“Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person”. (Matthew 15:10-11)
Translation: All foods are clean. I, Jesus, am declaring by my own authority that the ceremonial laws of Leviticus 11:1-47 no longer apply.
We eat our pork chops and read through this very quickly without thinking about the offensive and sweeping claims that Jesus is making here. He is overturning over a millennium worth of history and tradition. That would be like going into a deeply traditional Southern Baptist church and declaring fellowship dinners and “Just as I Am” as no longer relevant.
It’s hard enough to change the carpet in many churches—much less tip over some of these sacred cows. But Jesus is doing more here than just tipping over the sacred cow—he’s carving it up and serving it to his disciples for supper.
It is not surprising then to read verse 12:
“Then the disciples came and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying’?
Keep in mind here the influence that the Pharisees had with the people. And also note that they probably voiced their displeasure to far more than just Jesus’ disciples. Labels like blasphemer, Sabbath-breaker, Law-breaker, etc. were being stuck on Jesus as the people tried to turn the popular opinion against Jesus.
Should Straw-men Defend Themselves?
What then should Jesus do? Should he try to save face? Should he clarify their misrepresentations and make certain that the populace gets Him right?
Have you ever been in this spot, when people are wrongly labeling you, or wrongly labeling a doctrine that you adhere to? How do you respond? Have you ever been the victim of a good straw-man beating and subsequent torching?
Typically, my first instinct is to defend myself or my position. If I am going to be attacked or labeled I at least want my position to be rightly attacked or rightly labeled. If I’m going to burn at a stake I want it to be me that is burning and not me as a straw-man. Certainly, Jesus would not suffer to be mislabeled, right?
He answered, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit. (emphasis mine)
If I am understanding Jesus correctly what he is saying is that the only ones that will follow the Pharisees misrepresentations are those that are blind. True disciples will see right through it and follow Jesus. Those that have been planted by the Father will not be rooted up. But all those that the Father has not planted will indeed be rooted up.
Therefore, just leave them alone. Do not answer them. Do not get distracted from the mission trying to make sure they rightly understand your position. It doesn’t matter if they are attacking a straw-man or the authentic Jesus—they are blind and they’ll never really “see” the authentic Jesus anyways. So, leave them alone.
Certainly this does not mean to be silent when truth should be spoken. We know from other Scripture that we are supposed to teach people in error with gentleness and respect. There is a time to speak and defend. But there is also a time to leave Pharisees alone.