Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God" — then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"In my opinion, the best part of sermon preparation is wrestling with what the author is saying. I'm referring to the process of trying to figure out what the author, in this case Matthew, meant when he wrote this.
I found the above text to be extremely difficult today. I wrestled with it for several hours. I had to take a few breaks in between. I feel worn out mentally, but I think (humbly, I hope) that I have finally figured it out.
I'm not suggesting that biblical interpretation is some sort of game or that the writers were trying to hide the meaning from us. Rather, God has given us a beautiful book that He expects us to think about and ponder.
Preaching the sermon is enjoyable, but wrestling with the text is even better.
This process is so enjoyable that I wish everyone in our church family would do it, too. In fact, I would be thrilled if, before we gathered together, everyone in our church read through the text, pondered it, and tried to figure out the author's meaning. I would also like to hear from other people what they think the author's main idea is.
I, as pastor, by no means speak ex cathedra. I make mistakes; I'll freely admit it. I even make mistakes in the pulpit. Therefore, I'd like to hear what others think about the preaching passage.
We would all gain by wrestling with biblical passages. If you don't know the original languages, don't fret it. Read several English translations.
It would serve the church tremendously if we all studied the text and then all shared with one another what we think it means. What a great blessing that would be to us as individuals and as church families.