Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lesson 27: A Little Leaven

Brief 4-to-5 Minute Teaching Lesson

Why? and What is the Purpose? in My Life SERIES

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Lesson 27 of the Discipleship Making process.

I left you last time with this question, “Do your traditions violate God’s word?”

The storm on the lake subsided when Jesus got in the boat with His disciples but a different kind of storm was already brewing when they landed. The multitudes were seeking Jesus so He made Himself available to them. Using the feeding of 5,000 men with five loaves and two fish as His basis, Jesus launches into the next lessons of the discipleship making process.

Read: Matthew 15:1-20, 16:5-12, Mark 7:1-23, 8:13-21

Tradition is important. It is a way to hand down information, beliefs and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction. Every society on earth utilizes tradition. It helps people relate to one another and maintain an ordered way of life. When the scribes and Pharisees criticized Jesus’ disciples for eating before washing their hands they were appealing to a long-standing tradition.

Jesus used the tradition of washing hands before eating as an opportunity to teach about defilement or in other words “things that make people unclean.” Within the topic there are three lessons to be learned. They are so important that Jesus commanded the people to hear and understand what He was saying.

The first lesson is that whatever one eats does not make him unclean. This was hard for the Jewish audience to hear and understand as they practiced the strict dietary laws of the Law of Moses (Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14). Jesus did not abolish the Jewish kosher laws as some are inclined to believe. He merely stated that what people ate did not make them unclean because what went into the mouth was processed in the stomach with the body utilizing what was good and eliminating the waste (Mark 7:18-19, Romans 14:20).

The Apostle Peter was directly confronted with this issue several years later when He saw a vision concerning the Gentiles (Acts 10:9-15). Peter obeyed the vision. He went to the Gentiles and preached the gospel. It wasn’t until the Holy Spirit fell upon them and they began speaking in tongues and exalting God that Peter could fully accept them. And even then he lapsed back into his old beliefs until the Apostle Paul confronted him face to face (Galatians 2:11-21).

In the second lesson Jesus insisted that what is spoken comes from the heart and makes a person unclean (Matthew 15:18-20). Words reveal what is in the heart and the Scriptures give many admonitions concerning what a person should speak. Here are just a few: Proverbs 18:21, James 3:8-9, Proverbs 17:28, Matthew 12:36.

When Peter heard the Gentiles speaking in tongues and exalting God, he realized God had given them a new heart. This was a confirmation of Jesus’ teaching that what is spoken comes from the heart. Therefore, these people were to be considered clean by God.

The last lesson dealt with teaching human tradition as equal to/or greater than God’s commands. Jesus clearly showed the scribes and Pharisees they were valuing the oral law, consisting of the Mishna, Gemara and other works above Scripture (Torah) (Matthew 15:9, Isaiah 29:13). Since they were also teaching others to do the same Jesus commanded His disciples to be careful and be on their guard.

Sometime later Jesus reminded the disciples to beware of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He likened their teaching to leaven (Matthew 16:12). As leaven permeates every part of the substance in which it is placed, so too does teaching (James 3:1-3, 1:24-26). What people are taught affects them for a lifetime.

The point of the lesson is to consider carefully the words you speak.

With that, allow me to leave you with this question to consider, along with a little homework assignment until my next posting:

What is one thing that you can give up to serve another?

. . . and the homework assignment . . .

Prayerfully reflect on the traditions that you hold and teach others. Do they violate God’s word? Ask yourself these questions:
  1. Name a tradition you practice either within your own family or within your church family?
  2. What is the origin of the tradition?
  3. Who authorized it?
  4. Why do you hold to it?
Until next time . . . Godspeed!

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