Summary: In this passage, Jesus is dealing with very religious people who allowed their traditions replace the authority of God’s Word. Jesus is not impressed with religious ritual or tradition, rather He is concerned with the condition of our hearts.
The Gospel of Mark #18 – “Clean Hands or Clean Heart?”
1. ILL – A man was watching the news one night when it was reported that a car was going the wrong direction on the freeway. The man knew his wife was on that freeway and became very concerned so he called her on her cell phone. She answered and he said, “Dear, there’s one car going in the wrong direction on the freeway.” She exclaimed, “One car! There’s hundreds of them!”
2. This facetious little story relates a principle that is not altogether uncommon. People, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, believe that they are absolutely correct. No question about it. Those other cars on the freeway are the ones that are wrong. It couldn’t possibly be me. And in the process, we lose our focus & our sense of why we do what we do. It is more critical that we are deemed correct than whether we are right with God & others.
3. In this passage, Jesus is dealing with very religious people who allowed their traditions replace the authority of God’s Word.
4. Mark 7:1-23 (Read)
5. As Jesus went about teaching, He often ran into trouble with the religious leaders over keeping traditions...(i.e. – plucking heads of grain on the Sabbath - Mk 2:23-28).
6. In this passage, Jesus has an encounter with a group of Pharisees who have come from Jerusalem in order to find fault with Him & His ministry. When they arrive & begin to watch Jesus, it does not take them long to find something to complain about.
7. These men see the disciples of Jesus eating food without washing their hands & they are offended. They attack Jesus over this issue, but He turns the tables on them. They think the issue is one of clean hands, but Jesus shows them that the issue is really about clean hearts.
8. Jesus is not impressed with religious ritual or tradition, rather He is concerned with the condition of our hearts.
I. Jesus & the Traditions of Men: the Hands – Vs. 1-13
5x in this passage Jesus made reference to tradition.
*This is certainly significant for our day as Christianity is so splintered over this idea. Let me explain…On the one hand, many in “churches” today think that anything new is evil. On the other hand, many think that everything should be new & that anything the church has ever done is outdated & ineffective.
*Brett Blair, “To those who are argue that tradition alone can kill a church: remember, the second time you do anything it becomes a tradition.”
How did Jesus deal with tradition?
A. He did not reject all tradition.
1. The word tradition comes from a word that means “giving over or handed down.”
It refers to teaching that is handed down either by word or in writing.
2. 2 Thess. 2:15 (NASB) “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.”
3. In one sense, we should be very thankful for what has been handed down to us.
4. I praise the Lord for the people who faithfully wrote & then copied down the Scriptures so that we have them today. That's something that has been handed down to us, unlike anything else, because it's authoritative & came directly from the hand of God. But I'm thankful for the way it has been handed down.
5. Not all tradition is bad – valuable things have been given to us through the years, & we must learn to appreciate those.
6. Even Jesus had a tradition of attending the synagogue.
7. Luke 4:16 “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom…”
B. He did reject traditionalism. **There is a difference!!
1. Jaroslav Pelikan, U.S. News & World Report: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering we are where and when we are, and that it is we who have to decide. Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.”
2. When this passage speaks of unclean hands, it had nothing to do with hygiene & everything to do with a man-made ritual.
3. Explain “washing hands” –the priests, added to the people, more & more rules…
4. Jesus refused to be bound by man-made rules & rituals. He didn’t teach his disciples to observe them either & that is what made the Pharisees so angry.