The Law - Ceremony

March 8, 2020 Speaker: Paul Mulner Series: Matthew

Topic: Matthew Passage: Matthew 15:1–15:9, Mark 7:14–7:19

Jesus and Keeping Things Clean

Again we’re in the context of a dispute with the Pharisees. These are from Jerusalem, probably sent by the church officials to get dirt on Jesus and his disciples.

The Pharisee’s Accusation (Matthew 15:1-2)

  • Jesus himself is not obeying purification laws (a type of ceremonial law) by allowing his disciples to eat without regard for them.
  • Again, what started with Biblical ceremonial commands had expanded into more.
    • Why did these purification laws exist? What is their purpose in the OT?
    • God used them to show (visibly, constantly) invisible moral lessons that are harder to understand.
    • Purity vs. impurity – how little it takes to move from one to the other, how hard (impossible) it is for an impure thing to make itself clean, what it means to be set apart (by God, for God)
      • These rituals were never about the things. They were about the moral lessons.
      • Therefore, the punishments had to be extreme (merciless).
    • In 1st C Judaism, washings were very important – ritual purity was a big deal.
      • But what had the Pharisees done? (Assume good intent – “We can’t allow these to be broken!)
        • Add more requirements.
        • Kept the “more requirements” while losing sight of the moral lessons.
        • Continued pattern of abuse and misunderstand of OT Law.

 Jesus’ Response

  • Part 1 – He goes on the offensive (Matthew 15:3-9)
    • He challenges the way they deal with the law. They were far too self-confident re: law keeping.
      • “You have the oral tradition, but you break the written law.”
      • Jesus refers to the practice called “Corban,” whereby someone could set aside their material possessions and devote them to God. This sounds good in theory, but the Pharisees were using this as a shelter for their assets.
        • Their parents would come to ask for support the Pharisees wouldn’t help them because they had devoted it to God.
        • This breaks the 5th commandment – they are not honoring their parents.
        • Their tradition broke the law – the height of hypocrisy.
      • Part 2 – He returns to the moral principle, even abrogating the ceremonial law (Matthew 15:10-20)
        • Abrogate = “repeal or do away with”
        • Food purity laws were big deals in the OT and by the early church community because of how significantly they marked the difference between Jews and Gentiles (set apart).
        • It makes sense then that, having served their purpose , that Jesus would bring them to fulfillment by ending these specific requirements.
          • Mark 7:14-19 - Mark explicitly says that Jesus abrogated food laws
          • Why do this?
            • Analogy: Why was the temple no longer necessary?
            • Ritual purity (ceremonial) laws existed to highlight hard to see distinctions
            • Jesus is a much better representation of these distinctions (purity, holiness, and the need to be set apart)
            • When the greater thing comes the lesser symbol passes away.
          • What are some more example?
            • Sabbath day – Creation vs. Resurrection
            • Passover meal – Lord’s Supper
            • Circumcision – Baptism


  • Jesus kept all the purposes of the law and, in most cases, the law itself.
  • When he did not “keep” a law, it was in service of his abrogating a law – another kind of fulfillment.
  • Jesus is very concerned with keeping and teaching what the law really is – why?