forth the Twelve instructing them not to go 'into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans'? Why? Because they were rather to go 'to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.' (Matt 10:5-6) Did not Jesus for a moment withhold a healing from the daughter of a woman of Canaan? Though He enunciated that He had been sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, He made an exception in the case of this woman because of her faith, and her daughter was 'made whole from that very hour.'

"Just how long it was from the time of divine constraint regarding sharing the gospel with the Gentiles until Peter and others received the marvelous divine instructions to take the gospel to them, we do not know precisely. But it did involve some time.

"The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust also His timing. If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best? The same is true with the second coming and with all those matters wherein our faith needs to include faith in the Lord's timing for us personally, not just in His overall plans and purposes." (Even As I Am, 93.)

Matt 15:26 It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to the dogs

James E. Talmage

"The Dummelow Commentary, on Matt. 15:26, reads in part as follows:

"The rabbis often spoke of the Gentiles as dogs, e.g. 'He who eats with an idolater is like one who eats with a dog.' . . . 'The nations of the world are compared to dogs.' 'The holy convocation belongs to you, not to the dogs.' Yet Jesus in adopting the contemptuous expression slightly softens it. He says not 'dogs,' but 'little dogs,' i.e. household, favorite, dogs; and the woman cleverly catches at the expression, arguing that if the Gentiles are household dogs, then it is only right that they should be fed with the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."

"Edersheim, referring to the original text, says: 'The term means 'little dogs,' or 'house dogs.'" (Jesus the Christ, 340.)

Matt 15:27 Truth, Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table

Vaughn J. Featherstone

"...the woman impulsively came and worshipped him, saying, simply 'Lord, help me.'

"A person would have to be made of stone to ignore this pitiful plea. In my mind I can picture her kneeling before him, pleading with her eyes as well as her voice, 'Lord, help me!' To this desperate request the Lord gave this, to our age, incredible reply, 'It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.' The woman kneeling in front of him could have stood up and said, 'I am not a dog, I do not have to be insulted like that. I have some pride, too, you know.' She did not. In one of the greatest expressions of love and humility, forgetting self, again stripping away all false pride, she said, 'Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.'

"'Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.' (Matt. 15:21-28.)

"It took much thought and prayer to understand this experience. I couldn't imagine the Master I worship with all my heart appearing to be so harsh. Understanding came. Of course he was emphasizing the covenant with Israel, that all nations were to be blessed through Israel, and Israel through the Messiah. In the wisdom of God, the gospel would be first taken to the Jews, and Jesus' ministry was to be with them. (2 Ne. 10:3-5.) Also, he undoubtedly knew the heart of this woman; and during the moments she pled with him and he did not respond, I'm sure he could discern her spirit and knew what her responses would be. It was a great teaching moment, not only for his disciples, but for all generations of man from that time forth. The lesson this noble woman taught us about humility and trust in absolute acceptance of the order of God's kingdom will be a blessing to us forever. As we read her beautiful, humble response, suddenly we have a vision of what true humility is and how it must please our Lord. I am so grateful that some translator did not leave this account out, feeling it was unworthy of Jesus. Many of us never would have had one of the supreme lessons in humility in all of the writings of the Savior. I love him for his love and ability to teach with impact. This lesson was for Jesus' disciples as well as for the woman and the crowd." (Commitment, 97-98.)

Matt 15:28 great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt

James E. Talmage

"...we are reminded of the Canaanite woman who implored Jesus to have mercy on her, though her daughter was the afflicted one (Matt. 15:22). In these cases, faith was exercised in behalf of the sufferers by others; and the same is true of the centurion who pleaded for his servant and whose faith was specially commended by Jesus (Matt. 8:5-10), of Jairus whose daughter lay dead (Luke 8:41), and of many who brought their helpless kindred or friends to Christ and pleaded for them. As heretofore shown, faith to be healed is as truly a gift of God as is faith to heal and, as the instances cited prove, faith may be exercised with effect in behalf of others. In connection with the ordinance of administering to the afflicted, by anointing with oil and the laying on of hands, as authoritatively established in the restored Church of Jesus Christ, the elders officiating should encourage the faith of all believers present, that such be exerted in behalf of the sufferer. In the case of infants and of persons who are unconscious, it is plainly useless to look for active manifestation of faith on their part, and the supporting faith of kindred and friends is all the more requisite." (Jesus the Christ, 368.)

Matt 15:32 I have compassion on the multitude

"The Savior showed compassion not only for his closest associates, but also for the thousands of nameless faces who gathered to hear his teachings. On one occasion, after preaching a long sermon he said to his disciples, 'I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way' (Matt. 15:32), and he proceeded to feed miraculously 4,000 people with seven loaves 'and a few little fishes,' demonstrating his concern for their physical as well as their spiritual needs.

"Note the incomparable sensitivity of this man, as well as his great desire to relieve suffering and sorrow. One of the tenderest expressions of the Savior's compassion is recorded in Luke 13:34: 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how oft would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!'

"His great compassion for us can be a source of comfort when we are tempted and wonder if we are worthy of his great love and trust. I am reassured by his words to some early Church members.

'Behold, and hearken, O ye elders of my church, ... [I know] the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted.

'For verily I say unto you, I will have compassion upon you.

'There are those among you who have sinned; but verily I say, I will be merciful unto you.' (D&C 62:1; D&C 64:2-4.)" (David A. Whetten, "Sir, We Would See Jesus," Ensign, Oct. 1978, 5)

Matt 15:33 Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?

"President Gordon B. Hinckley has taught: 'Gratitude is of the very essence of worship. ... When you walk with gratitude, you do not walk with arrogance and conceit and egotism, you walk with a spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives' (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 250).

"Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God's love.

"For three days, more than 4,000 people had stayed in the wilderness with the Savior without eating, and Jesus did not want to send them away hungry. But even His disciples questioned, 'Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?' (Matt. 15:33) Like many of us, the disciples saw only what was lacking. Nevertheless, Jesus gave thanks for what they did have (see Matt. 15:36), and a miracle followed: 'They did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full' (Matt. 15:37).

"We all face times when our focus is on what we lack. Maybe our time, means, patience, or even feelings of love do not measure up to our expectations. At such times, we would find it helpful to adopt President Brigham Young's attitude and view our difficulties with a grateful heart: 'There is not a single condition of life [or] one hour's experience but what is beneficial to all those who make it their study, and aim to improve upon the experience they gain' (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young [1997], 179)." ("With a Grateful Heart," Ensign, Aug. 1999, 53)