A heart of Love? [for the audio of this talk email [email protected] to gain access to the relevant Dropbox folder] 

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him” 1 John 3:1


The “who”: This chapter of 37 verses is like a “play” between Jesus, and 4 groups of people (Pharisees, people, disciples, and a Canaanite woman), Israelite and gentile, male and female, Jew and Greek.

The “What”: Jesus teaches them about his heart of love. He examines their hearts and presents himself as their sole solution (sola Christus; sola Gratia; sola Scriptura; sola Fide; sola Deo Gloria). Two causes of hardness (põrõsis – petrify, hard) of heart: legalism (e.g. Pharisees), and ignorance (e.g. gentiles). A heart of “flesh”, not of “stone” (Ezekiel 11), is nine fruit (Galatians 5), and nine beatitudes (Matthew 5).

The “Why”: He believes in them, and shows them the way to his heart. Some change, some do not! He is so kind to make us children of God (1 John 3, John 1): his instruments of peace. He excludes no one who believes in him from his “house”; of the Pharisees; the people; the disciples; the Canaanite woman, and the oppressed, sick, and hungry. Matthew 15 links acts 7:49 (“What kind of house will you build me”) and Isaiah 66:1 (“What is the house that you will build me”) to Isaiah 66:2b “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit  (ruah) and trembles at my word”. The gospel must change one thing first: the heart!

The “Where: this “play” takes place in both Israel and in the land of the gentiles (Tyre, and Sidon). Jesus discusses a private matter; the “heart”, in a public place. God knows, not only the intimate places of the heart, but also what community is. Stephen asked, quoting Isaiah, “what house will you build me?” (Acts 7:49). A true gospel resolves both individuality and community, both life and theology, as Jesus does in Matthew 15…

Five aspects of Jesus’ Heart…

Our response…


Jesus’ heart

A.      Jesus’ firm rebuke heals the legalists and religious:

Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees (Matthew 15:3-9) is neither rejection of rules in favor of free antinomian position, nor rejection of tradition (the view of the Sadducees), but a question of priority (France 1985:245).

Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees were responsible for their disciples’ life as well as their theology.

He gave the Pharisees an opportunity to change their worship: the Scripture says, “in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (9). The way in which he phrases the sentence suggests that all the Pharisees need to do is to change their worship. He shows them that when they put the commandments of men above the Commandments of God a hard heart is the cause. Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13. Motyer explains this verse as follows,

“As the sovereign reviews their worship, all he sees is conformity to human rules. It is not that the Lord belittles the use of words; but words without the heart are meaningless; and worship is not worship… Unless it is based on and responds to what God has revealed” (1999:215).

Blomberg writes,

“At the very least, the reduction of the fear of the Lord “to a set of do’s and don’ts is to move one’s faith from the center to the periphery of life” (Oswalt 1986-1998: 1:532 in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament 2007:54).

Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees is not unfair when he uses God’s commandment toward mothers and fathers (4-7), nor does he trap them forever in their hypocrisy, but he uses the example to emphasize to them, and to the people, the differences and the consequences of placing the commandments of men above the Commandments of God. To honor fathers and mothers is important. That is why the Scripture always links this principle to the promise of long life, such as, in Exodus 20 and in Ephesians 6.

Jesus’s heart for the Pharisees was the same as his heart for the people. To him, Pharisaic hypocrisy is as foolish as Gentile ignorance; hard hearts is the cause of both. Paul explains the problem of hard hearts in Ephesians 4 when he writes,

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (17-18).

Hard hearts always result in wrong life and wrong theology (Ephesians 4:17-25). In his comparison between the two parallel scriptures of Isaiah 29:13, and Matthew 15:8-9, Blomberg quotes Grogan, who emphasizes (added emphases mine),

“In both cases wrong teaching was based on a mishandling of God’s true revelation, the sacrificial regulations and the Mosaic law as a whole, respectively. In each case tradition allied too bad theology resulted in a mishandling of Scripture, and in each case the result was a self-justifying complacency in the presence of the most holy God” (Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament 2007, quoting Grogan 1986:188).

B.      Jesus’ patience heals the confused disciples:

The disciples, affected as all people are with the limits of the human condition, needed Jesus’ patience for their anxieties, their fears, their hard hearts, their doubts, and their complacency.

It is much easier to accept outward forms of behavior – “But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone” (20) – at the price of inward condition – “But what comes from the mouth proceeds from the heart and this defiles a person” (18).

As the true teacher he modeled life and theology; instruction and demonstration; truth and grace; theory and practice, and faith and patience (Hebrews 6).

A good heart reflects the nine fruit (Galatians 5), and the nine beatitudes (Matthew 5). Losing “stability” (2 Peter 3:17), is not losing “salvation” (Philippians 1), but what God uses to grow us “in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18)

A good heart brings hope, but we are so anxious about so many things. Jesus said:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single how are do the span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, are they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, we not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “what shall we eat?” Or “what shall we drink?” Or “what shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly father knows what that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:25-34).

He put his seal on us, and gave us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee (2 Corinthians 1)

C.       Jesus’ love and acceptance heals the Canaanite woman and her daughter:

Did he speak to the Canaanite woman any differently than how he spoke to the adulteress, or Zacchaeus, or the woman with the issue of blood, or the lepers, or the centurion?

Jesus’s heart acknowledges the limits of his earthly ministry (“I was sent only…” (20)), but never limits the breadth, depth, length, and height of God’s love. His words to the woman do not fully convey to us his intent, or his facial expression, in the lesson he teaches in this Chapter. Was he playing the part of the legalist, for instance, for the sake of illustrating the difference between Pharisaic legalism, and God’s love? Jesus’ instruction to his disciples in Matthew 10 does not restrict his ministry to the Israelites, and to think so is wrong. Paul notices God’s love for all people in the gentile Ephesians church (Ephesians 3:18). He writes,

“That you may be strengthened to understand the length and breadth the height and the depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you made be filled with all the fullness of God”.

Peter says the same to all the churches,

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any true, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)

The words Jesus speaks to the woman are unable to communicate to us 2000 years later the emotion he was showing to her (26). We cannot see the “twinkle in his eye” (France 1985:250). Her response may also have included a hint of humor when she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters table” (27). His illustration achieved three things,

First, to prove the callousness of a legalistic Jewish heart,

Second, to applaud the faith of this gentile woman,

Third, to show that the love of God is powerful to deliver and to heal all who call on him, and all believe in him (Romans 10).

D.      Jesus’ compassion heals the people:

Jesus went up the mountain and sat down (29). He made himself available; he waited; he positioned himself for their care; his love for them was ever clear; he welcomed them (Romans 15); his heart was lowly and gentle (Matthew 11).

Love brings hope; faith in God is always rewarded not only with food and clothing, our basic necessities, but with the father’s pleasure; his multi-faceted responses to every conceivable human need, and human vision and achievement. When he sees that they are hungry he finds a way to gloriously satisfy them.

Jesus had compassion for them all, which may have included all five of the people groups, involved in Chapter 15. He was unwilling to have a single one faint. His love for them is the fountain that opens for them a miracle. He multiplied seven loaves and a few fish to feed about 10,000 people (estimate of men, women, and children) (33-39). He had his heart on their nature as on their needs. In all things, he is excellent.

If you are a pre-Christian reading this teaching, and have not heard of him (Ephesians 4:21), then remember his firmness with the Pharisee, his compassion with the people, his love for the Canaanite, and his patience with his disciples, and you must conclude, as we do, that he is worthy of your response.

Jesus’ heart satisfies the  legalistic Pharisee; the ignorant people; the confused disciples, and the desperate Canaanite woman. He is the one most blessed, and only sovereign, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen, or can see” (1 Timothy 6). He is the Lord Jesus Christ standing before them then and before us now. If they, and we, each obey – “hear and understand” – his teaching, it is because we can see his heart of love. The Scriptures affirm what Jesus does with his heart of love:

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you were a follower of and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:14-18)

To the people Jesus said, “come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Peter writes the same, “cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)

To the adulteress Jesus said, “woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you? … Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:10-11).

Michael Eaton once said, “The greatest need on earth is God’s love”. God’s love delivers our oppression (demonic and cultural) (link between humility and faith; and between legalism and judgment); heals our diseases (the link between patience and presence; and between God’s mercy and worship), and satisfies our needs (the link between compassion and understanding; and between faith and satisfaction)

What kind of love is this?


15th February 2013