Unit 4, Day 3: Matthew 15

New Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students, 2015


Introduction

While He was in Galilee, Jesus explained to scribes and Pharisees why His disciples did not follow the tradition of purifying themselves by washing their hands before they ate. He then traveled to the Mediterranean coast, where He healed the daughter of a Gentile woman. Jesus then returned to Galilee, where He healed many and miraculously fed more than 4,000 people.

Matthew 15:1–20

The Pharisees ask why Jesus’s disciples do not wash their hands before they eat

Read the following scenarios, looking for what they have in common.

  • A young woman is encouraged by her friends to wear inappropriate clothing to a school dance. The young woman knows that the clothing does not meet the Lord’s standards of modesty, even though it is generally accepted in her culture to wear clothing like it.

  • A young man belongs to a Latter-day Saint family that loves sporting events. When popular sporting events are shown on television, the family routinely sets aside family prayer, scripture study, family home evening, and Sunday Church meetings in order to watch the events.

  • A young couple is preparing for marriage. They live in a place where it is widely accepted to participate in premarital sexual relations. Some people have told this couple that they are old-fashioned and odd for waiting for marriage to engage in sexual intimacy.

You may have noticed that each scenario presents a conflict between obeying God’s commandments and acting according to traditions or customs. Traditions or customs include the beliefs and practices of a culture, community, family, or group of friends.

  1. journal icon1.

    In your scripture study journal, write one or more traditions or customs that could prevent you from obeying God’s commandments. As you study Matthew 15, look for truths that can help you when you must choose between obeying God’s commandments and participating in traditions and customs.

Read Matthew 15:1–2, looking for the tradition that the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus about. What tradition was Jesus’s disciples not following? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

washing hands

The washing of hands mentioned by the Pharisees and scribes refers to a ceremonial washing for the sake of ritual purity and does not refer to washing for sanitation.

Read Matthew 15:3, looking for Jesus’s response to their question. You may want to mark in your scriptures what the Savior said the scribes and Pharisees were doing by participating in their traditions.

As recorded in Matthew 15:4–6, Jesus identified an example of how the scribes and Pharisees transgressed a commandment of God by participating in their traditions. They avoided fulfilling their obligation to take care of their aging parents by declaring that their money was reserved as a gift to God, or Corban (see Mark 7:10–12; Bible Dictionary, “Corban”). In doing so, they violated the commandment to honor one’s father and mother.

Read Matthew 15:7–9, looking for what the scribes and Pharisees had led people to do by using their traditions as an excuse to not obey God’s commandments.

From these verses we learn the following principle: If we desire to draw near to God, we must place His commandments above any traditions and customs we may have.

Reread the scenarios from the beginning of this lesson. For each scenario, ponder the following two questions:

  • What could the individual or individuals in this scenario do to obey God’s commandments?

  • How would doing this help the individual or individuals draw nearer to God?

  1. journal icon2.

    Consider the traditions and customs you wrote for assignment 1 in this lesson. In your scripture study journal, write about a time when you chose to obey God’s commandments rather than participate in a commonly accepted tradition or custom. Then answer the following questions:

    1. a.

      What did you need to do to place God’s commandments over other traditions or customs so that you could draw near unto Him?

    2. b.

      How did this help you draw nearer to Heavenly Father?

Recall that the scribes and Pharisees believed that eating without performing a ceremonial washing of hands would defile a person, or make that person spiritually unclean. Read Matthew 15:10–11, looking for what the Savior taught truly defiles us. You may want to mark what you find.

The Savior said, “That which cometh out of the mouth … defileth a man” (Matthew 15:11). Then, after telling His disciples not to concern themselves with the Pharisees, who were offended by His words (see Matthew 15:12–16), He explained further about what truly defiles us.

Read Matthew 15:17–20, looking for what the Savior said defiles us.

In the scriptures, the heart often represents our thoughts and desires. What did the Savior say truly defiles us? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Complete the following principle based on the Savior’s teachings in Matthew 15:19–20: If we choose to entertain evil thoughts and desires, then ____________________________________________________________________________________________________.

  1. journal icon3.

    In your scripture study journal, write about one or two ways that we become defiled, or spiritually unclean, if we choose to entertain evil thoughts and desires.

Matthew 15:21–28

The Savior heals the daughter of a Gentile woman

In the following space, list one or more of your righteous desires: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

As you continue to study Matthew 15, look for principles that can help you understand what you need to do to receive your righteous desires.

If it is available in your scriptures, turn to Bible Map no. 11, “The Holy Land in New Testament Times.” Locate the cities of Tyre and Sidon on the map. As Jesus traveled from Galilee to the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon, He met a Canaanite woman. Like many other people in that region, this woman was a Gentile—meaning she was not a Jew. At that time the Savior’s mission was to proclaim the gospel only to the Jews and not yet to the Gentiles (see Matthew 10:5–6).

Read Matthew 15:21–27, looking for answers to the following questions:

  • What righteous desire did the Canaanite woman have?

  • What did the woman do and say that demonstrated her faith in Jesus Christ?

Notice that the Savior’s analogy comparing Gentiles to pet dogs tested this woman’s faith. How did the woman’s response to this analogy further demonstrate her faith in Jesus Christ?

Read Matthew 15:28, looking for what the Savior did for this woman.

Why did He do it? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

From this account we learn that as we exercise faith in Jesus Christ, we can receive blessings according to our righteous desires.

Ponder the following question: In addition to consistently asking Heavenly Father to bless us according to our righteous desires, what else can we do to exercise faith in Jesus Christ?

Read the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

“When we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we must have trust in him. We must trust him enough that we are content to accept his will, knowing that he knows what is best for us. …

“… Faith, no matter how strong it is, cannot produce a result contrary to the will of him whose power it is. The exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is always subject to the order of heaven, to the goodness and will and wisdom and timing of the Lord. That is why we cannot have true faith in the Lord without also having complete trust in the Lord’s will and in the Lord’s timing” (“Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Ensign, May 1994, 99–100).

How can Elder Oaks’s explanation of what it means to exercise faith in Jesus Christ help us when the Lord does not immediately bless us according to our righteous desires?

  1. journal icon4.

    Review the righteous desires you wrote earlier. In your scripture study journal, explain what you can do to exercise faith in Jesus Christ as you seek to obtain those desires. Also write about an experience when you received one of your righteous desires (according to the Lord’s will and timing) as you exercised faith in Jesus Christ, or write about an experience of someone you know. (Remember to avoid writing about experiences that are too sacred or personal in your scripture study journal.)

Matthew 15:29–39

Jesus feeds more than 4,000 followers from seven loaves and a few fishes

As recorded in Matthew 15:29–39, Jesus returned to Galilee. While He was there, many people gathered to Him. The scriptures record that there “were four thousand men, beside women and children” (Matthew 15:38), including people who were suffering from various physical ailments and disabilities. The Savior healed them, and after the people spent three days with Him, He performed another miracle by feeding all of them with only seven loaves of bread and a few small fishes.

  1. journal icon5.

    Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:

    I have studied Matthew 15 and completed this lesson on (date).

    Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: