Tuesday 08 February 2011

Bible Book:

"This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." (v. 6)

Mark 7:1-13 Tuesday 8 February 2011


Earlier this week we read about heardJesus comparing his approach to the religious law with that of thescribes and Pharisees. He declared that his intent was to fulfilthe law not abolish it (Matthew 5:17). However here we see why thereligious leaders were getting so angry with Jesus - he and hisdisciples were repeatedly breaking both religious tradition and theteaching of the Torah (the Jewish law outlined in the first fivebooks of the Old Testament).

Traditions were probably passed down orally from rabbi to pupil butthey had grown increasingly complex, often losing sight of theoriginal law to which they were linked. In this case therequirement for hand washing was linked to the need for priests towash their hands before eating holy food in the Temple. This wasthen extended to include washing prior to eating any food, and notjust for priests but for all people.

From our 21st-century perspective we would rightly consider washinghands before eating to be a sensible and hygienic act. However thatis not what was at issue in this exchange. It was the elaborateritual that had been developed to which Jesus objected, and he wasconcerned that this was becoming more important than the lawitself. Jesus' interpretation of the law may have been different tothat of the scribes and the Pharisees, and in some cases he didn'tthink they were strict enough, but he still believed the law of theTorah had an important role in determining how people should livetheir lives.

Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 and suggests that people aremuch better at talking about the insignificant details of theirreligious observance, but fail to see the bigger picture about whatGod really wants from them. How often do we do that within our ownchurch life? It is far too easy to focus all our energy on ourcommittees, traditions, rules and regulations, but spend far toolittle time listening directly to God and discerning how we shouldrespond.

To Ponder

Many elements of our Christian belief come fromtradition developed after the New Testament was written. Howimportant is this compared with what we read in the Bible?

How often have church activities become moreimportant to you than worship, prayer or Bible study? How might youredress the balance both for yourself and your churchcommunity?

Many in our Church object to change and want topreserve traditions. Are they always wrong? And what do youthink?

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