In our last post we looked at Matthew 15:1-9 and shared a personal story that brought the concept of conflicting authority to the fore front. As we mentioned, traditions have two core components, that of an authority establishing the practice, and followers faithfully following the practice, of handing the practice down to the next generation.
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. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, 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.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”
And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God) — 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”- Mark 7:1-13 ESV
Mark spends a bit of time explaining the traditions of the elders, since his audience is Greek, and not Jewish as Matthew’s. The two quotes of Exodus Jesus uses are identical, and Mark also directs our attention to Jesus recitation of Isaiah 29:13
And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, – Isaiah 29:13 ESV
Traditions are based on two foundations, that of an authority and of consistency. Authority was addressed under Matthew 15, where as this passage, this passage actually speaks of both, especially the last phrase.
Their fear of me is a commandment taught by men
Whatever fear the masses had of God was based on the elders teaching, of the elders slight twist on the command, that muddied the water and nullified God’s intent. The elders claimed the authority, rejecting the command of God, and the tradition was replaced with vain worship. Empty worship. No one was practicing the original tradition, and it had effectively been replaced by the error of well-meaning(?) elders.
The last phrase of this passage has intrigued me, not necessarily as a summary statement, but that I hear a bit of sarcasm in Jesus voice.
You have a fine way….
Is Jesus speaking with a bit of sarcasm in His voice? He is the Master Teacher, and effectively uses multiple manners of teaching. Is He commending them in their sin? As if saying … You have expertly performed the duties of nullifying the commandment of God in order to gain for yourselves. You are practiced and skilled teachers, you are very good at rejecting the commandment of God!
Can you imagine an itinerant preacher silencing the religious professionals in such a way? He is so awesome.
Mark continues with his recitation of the discourse and it seems to be harsher, as if he is not pulling any punches. Notice that while Matthew speaks of “not needing to honor his father”, Mark has it as “you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother”
Both Matthew and Mark give us Jesus teaching on traditions, at least a teaching on the corruption of a tradition that was established by God, but had been hi-jacked by others.
It is instructive that this passage, along the the Matthew recounting, speaks of the dangers of simply following religious traditions without going to the foundation, the original authority and intent of that authority. Religious professionals provide revisions and refinements to the original command in order to assist us, and in turn, actually assist us in turning away from God. (As if we need any help in turning away!)
Take some time during your busy day today, to ask the Lord to expose an area of your religious life, just one area or teaching that may be distracting you from following God’s commands. As mentioned in the previous post, one area of authority conflict opened my eyes to many other areas, and has revolutionized my understanding of faith, love and walking properly before God.
Please join me in our next post where we begin to look at traditions that have been established for the church. I am looking forward to learning with you.
May God bless you and keep you in the love of Jesus and the fellowship of His Spirit.
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