“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.[a]) 5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” 6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’[b] 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”” Mark 7.1-8
Jesus did not make friends easily. There was no casual friendship with Christ. Either you were for God or against him. When Jesus was confronted by the teachers of the law because Jesus’ disciples were not upholding their traditions, Jesus unleashed with both barrels. He quoted from Isaiah — calling them out for loving traditions more than they loved God with their hearts (I bet that hurt).
Unfortunately, humanity slips into this habit way too often. It wasn’t just the Pharisees that loved the law more than they loved God — we do it too. I’m a part of a denomination which just split. And some of our churches lost their love for God. Not all, there are many who remain faithful, but some forgot their first love. It’s an age old story and evidenced in the Jews relationship with God all through the Old Testament.
I can’t read this passage and not reflect upon my own life — how I have loved traditions, objects or ideals rather than God. As I have achieved ministry “success” have I truly remained faithful? The longer I serve God two things happen: 1) I love him more, and 2) the temptation to run away remains. We who are seeking the Lord are always reminded of the sin that so easily entangles. We are reminded of the flesh that tempts us to seek self over the Savior.
When Jesus begun his public ministry he was driven into the desert by the Holy Spirit, and there he was tempted for 40 days and nights. Satan took him upon a mountain to tempt him to turn from God and follow the ways of the world’s passions and desires.
Satan would love nothing more for us to turn from the Lord, seek our own traditions and temptations. But as Jesus reminds us, the thief (the devil) comes only to kill steal and destroy, but he has come to give us life abundantly (John 10.10).
What traditions are you holding on to which might draw you away from the Lord? What temptations are thrown your way? Run to the Father! Hold on to Jesus. Give your heart to God and allow him to redeem you by his power and with his presence.
“O Lord God, you are good. When my love fails, your love remains steadfast. Thank you for loving me, for allowing me to be your hands and feet. Thank you for sowing seed even when I sleep. Come now, Holy Spirit, call me forth to glorify you and to put you first in my life. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen