Matthew 14–16: Hypocrites & Hearts

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 6: Saturday

“You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
Matthew 15:7–9 LSB

Jesus confronts the Pharisees with these words in today’s Bible reading of Matthew 14–16. These chapters are in the third section of Matthew which began in chapter 11 and continues through chapter 18. Today’s reading begins with Herod’s reaction of Jesus and a recounting of the death of John the Baptist, and ends with Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ and Jesus telling His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”

In Matthew 14–16 Jesus continues teaching and performing miracles, and there are more confrontations with the Pharisees.

In addition to His miraculous healings, in Matthew 14 and 15, Jesus demonstrates by his miracles that He is Lord of Creation.

“Jesus proved his deity and his role as Messiah by means of the many miracles he performed during his earthly ministry (Matthew 11:4–5)…Jesus Christ’s miracles demonstrate his deity, his super­natural origin, his power as Creator, and his authority as the sovereign Lord of all creation.”1

With the feeding of the five thousand in Matthew 14, and then the four thousand in Matthew 15, from only a small amount of food, Jesus demonstrated He was able to create matter. In Matthew 14, walking on water, lifting Peter from the waves, and the storm stilling when they boarded proved even the elements obeyed Him. It’s no wonder that it was at this point,

And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are truly God’s Son!”
Matthew 14:33 LSB

Jesus’ confrontations with the Pharisees occur at the beginning of Matthew 15 and 16.

Matthew 15 opens with the Pharisees asking an accusatory question for Jesus about his disciples eating without washing their hands. Jesus answers with a question of His own, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” He goes on to recite God’s commands regarding parents that the Pharisees disobeyed. They did not honor their parents and justified their refusal to care for them by saying that whatever help they could have given was given to God. R. E. Nixon explains the custom:

“Matthew omits the technical word ‘Corban’ which occurs in Mark, as he does also the explanation of Jewish customs. Something could be dedicated to the Temple and the owner could still enjoy the proceeds of it, rather than having any obligation towards his parents.”2

The Pharisees were obviously trying to have their cake and eat it, too, without regard for the plight of their parents. By invalidating God’s Word for the sake of their tradition, they placed themselves above God. Their disobedience was bad enough, but they cloaked their sin with spirituality as they used an excuse that sounded righteous to make it appear as if they were pleasing God.

Jesus exposed their lip service and the reality of their hearts. I’m not sure who the Pharisees thought they were deluding. I doubt they deceived everyone, and I know they did not deceive God. Perhaps some deluded themselves, but the bottom line is that none of these men wanted their heart exposed.

Jesus then calls the crowd to Him; He wants them to understand that it’s not what goes into a man’s mouth that defiles him, but what proceeds from his mouth that defiles him. As you can readily believe, the Pharisees take offense at this—that’s when Jesus says the Pharisees are the blind leading the blind.

Christians sin. A question to think about from this passage in Matthew is do we cloak our sin with spirituality? Or do we repent? Do we honor God with only our lips? How important is appearance to us? More important than honoring God? Pretension is deadly, not only to ourselves, but to others, especially for those under our care or leadership, whether they are our children or adults. It engenders resentment and bitterness; feelings easily transferred to God.

At the beginning of Matthew 16, the Pharisees and Sadducees want a sign “from heaven.” After all Jesus has said and done, it is mind-boggling that they say this. It’s no wonder Jesus tells them,

But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? An evil and adulterous generation eagerly seeks for a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away.
Matthew 16:1–4 LSB

In Matthew 12:38–42, the Pharisees had already asked Jesus for a sign, and He had told them they would be given no sign, but the sign of Jonah. He also told them:

“…for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Matthew 12:40 LSB

You would think that after hearing that, they would have at least pondered this, and even asked Him to further explain it. They were obviously unsatisfied because it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. Their unbelief and rejection of the sign contrasts with Peter’s confession in the same chapter.

Following Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:13–20, notice the phrase, From that time Jesus began, in Matthew 16:21. Matthew used the same phrase in Matthew 4:17, From that time Jesus began, when Jesus began His ministry. R. T. France writes,

“As in 4:17, the formula ‘From that time Jesus began . . .’ marks a new phase of ministry. 4:17 indicated the character of the first phase as open preaching and exposure to the Galilean crowds, with an increasing insistence on the question ‘Who is this?’, leading to the climax of 16:13–20. Now both the style and the content of Jesus’ teaching enter a new phase. It is focused on the private instruction of his disciples, and its content is the true nature of his Messianic mission as one of suffering and rejection, in which they are to follow him.”3

France remarks J. D. Kingsbury used these to divide the Gospel of Matthew into three sections.4

1:1 – 4:16 The Person of Jesus Messiah
4:17 – 16:20 The Proclamation of Jesus Messiah
16:20 – 28:20 The Suffering, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Messiah

France does say,

“As far as it goes, this is a valuable observation, which has the advantage of focusing of what does look like a deliberate transition formula. But these three sections should not be regarded as entirely self-contained and/or conferring a complete thematic unity on all material within each section. The last in particular covers a very wide range of material, contain within itself verses like 19:1 [Now it happened that when Jesus had finished these words] and 26:1 [Now it happened that when Jesus had finished all these words] which seem to point as clearly to a new phase in the story as does the formula of 4:17 and 16:17.”5

These repeated phrases that mark transitions and beginnings of a new section are invaluable because they help us organize Matthew’s Gospel in our mind and remember what he is highlighting in each section. When you mesh these three major divisions with Matthew’s alternating of Jesus’ teaching discourses with His actions (mentioned first in this post), we begin to see the sweep of Matthew’s narrative and catch an overview of what he wants us to know, rather than thinking of the Gospel as a jumble of miracles and teaching.

We can remember Matthew first introduces us to who Jesus is with His genealogy, birth, baptism, and wilderness temptations. Matthew then begins telling us about Jesus ministry by writing about Jesus’ proclamation in 4:17, From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew then alternates recording three of Jesus’ teaching discourses with telling us about Jesus actions. The final miracles Matthew recounts in detail are those that show Jesus is Lord over creation. These events crescendo to the confession of Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And so,

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.
Matthew 16:21 LSB

Jesus’ words and deeds exposed hearts. The Pharisees edged around admitting they refused to believe Him by couching it in terms of they needed a sign even after they’d heard Jesus and seen miracles! The disciples were dumbfounded when they realize Jesus is Lord over creation, and Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

What’s your reaction?

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
The Blind in the Ditch: James Tissot. Public Domain.
1John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue, gen. eds., “God the Son,” Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Biblical Truth (Crossway, Wheaton IL: 2017) 284, 386.
2R. E. Nixon, “Matthew,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 836.
3,4,5R. T. France, The Gospel According to Matthew (Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI: 1985) 258, 59, 59.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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