Wednesday, April 19: Holding on to human traditions
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes Jesus' role as a servant. Join with us as we venture through one section of this vital gospel that recounts many of Jesus' actions during his ministry years.
Read Mark 7:1-8
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?"
He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
"'These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.'
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions."
Maybe your mother or someone else always told you to wash your hands before you eat, and they likely had a practical, health-related purpose in mind. The Pharisees here, though, were wrapped up in religious activities, in following the rules—even after they lost connection to the purposes. How does Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees inform our own lives today?
Jesus has no interest in us doing the right thing just because we've been told it's the right thing. Our lives, our moment-to-moment behavior, our "rightness" should instead be motivated by love for others, which itself stems from the provocation of God's love and grace toward us, followed by our response to love and emulate him, treating others as he treated us.