Chapter 24

Jesus of Galilee

SYROPHOENICIA

 

The legalist Pharisees were now watching every opportunity to trap Jesus in some misdemeanor, to give them grounds to have him stopped. The Jews correlated the stain of physical dirt with the stain of moral sin, and the result of this was a complicated set of laws as to the purification of a person, his utensils, clothing and habitation. Twelve treatises of several chapters each were devoted to this one subject in the Talmud.

 

Such rules were not merely hygienic in purpose, but were intended as holy precepts, part of religious ritual. It was said, "He who eats bread without washing his hands is as one who frequents a harlot . . ." and "He who neglects to wash his hands shall be uprooted from the world."

 

So when the Pharisees gathered together unto him, with certain of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled, that is, unwashed. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, observing the tradition of the elders.

 

When they come from the market place, they must purify themselves; and there are many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups and pots and vessels of bronze. And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with hands defiled?"

 

And he said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.' For you leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men."

 

"And why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your (human) tradition? For God commanded Moses, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die.' If a man tells his father or his mother, 'What you would have gained from me is Corban,' (that is, given to God) - then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God for the sake of your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do."

 

The term "corban" refers to a pledge made to the Temple. If one has promised something as a religious offering, though he may continue to use this until ready to turn it over, it can never be given to anyone else, since this is a sacred promise. It was possible in this crafty way to avoid certain lawful obligations towards others by promising all he had to the Temple, while continuing to have use of it during his own lifetime.

 

And he called the people to him and said to them, "Hear and understand; not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man."

 

Then when he entered the house and left the people, the disciples came and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?"

 

He answered, "Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."

 

Peter said to him, "Explain the parable to us."

 

And he said, "Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on?" Thus he declared all foods henceforth to be clean, or acceptable, and in so doing he made obsolete for his disciples many volumes of traditional rules.

 

He did not encourage uncleanliness, but discouraged making this a matter of fetish.

 

For in this saying he had directly reversed all the previous teaching that placed so much emphasis on ritual purity in eating. And he said to them, "But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, theft, adultery, fornication, false witness, slander. All these evil things from within are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."

 

The time was speeding by, and Jesus needed a little quiet space both to be with his disciples and to refresh his own fount of energy, having been drawn upon by the throngs day and night. So from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon in Phoenicia, on the shores of the Mediterranean. This was pagan country, which should permit some peace and solitude by the sea, where he was less known.

 

He entered a house there and would not have any one know it; yet he could not be hid. For immediately there came a woman who had heard of him whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit; and she fell down at his feet, begging him to cast the demon out of her daughter. Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, not of Jewish faith.

 

Jesus said to her, "Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." (Unbelievers were sometimes referred to as "dog of an infidel" in Eastern terminology.)

 

But she answered him, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."

 

And he said to her, "For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter." And she went home and found the child lying in bed, and the demon gone.

 

Jesus had said before that he was sent only to the Jews at that time, later to spread unto the whole world. He was not willing to break this pattern. But he appreciated both her faith and the quickness of mind that enabled her to answer him with wisdom.

 

John said to him, "Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he does not follow with us."

 

But Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose his reward."

 

On one occasion when the Jews were outraged that he healed a man on the Sabbath, Jesus told them, "My Father is still working, and I work." And they were the angrier that he made himself equal with God and began to plan ways to get rid of him.

 

Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

 

"The Father loves the Son and shows him all that He Himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show him, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

 

"The Father judges no man, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father Who sent him.

 

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes on Him Who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come unto judgment, but has passed from death to life.

 

"Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear shall live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has given to the Son also to have life in himself and has given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of Man.

 

"Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice. And they shall come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. I can of my own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of Him Who sent me.

 

"If I bear witness of myself, my testimony is not true; but there is another who bears witness to me, and I know that the testimony which he bears to me is true. You have sent messengers to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that I require the testimony of man; but I say these things that you may be saved.

 

"He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. But I have greater testimony than John; for the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing bear witness of me, that the Father has sent me.

 

"And the Father Himself Who has sent me has borne witness of me, although you have never heard His voice, and you have never seen His form. But you do not have His Word abiding in you, for you do not believe him whom He has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these very Scriptures that testify of me; yet you will not come to me that you may have life.

 

"I do not seek glory from men. But I know that you have not the love of God within you, for I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, you receive him.

 

"How can you believe, who receive honor from one another and do not seek the honor that comes only from God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; it is Moses who accuses you, he on whom you set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for it was of me he wrote. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe my words?"

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