Summary: Because we want others to approve of us, we feel a pressure to displace some of God’s commands with peer group rules or trends.

The Danger of Displacement

(Mark 7:1-13)

1. One of my favorite Jewish jokes (I have told before) is the following:

2. A Jewish congregation was arguing over whether one should stand or sit during the Shema Yisrael.

Half of the congregation said one should sit, the other half insisted one should stand. Every time the

Shema was recited they shouted at each other, “Sit down!” and “Stand up!” The fighting became so

bad that the congregation was split in two, each half contending that they knew the tradition in that


Finally, the rabbi decided to visit a one hundred year old member of the synagogue who was living

in a nursing home. He took a delegation from each of the arguing sides with him to see the oldest

member of the synagogue. “Now, tell us,” said the rabbi, “what is our tradition?” “Should we stand

during the Shema?” “No,” said the old man. “That is not our tradition.” “Well, then,” said the rabbi,

“should we sit during the Shema?” “No,” the old man, “that is not our tradition.”

“But we need to know what to do,” said the rabbi, “because our congregation members are

fighting among each other.” “That,” said the oldest member of the congregation, “that is our


3. Although Biblical Judaism is our mother-faith, modern Judaism is based very much on tradition.

So is modern Catholicism, modern Orthodoxy, and, to some degree, mainline Protestantism.

4. Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism, however, were a return to the authority of

the Scriptures, the actual teachings of Jesus, the apostles, and the Old Testament as well.

5. Some of us — though our influence is diminished— still embrace Sola Scriptura, not tradition.

Main Idea: Because we want others to approve of us, we feel a pressure to displace some of God’s commands with peer group rules or trends.

I. Jesus EMBOLDENED His Disciples to Obey God’s Word Yet Ignore TRADITION (1-5)

The Pharisees probably sent two or three investigators to monitor Jesus and his disciples. They are attacking Jesus by attacking his disciples whom he oversees.

Like Karaite Jews who recognize only the binding authority of the Old Testament but feel free to take or leave Jewish traditions, Jesus declares himself to be oriented toward the Word of God, not man-developed traditions.

A. They clearly BROKE with man-made religious tradition

1. Washings and blessings for everything

2. The Mishnah part of the Talmud contains rules for this

3. Modern Orthodox Jewish men do this ritual; a family meal is considered a sacrifice, the table and altar, and the father a priest (David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, p. 92); will wash up to wrist

4. Not necessarily bad if optional

5. But people are worried about others thinking they are spiritual

6. If we follow Jesus’ example, we should not worry if others think we are spiritual or not; if we do, we become their slaves…

B. They disobeyed NO Scripture

C. They were criticized by the RELIGIOUS authorities for doing so


Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

II. Jesus Taught TRADITION is Dangerous: It Can DISPLACE God’s Word (7-13)

A. Displacing God’s word does not feel like DENIAL

1. The greatest danger of religion is that it dsiplaces obedience: “to obey is better than sacrifice.” Our focus, despite the trends and fads in the Christian world, is two-fold — to love God with all we have and to love others.

2. Religious ritual, manmade traditions are not necessarily evil and can even be good; Jesus followed some extra-biblical Jewish traditions, but was selective.

3. In my opinion, 1980’s, broader evangelical world tired of Bible and study…

• sermons self-help,

• music became the focus,

• specialized activities became the hallmark of “good” church;

• solid doctrine not denied, just marginalized.

• People trusted leaders to study, just like the mainline protestant, catholic, and orthodox churches…

4. King Saul, in I Samuel 15, was to destroy all the Amalekites & livestock

B. Displacement creates a DISTRACTION from what matters most

1. Korban in Hebrew used for a sacrifice, from the word meaning “near.” Thus bringing a sacrifice was considered a way to draw near or approach God.

2. Debates between Beit Hillel & Beit Shammai; humanitarian vs. harsh strict compliance to Law. Balance between loving people & loving God.

3. We still struggle; Mission money dedicated to translation, starving people

C. Attention is a limited RESOURCE

Small church lost pastor, a powerful layman eyes on the position. He led movement to double missions giving; could no longer afford pastor; he became pastor.

D. God’s Word must reign supreme, without COMPETITION

E. Return to the WORD, not to what others say the Word implies

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