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)

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, 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.' 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)-- then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do."

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