Lesson 33

The Gospel According to Mark

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

7:1 Then the Pharisees, and some of the scribes gathered together to him, having come from Jerusalem. 7:2 Now when they saw some of his disciples eating bread with defiled, that is, unwashed, hands, they found fault. 7:3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, don't eat unless they wash their hands and forearms, holding to the tradition of the elders. 7:4 They don't eat when they come from the marketplace, unless they bathe themselves, and there are many other things, which they have received to hold to: washings of cups, pitchers, bronze vessels, and couches.) 7:5 The Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why don't your disciples walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with unwashed hands?"

7:6 He answered 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.

 7:7 But in vain do they worship me,
      Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'

7:8 "For you set aside the commandment of God, and hold tightly to the tradition of men - the washing of pitchers and cups, and you do many other such things." 7:9 He said to them, "Full well do you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. 7:10 For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother;' and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.' 7:11 But you say, 'If a man will tell his father or his mother, "Whatever you might have been profited by me is Corban, that is to say, given to God;"' 7:12 and you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother, 7:13 making void the word of God by your tradition, which you have handed down. You do many things like this."

Today's Lesson 

Yesterday we read how Jesus was very popular with the people in Galilee. They would recognize Him when He went to a new town and bring people that were sick so that Jesus would heal them. It was said that to even touch the hem of His garment was enough to be healed. But we also noted that His popularity with the people brought Him into conflict with the scribes and the Pharisees. In Today's Scriptures, Mark writes about a confrontation that Jesus had with some of the scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem and how Jesus responded to them.


There was a delegation of men that had come up to Galilee from Jerusalem. These men had been sent to witness what Jesus was doing. One of the things that they noticed was that the disciples of Jesus ate with unwashed hands. Now what this means was not that their hands were unsanitary. Rather they were saying that the disciples of Jesus had not ritually cleaned their hands before eating. Mark tells us that the Pharisees and the scribes held to "the tradition of the elders" in this regard. There were many such traditions that had built up in Jewish society that had taken on the force of Holy Law through use. God had not established these traditions. They had been established by men. But they had been a part of the society for so long that most people did not distinguish these traditions from God's Law.


When these men asked Jesus why His disciples did this Jesus responded to them in very frank terms. He told them that they were hypocrites. They  ritually kept these traditions and taught others to do so and yet they refused to follow some of the direct commandments of God. Then Jesus gave them one example of what He meant. There was a Pharisaic tradition that even if a man had financial obligations to his family, he could dedicate that money to God and in so doing would be relieved of the obligation to provide for his parents. It was considered pious to give money to the temple. They put this even before taking care of their family.


Jesus was not trying to condemn all traditions. He was trying to re-establish the priorities. We must first do the things that God has directly told us that we must do. God's commandments are not frivolous. They cannot be set aside because of our own traditions or routines. Modern Christians often find that this lesson has applicability with regard to denominational traditions and teachings. Denominational teachings and traditions can sometimes have the same force of law that the tradition of the elders held for these Pharisees. There is nothing wrong with denominational tradition, except when we see these teachings as having the same authority as God's Law. Hopefully the traditions and teachings of our church bring us closer to God. However, if there should be conflict, we must first follow the teaching that God has given us.


Is your life dominated by the traditions of men or by a sincere desire to follow God? Do you ever question the things that you believe and ask yourself, "Does this really come from what God has revealed to me or is this what I have been taught from other people?"


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