Jesus reserved His deepest expressions of anger for those who misconstrued the truth and turned their religious fervor into legalism. Imposing their strict practices on others, the Pharisees had a track record for a performance-based religion in which they attempted to earn God's favor.
In the process, they alienated anyone who failed to meet their standard. Well, today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll exposes the blind spots of these first-century zealots, and we'll take our time to let the story unfold as recorded in Matthew chapters 14 and 15. Chuck titled his message Spiritual Blind Spots. Let me read for you from the New Living Translation, Matthew 14, 34 down through 15, 20. After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret, when the people recognized Jesus, the news of His arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed. They begged Him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of His robe, and all who touched Him were healed.
Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked Him, why do your disciples disobey our age-old traditions, for they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand-washing before they eat? Jesus replied, and why do you by your traditions violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, honor your father and mother, and anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.
But you say, it is all right for people to say to their parents, sorry, I can't help you for I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you. In this way, you say, they don't need to honor their parents, and so you cancel the Word of God for the sake of your own traditions. You hypocrites, Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, these people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God. Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear, listen, He said, and try to understand, it's not what goes into your mouth that defiles you, you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth. Then the disciples came to him and asked, do you realize you offended the Pharisees about what you just said? Jesus replied, every plant not planted by my heavenly father will be uprooted, so ignore them.
They're blind guides, leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch. Then Peter said to Jesus, explain to us the parable that says people aren't defiled by what they eat. Don't you understand yet, Jesus asked, anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer, but the words you speak come from the heart. That's what defiles you, for from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you, eating with unwashed hands, will never defile. This is Insight for Living.
To study the book of Matthew with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to insightworld.org slash studies. And now the message from Chuck called Spiritual Blind Spots. One of life's greatest blessings is eyesight, physical eyesight.
For the next few moments, I want you to imagine the change it would make if you were by this night plunged into absolute darkness for the rest of your days. I've been struggling rather recently with a number of minor vision problems and the result has been more than often visits to my ophthalmologist. It wasn't long ago I sat in his waiting room, which was almost full of people, and while sitting there I had a seat near the counter where people signed in. I looked up and coming through the door was a very attractive couple. I had to be in their late 30s early 40s and they were laughing as they came in through the door, which is an unusual sound coming into a doctor's office.
And they were so comfortable with each other and they walked up to the counter together and sort of arm in arm and the lady at the counter said you'll need to sign in and she looked at the man knowing that he was the one who was the patient but the wife took the pen and signed him in and then she said now here are a couple of three sheets of paper I need some information from you and she hands them to the man but the wife takes them along with the pen and helps him to the seat, the chair where they would sit. It was through a brief conversation they had with the lady behind the counter and while watching them it became clear that the man was blind. I would have never guessed as they walked in that he was physically without sight.
Their relationship seemed very healthy and happy and and they certainly weren't feeling as sorry for themselves as I was for myself with my simple little problems and doesn't everything seem simple when you see someone like that struggling with what you would hope would never be true in your own life. And so while sitting there I spent a few moments with my eyes closed as I pictured my world like that. Never being able to drive, never enjoying a sunset, never seeing the colors, never noticing faces at a distance or even up close, only knowing the voices of my family members and friends, not being able to look at the front of our church which is always such a visual feast especially in the seasons of the year as the stately pipes of the organ stand tall, never see that. Oh I would hear it certainly and I would hear the voices of those I knew and loved but this man whom I had never met unless things change will spend his life seeing none of the things I've named and a thousand other things. I pause because I want you to imagine another kind of blindness but just as vivid and that's spiritual blindness. You see a person who is spiritually blind may have excellent eyesight, physical eyesight, may in fact be extremely intelligent, well-educated, responsible, caring, loving, engaged in life, enjoying the arts, relating well with others, but in complete darkness, spiritual blindness, complete darkness spiritually. And to make matters worse, he or she never has seen because all who are spiritually blind are born like that. All are congenitally spiritually blind. They've never seen. What is that all about? According to 2 Corinthians chapter 4, Paul touches at least briefly on what that means to be without spiritual sight.
Look for yourself. He begins by addressing a healthy kind of ministry before he touches on spiritual blindness. Therefore since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. By the way, this is one of those guidelines that help me and help us in this church make sure we are doing it right.
We are not guilty of shameful deeds or underhanded methods. That we don't try to trick anyone or distort the Word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this. And now he changes from that realm of truth and light and the beauty of such as he moves toward this veil of blindness. Verse 3. If the good news we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing.
Don't miss that. The spiritually blind, though they do not know it, are perishing. In fact, Satan, we read in verse 4, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe. They're unable to see the glorious light of the good news. They don't understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. Who is spiritually blind? Look again at the verses.
Let the verses answer the question. Those who are perishing, those whose minds have been blinded, not to us, that's physical. Those whose minds have been blinded by the enemy himself, Satan. Therefore, they are those who don't believe, according to this same verse. They're perishing. The mind is darkened. They don't believe in the gospel, the Lord Jesus Christ. Now what does that mean? That they're blind, that it's veiled? Again, same verse. Look. Look at it for yourself. They are unable to see the glorious light of the good news.
What's that? That's the gospel. Christ died from our sins, according to the scriptures, and was buried and rose again from the dead, and has been seen. They don't get it. It doesn't mean anything to them. The light of that is a darkness in their minds. Furthermore, they don't understand the message of Christ. Rendered here, the message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.
I pause because I want you to grasp something that is easily overlooked. It explains why your friend, whom you've talked to about Christ, is not interested, cannot imagine why you would be doing what you're doing right now, sitting and listening to some person with a Bible open, talking about print on a page of a Bible. There's no excitement about spiritual things. There isn't a conviction from those truths that are presented. When the person of Christ is mentioned, a hundred questions fly through that individual's mind, not one of which is, I wonder if he would explain to you, if he would explain to you, if he would explain to you, not one of which is, I wonder if he would accept me as a follower, but questions doubting him or his power. So the whole life-changing truth of the gospel and of the person of Christ is blank. That's why I often say you're not able to reason in much depth with the gospel and with the person of Christ to an individual who is without the Savior until, don't miss this, the Holy Spirit is at work and begins to massage to life that which has been darkened and veiled all that person's life. And through a series of events different for every person, ultimately the light dawns and the person believes and suddenly he or she wonders, how could I have spent so many years doubting the very things that now thrill me to the very core of my being?
They're not physically blind, they are spiritually without sight. Now we're going to meet some like that as we turn to Matthew, especially when we get into chapter 14, but I want to sort of set the context by reminding you of where we've been. Jesus has fed thousands of people with only five flat brittle loaves of flat bread and a couple of sardines, real small fish.
He multiplied them and multiplied them and people had all they wanted to eat, remember, and there were 12 baskets of leftovers that were available after the meal, he has done that. He gets the disciples on the boat and he goes into the mountain to pray, they're out in the sea and a storm breaks on the sea and they're afraid and he walks on the water. We went over all of this last time and then Peter briefly walks on the water till he begins to sink and Jesus grabs him, they get into the boat, suddenly the storm stops. I thought about that when I looked back on a hurricane as it moved up the coastline and I thought had Jesus been alive today and had he been so inclined he could have walked into the eye of the hurricane and said stop. Suddenly the howling winds would have stopped, the waves would have quit their roaring, the rain would have stopped, the flooding would have receded and all of life along the east coast would have been as still and quiet as this room at that moment.
That has just happened. On the heels of that, read on verse 34 of Matthew 14, they crossed the lake, landed at Gennesaret. When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread throughout the whole area.
Watch closely. Soon the people were bringing all their sick to be healed. There was no question as to whether he could heal or not. He's already proven that. He's healed one after another, one after another, and so they bring all of their people who are sick and they begged him at least if they couldn't get to him to have those who they brought with them touch the at least the fringe of his robe and all who touched him were healed. A-L-L. Don't miss that.
We're building to a climax here. One miracle after another miracle, some of the miracles the people ate, other miracles the people felt, all the miracles the people saw, all of this transpired, all of this is following Jesus and the crowds are enlarging, the numbers are increasing, word reaches Jerusalem where the official teachers reside, and they make their way all the way to Galilee, to Gennesaret, and there and there they want to see Jesus. Now you hardly need to be told that if someone were able to do that these days word would travel. There wouldn't be many people in this nation who would not have heard about an individual that powerful, who stopped the winds of a hurricane, who stopped the flooding, who stopped the rain, who fed the hungry, who healed the sick. He's right there. You can see him. So they came to look at him.
That's just all about. He wasn't one of them. He wasn't a Pharisee. He wasn't a scribe.
So naturally he's called into question because he's been breaking a lot of their man-made rules and they're sick of it. So we read in verse one that they arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. Nothing wrong with their physical sight. Remember, you may be spiritually blind but you have good eyesight. It's the mind that's blocked, that's darkened. Now I want to point out three major blind spots among the spiritually blind.
The first is this and I get it from verse two. They asked him, why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.
This is after all of the miracles I've been describing. That's their question. That's their question. How come your disciples don't wash like we've taught them to since they were little boys?
How come they're breaking our rules? So the first blind spot among the spiritually blind is they ask the wrong questions. That's the wrong question. I would have thought people who were in Jerusalem and heard about this one would come and say, who are you anyway? Where do you get this incredible power to steal the storm and stop the winds and feed the hungry with just a few morsels of food?
How do you do that? And what do we need to do in order to be one of your followers? That would be a question. It would make sense, wouldn't it?
I mean how can we get in line for this? We'd love to be one of yours like these 12 that are following you but that's not what they ask. They want to know how they want to know how come your disciples aren't washing their hands like they should. You know what I thought about? I thought about the firemen who stumbled out of the Twin Towers just before they collapsed and now as they're collapsing, these firemen are in the street, debris all over them, dust all over them. They're exhausted. Some of them are bloody from helping people and they're making their way. These few that got out and a news reporter stops and says to one of them, did you, you and your men at the station last night, did you play poker?
That's the wrong question. Or how about when you guys had breakfast this morning, all of you in the fire station, did you pray before you ate your bowl of cereal? Did you pray?
I had a man stop me after the first morning service. He's a medical doctor and they were holding a medical evangelistic gatherings in the country of Peru not long ago and there was a remarkable response as they were doing their medical assistance and also sharing the good news. He said we could have called it a crusade. Just many, many came to Christ. So he said one of the locals wanted to know about us so he walked up to me with his paper and he'd been taking pictures obviously as a reporter.
He said to him, he's an American, he said who are you voting for this year? Wrong question. It works like this when you're witnessing to someone else and you're very carefully explaining how Christ died for our sins and that he was raised from the dead miraculously and that death of Christ completely covered his blood, covered our sins completely past, present and future. Nothing can wash away our sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus. We make it real clear and the person says to us when we finished, you think Jesus married Mary Magdalene? You think he married her? Or are you pro-choice? Are you pro-life?
Or you think we evolved from apes? What do you think about that? Wrong question. Has nothing to do with the subject at hand. This question, like if your disciples don't wash like they should and believe me, these Pharisees and scribes had a way they're supposed to wash. You wash this way, that way, this many times and this way the water comes down and the elbows drips off this way, that way, this way, every meal you're supposed to wash like that. I mean you lose your appetite by the time you finish washing up like that and these disciples hadn't done that. Furthermore, Jesus had broken a lot of other rules. These are man-made rules and the truth is, men, your man-made rules are so powerful in your eyes that they cancel out the written Word of God. It's refreshing to see how Jesus broke with customary protocol in order to make His point.
No man-made rule, no regimen, no ritual would bring special favor with God. Now please keep your finger in this passage because we'll pick up our study right here in Matthew chapters 14 and 15 tomorrow on Insight for Living. Chuck Swindoll titled his message, Spiritual Blindspots. And if you'd like to learn more about this ministry, please visit us online at insightworld.org. Well just before our time is gone for today, let me point you to one of the most helpful resources offered by Insight for Living. Nothing will expose your spiritual blind spots quicker and more thoroughly than spending time in God's Word. There's no substitute for sitting down on a quiet spot and reading your Bible while listening for God's Spirit to speak to you. Well you likely own a favorite Bible for this purpose, but you may not have one that includes insightful commentary from Chuck Swindoll. The Swindoll Study Bible represents decades of personal study by Chuck, preparing for sermons and writing books.
And it's all contained in this helpful study tool that belongs in your personal library. To discover the different options available to you and to purchase a copy of the Swindoll Study Bible, go to insight.org slash offer. You can also call us if you're listening in the United States, dial 1-800-772-8888. And then let me take a moment to thank all those who gave generously last month. We're deeply touched by the outpouring of support, and we're profoundly grateful to those who went out of their way to respond. In the event you'd like to partner with us this month, we'd welcome your support. If you're listening in the U.S., please call us at 1-800-772-8888.
That's 1-800-772-8888. Or give online at insight.org. Join us again Friday when Chuck Swindoll continues his message about spiritual blind spots, right here on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Spiritual Blind Spots, was copyrighted in 2016 and 2021, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2021 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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