“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?’” - Mark 7:5
Have you ever known someone who insisted they were always right? When I was a child, my father, who I dearly loved, was sure he was always right. Even when he was wrong! There were actually times when I knew he was wrong but he was loathe to admit it. So, if you have known or heard of such a person, you will understand the Pharisees and the Scribes. They considered themselves the stewards of the Law. Unfortunately, they had taken the Law given to Moses and added hundreds, perhaps thousands, of extra “rules.” They now come from Jerusalem to confront Jesus. They have heard of his teachings, his healings and his popularity with the people and they are not particularly pleased. Jesus is challenging their authority, their rules, even their understanding of God.
The Pharisees immediately question Jesus: “Why do your disciples eat with defiled hands?” Notice they don’t ask about any of the wonderful things Jesus has done; they simply go on the attack. Jesus’ disciples are apparently breaking one of their rules. The Pharisees proclaimed that eating without washing, either the item to be consumed or one’s hands, was an insult to God.
Jesus responds, as he often does, without directly answering the question. Instead, he quotes Isaiah:
“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
What does Jesus mean? Jesus is reminding them of their foundational relationship with God, the Ten Commandments. The fifth commandment had a clear provision for honoring one’s parents. The Pharisees had devised a means to avoid that commandment by the use of “corban.” This term only appears in Mark 7 and refers to money dedicated to God and placed in the temple. That sounds like a good thing until one understands that the Pharisees had implemented that rule in order to seem more spiritual while denying needed care to their elderly parents. They took the funds that should have provided for their parents and called it “corban” - money dedicated to God. By outwardly appearing virtuous for their giving, they were actually breaking God’s Law. They were living with a veneer of spirituality, but it was a spirituality of their own devising.
I wonder how often we do that in our lives. How often do we pick and choose what we want to believe? We think, “Well yes, the Bible does say that, but it doesn't really apply to me.” How we live matters to the Lord; how we live reflects what we believe.
Do you have areas of your life where you decide what is right or wrong by your own interpretation? What might you need to change? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a small group Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the Living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
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