Conflict With The Religious Leaders Over Laws

Most evangelicals now live in China, South Korea, India, Africa and Latin America, where they are going through a transforming religious experience. In various ways, they are making evangelical Christianity more conservative and more liberal. They are infusing it with local tradi … More


Earlier in Mark we saw the conflict of the Pharisees with Christ over the Sabbath. Now we see a clash over the traditional religious ceremonies. The scribes and Pharisees saw that Jesus and His disciples did not keep the traditions of the oral law in regards to washing their hands before and during the meals so they asked why (vv. 1-5).

Before every meal and between each course that was served the hands had to be washed in a certain way. First the hands were held with the fingers pointed upward  and water was poured over them, with the water running down to the wrist. Then each hand had to be cleaned with the fingers of the other. Next the hands had to be held with the fingers pointing downward and water was poured on the wrists and had to run off the fingertips. Only after all of this were the hands considered clean. 

This passage relates the difference between Jesus and the Pharisees. To the scribes and Pharisees these rules and regulations were the core of their religion. To observe them was to please God; to break them was to sin. In a religious sense Jesus and these people spoke different languages. It was precisely because He had no use for all these regulations that they considered him a bad man. All of these rules and ceremonies had nothing to do with hygiene in the Jewish eyes, but meant the person was unclean in the sight of God if he didn’t follow this procedure. Jesus answered them by quoting Isaiah (Isa. 29:13), and in principle accused them of being hypocrites and depending on their cleverness rather than depending on God (vv. 6-7).


Many traditions may be good. Is there some tradition that I now have that would be good to carry on in the generations to come? Is it something that brings honor and glory to the Lord or is it just a ritual that does not profit me and perhaps it would be better for me to not do anymore?

Mark 7:1-13 (English Standard Version)

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