37. Pharisees Querulous
CERTAIN of the scribes saw some of Jesus’ disciples eat bread with unwashen hands. They found fault: for the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.
The Pharisees and scribes asked Jesus, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? Why do thy disciples transgress?
But Jesus answered,
Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your tradition. For God commanded, saying (Moses said), Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
But ye say, If a man shall say (Whosoever shall say) to his father or his mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honor not his father or his mother: he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do aught for his father or his mother; making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered; and many such like things do ye. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
Well hath Elias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people draweth night unto me with their mouth, this people honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Ye hypocrites! For, laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other like things ye do.
¶And he called the multitude, and said unto them,
Hearken unto me every one of you. Hear, and understand. Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man. There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
His disciples, when he was entered into the house from the people, asked Jesus concerning the parable. Jesus said,
Are ye also yet so without understanding? Do not ye yet perceive that whatsoever thing from without entereth into a man, entereth in at the mouth, goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught, purging all meats? It entereth not into his heart; it cannot defile him.
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man: for from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, false witness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemies, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and these are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
Then his disciples said unto Jesus, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered,
Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
Scripture: Mark 7:1-13
Meditation 1 of 2:
What makes a person unclean or unfit to offer God acceptable worship? The Jews went to great pains to ensure that their worship would conform to the instructions which God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. God’s call to his people was a call to holiness: “be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44; 19:2). In their zeal for holiness many elders developed elaborate traditions which became a burden for the people to carry out in their everyday lives. The Scribes and Pharisees were upset with Jesus because he allowed his disciples to break with their ritual traditions by eating with unclean hands. They sent a delegation all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee to bring their accusation in a face-to-face confrontation with Jesus. Jesus dealt with their accusation by going to the heart of the matter — by looking at God’s intention and purpose for the commandments. Jesus gave an example of how their use of ritual tradition excused them from fulfilling the commandment to honor one’s father and mother. If someone wanted to avoid the duty of financially providing for their parents in old age or sickness they could say that their money or goods were an offering “given over to God” and thus exempt from any claim of charity or duty to help others. They broke God’s law to fulfill a law of their own making. Jesus explained that they void God’s command because they allowed their hearts and minds to be clouded by their own notions of religion.
Jesus accused them specifically of two things. First of hypocrisy. Like actors, who put on a show, they appear to obey God’s word in their external practices while they inwardly harbor evil desires and intentions. Secondly, he accused them of abandoning God’s word by substituting their own arguments and ingenious interpretations for what God requires. They listened to clever arguments rather than to God’s word. Jesus refers them to the prophecy of Isaiah (29:31) where the prophet accuses the people of his day for honoring God with their lips while their hearts went astray because of disobedience to God’s laws.
God in his mercy freely offers us pardon, healing, and grace for overcoming sin and evil in our lives. But to receive God’s mercy and help, we must admit our faults and ask for God’s pardon. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). Only God can change our hearts and make them clean and whole through the power of the Holy Spirit. Like a physician who probes the wound before treating it, God through his Word and Spirit first brings our sinful intentions and deeds into the light of our conscience that we may recognize them for what they are and call upon his mercy and grace for pardon and healing. Ask the Lord to cleanse you with the purifying fire of his Holy Spirit.
“Lord, let me dwell in your presence and fill me with the knowledge of your truth and goodness. Instruct my heart that I may walk in your way of love and holiness.”
Scripture: Mark 7:14-23
Meditation 2 of 2:
Where does evil spring from and what’s the solution for eliminating it from our lives? Jesus deals with this issue in response to the religious leaders’ concern with ritual defilement — making oneself unfit to offer sacrifice and worship to God. The religious leaders were concerned with avoiding ritual defilement, some no doubt out of fear of God, and others out of fear of pleasing other people. Jesus points his listeners to the source of true defilement — evil desires which come from inside a person’s innermost being. Sin does not happen. It first springs from the innermost recesses of our thoughts and intentions, from the secret desires which only the individual soul can conceive. God in his mercy sent his only Son Jesus to save us from our sins. But to receive his mercy, we must admit our faults. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). Only God can change our hearts and make them clean and whole through the power of the Holy Spirit. Like a physician who probes the wound before treating it, God through his Word and Spirit first brings it to light that we may recognize it for what it is and call upon his mercy and grace for pardon and healing. The Spirit of truth is the Consoler. The Spirit gives us the gift of the truth of conscience and the gift of the certainty of redemption in Jesus Christ.
When Cain was jealous of his brother, Abel, God warned him to guard his heart: “Sin is couching at the door; it’s desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7). Do you allow any sinful desires to couch at your door? We do not need to entertain or succumb to sinful desires or thoughts, but instead, through the grace of God, we can choose to put them to death rather than allow them mastery over us. The Lord is every ready to change and purify our hearts through his Holy Spirit who dwells within us. His power and grace enables us to choose what is good and to reject what is evil. Do you believe in the power of God’s love to change and transform your heart?
“Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit and make my heart like yours. Strengthen my heart and my will that I may I choose to love what is good and to hate what is evil.”