Summary: In Mark 7 Jesus confronts the Pharisees and Scribes who were hiding behind Man-made rules. What do you hide behind? Thankfully, God doesn’t hide from you.
Anne and I were blessed to go on vacation a couple of weeks ago. We looked forward to it, but we were a little nervous about how Killian would do on the long flights. For a 7 month old baby, I think he did great. The last leg of the journey was a little much for him though and he started to get fussy near the end of the flight. I hear someone near us say, “He’s saying what we’re all thinking!” I laughed because he was right; Killian was really the only honest guy on the plane at that moment. We were all ready for it to be over, but only he was letting everyone know what was going on inside.
That got me thinking about everyone else on that plane, myself included. Everyone was doing a pretty good job of keeping up appearances. Looking, “normal” if you will. Most people looked like everything was going OK for them, and maybe it was. But on a plane full of people, you know every one of us was dealing with sin in our lives, that there were a whole lot of secrets that people were keeping, that on that plane there were lots of fears, and regrets, and failures, and that most people were doing an incredible job of hiding it all.
If there is one thing you can say about people, it’s that we are talented when it comes to putting on a happy face, smiling and responding to the question, “how are you doing?” with a resounding “Great!” or at least an, “OK” even if we just got done slamming our finger in a car door. We can fake it. We can look great as our lives are falling apart, we can take cover like someone is shooting at us, we find all kinds of things to hide behind so that people out there, don’t know what’s going on in here.
How often do you read about a great comedian who OD’s on drugs because life really wasn’t a barrel of laughs for them, but filled with pain and insecurity? A friend of mine, who had the kind of marriage that people spoke of wanting to emulate (he and his wife were the life of the party, they just lit up the room together), just emailed me to tell me that they had been unhappy for years and are now getting a divorce. They hid well behind happy faces, instead of being honest and trying to get help. We are SO GOOD at hiding. Makeup and hair can be a mask for feeling ugly inside. People accomplish so much, but can be driven by a feeling of worthlessness. God calls us to faith, but some people hide behind excuses of being too busy, or focused on other things to answer that call. People have new cars and great homes, but are hiding the debt it took to get them there. You can think of other examples as I speak, I’m sure.
But this is really nothing new. We find this exact thing going on in our Gospel Lesson. We read about this delegation of Big Shot Jewish leaders (Pharisees and Scribes) coming all the way from the big city of Jerusalem to challenge Jesus and his teachings. They want to trap him so bad, and they are conceited enough to think that they can do it. And upon arrival, they thing they have it made, that Jesus has just pitched them a fastball at bat height right down the middle of the plate, and they are going to hit it out of the park. They see something that makes them thing they can discredit Jesus and destroy his credibility. It seemed too easy!
What is it that they saw? The disciples were eating without first washing their hands! “Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed.” (Now before we go on, I have a message for all the kids here today. If your mom and dad tell you to wash your hands before you eat, you listen to them, don’t say, “The Bible and Pastor Matt said I don’t have to wash my hands!” Go look at verse 10: “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’”
Why do I say this? Because the Pharisees and the Scribes washed their hands for very different reasons that we do today. It wasn’t about sanitation from germs. It was a ritual designed to sanitize them from people. “(For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches. )”