Text: Mark 7:1-23
Event(s): Jesus is accused for not keeping the traditions of men
Mark 7:3-4 “they do not eat unless they wash their hands a certain way” After spending time out in the open amongst the people, the Pharisees considered themselves filthy with the defilement of the Gentiles. Therefore, before they could eat, their custom was to wash their hands a certain way as a means of “ridding themselves” of that defilement. This wasn’t an issue of hygiene. It was a religious ritual that had been passed down as tradition. And it wasn’t an optional tradition; any Pharisee who didn’t follow this custom would literally be excommunicated. Jesus of course, didn’t do this. And for this, He was judged by the Pharisees.
There’s a thought that sometimes finds its way into the hearts of believers even today. We go into places where there is deep darkness, or we pray for people who are struggling with certain illnesses or strongholds and some believers are taught that they can become “slimed” (for lack of better words) with the kind of defilement that is around them. But let us always remember and stand in this truth – Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Jesus never acted in a way where He felt He had to “cleanse Himself” from the environments He entered. To the contrary, He changed the atmospheres He entered.
Mark 7:7 “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” The problem with this “commandment of men” is that it distorted the very nature of who God is. Any truth that is taken from the Word of God but that is not delivered in a way that reflects the nature and character of God is false. It is a lie and must be rejected.
Mark 7:9 “you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” The language used here by Jesus indicates that their tradition was more important to them than God’s commandments. Traditions are not a bad thing, but what was wrong here was that they had exalted this man-made tradition above God.
Mark 7:11 “whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban” Jesus uses this as an example of how they were holding their manmade traditions in greater esteem over a law that had been clearly written in the law of Moses. The Law of Moses said, honor your father and mother. Honoring parents manifests itself in financial support and practical care if necessary. However, the Pharisees had this loop-hole that if they claimed some of their financial assets as “Corban” which means it is a gift to God, it freed them from having to give what they had to someone in need – even their parents. Mind you, Jesus could see straight to their hearts, and so therefore, He knew that the reason they had claimed certain things as “Corban” was not because of their dedication to God, but because because of their traditions. Whether it was because they thought it made them look good, or just because they wanted to get out of giving what they had to the needy.
Mark 7:18-19 “…it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?”
Mark interpreted the significance of Jesus’ teaching for his Gentile readers. Mark meant that Christians need not observe the dietary restrictions of the Mosaic Law (cf. Rom. 14:14; Gal. 2:11-17; Col. 2:20-22). This was a freedom that Jewish Christians struggled with for many years during the infancy of the church (cf. Acts 10; 11; 15). Later revelation clarified that Jesus terminated the entire Mosaic Law as a code (Rom. 10:4; et al.). -Dr. Thomas Constable
Today’s Takeaway: At the root of these traditions that the Pharisees held to, is pride. They did things that resulted in a superiority of attitude. Let us always check our hearts to make sure there is no hint of this in our worship, in our giving, in our offerings, in our spiritual disciplines, in our conversations, lest we defile ourselves and reflect a corrupt image of the Father.
Additional (optional) reading: The parallel account of this event can be found in Matthew 15:1-20