Summary: The reason we like traditions, whether it’s washing your hands or dressing up for church, is that it is something we can do outwardly and feel good about ourselves.
Part of this message is about traditions. Why do we do the things we do? Sometimes we do them because we’ve always done them the same way and we never questioned the reason. Growing up, I had exactly the same breakfast every morning: two fried eggs, bacon, grits, and toast. And the eggs were fried in the bacon grease. I don’t eat that much anymore, but it’s still my favorite breakfast.
And I still like it eat it the way I did growing up. I break up the bacon pieces and then I mix up the eggs and grits and bacon into a single pile that looks like a soupy mess. Do you know why I do that? Because my daddy fixed his eggs and grits and bacon the same way; he mixed it all up together. Later in life I asked my dad why he mixed up his eggs and bacon and grits. He said he did it because his daddy did it. And I asked, “Why did your daddy do it that way?” And my dad said, “Because he didn’t have any teeth!” So that’s why I still mix up my eggs, bacon, and grits—it’s a family tradition!
In our passage today, we’re going to see where Jesus tangled with some Jewish leaders who cherished tradition more than the Word of God.
Mark 7:1-13. “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 ‘unclean,’ 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 ‘unclean’ 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 but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.’’ And he said to them: ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.’”
The Jews were very meticulous about obeying the multitude of laws in the Old Testament. The kosher laws had to do with the things that were clean and unclean. Some food was kosher, but certain foods weren’t kosher and the Jews believed if they ate them, they would be defiled. I wouldn’t be a good Jew, because they can’t eat catfish, shrimp, or pork. But you may be surprised to learn that grasshoppers, crickets, and locusts are considered kosher.
Jesus’ disciples weren’t eating with dirty hands, so kids; you still need to wash your hands before you eat. They were criticized because they didn’t follow the ceremonial hand washing ritual the Jews practiced.
The Jews had the Old Testament Law, called the Torah. The most important laws were the Ten Commandments. But there were hundreds of other rules. But over the centuries the Jewish rabbis added thousands more rules and regulations. This was called the Oral Law, and it was passed down from generation to generation. It was eventually written down into a book called The Mishnah. Jesus’ didn’t recognized or obey these oral laws and this became a setting for Jesus to give us some important truth about tradition, righteousness, and sin. Let’s learn four important truths:
1. THERE IS DANGER IN REPLACING GOD’S TRUTH WITH MAN’S TRADITIONS
Jesus used turned the Jew’s criticism into an opportunity to warn them that they had elevated the traditions of man above the Word of God. He pointed out a religious and legal “loophole” the Jews had created called Corban. The Ten Commandments taught that we must honor our father and mothers. That means as long as our parents are alive, we are to honor them and to take care of them. But the Jewish mafia created this loophole by which a Jewish man could say, “I’m devoting all my assets to the Temple.” And he made small down payment to the priests. Then he continued to live on his income. And if his elderly parents said, “Son, we need some financial help, he could say, ‘Sorry, mom and dad, all my money is devoted to the Temple.’” And Jesus said this tradition made a mockery of the Word of God.