February 8, 2022
“Then the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, ‘Why don’t Your disciples live according to the traditions of the elders, instead of eating bread with ritually unclean hands?’”
Never miss an episode when you
subscribe & turn on notifications for YouTube!
“Then the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, ‘Why don’t Your disciples live according to the traditions of the elders, instead of eating bread with ritually unclean hands?’ He answered them, ‘Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men. Disregarding the command of God, you keep the tradition of men.’” Mark 7: 5-8
Many people believe that Jesus rejected ALL traditions. This is not so. There are many New Testament traditions. (1 Cor 11:2, 2 Thes 2: 15)
As for Oral Rabbinic traditions, in John 7:37, Jesus and His disciples took part in a Sukkot festival observance, which is not mentioned in the Tanakh (Old Testament). It is only found in the Mishna, a collection of rabbinic writings. On that occasion, Jesus took the opportunity to refocus a water-drawing ceremony, traditionally conducted by the High Priest, into a statement of His Messianic role. John 10:22-39 has Jesus in the Temple at the “Festival of Dedication,” aka, Hanukkah. There He was, the “Light of the World,” in the Temple at Hanukkah, a traditional Jewish holiday not directly mentioned in the Old Testament but supported by tradition.
When Jesus took issue with the “tradition of the elders”(or the “Oral Torah” as it is also known), it was whenever the Pharisees placed human tradition over God’s command. As long as a tradition is consistent with the Bible and honored by the people as such, there is nothing wrong with the tradition. We cannot assume that ALL rabbinic tradition is bad. It must be weighed by God’s Word and should never be esteemed higher than His Word.
Pertaining to today’s Scripture, the practice of ritual hand washing is still in effect in Orthodox Judaism today. The rationale has less to do with hygiene and is based mainly on the idea that “a man’s home is his temple,” with the dining table, his altar, his food, the sacrifice, and himself the priest. Since the Torah requires priests to be ceremonially pure before offering sacrifices on the Temple altar, the “Oral Tradition” requires the same for every man before eating a meal.
So, which traditions are permissible, and which ones lead to sin? My answer is simple: Read the Bible. By spending quality time in God’s Word every day, we learn His heart. We learn to love the things He loves and hate the things He hates. In short, we become discerning as to which attitudes & behaviors honor God.
The more we disregard His Word, the more susceptible we are to following a “teaching of men” instead of the Way of the Lord.