Class Notes: 11/3/2013

Mark 7:1-9; The Pharisees confront Jesus regarding His disciples failure to observe the oral law but Jesus uses their question to turn the tables on them


In our study of Mark last time we saw in Mark 7:1 that a religious delegation comes to see Jesus Christ from Jerusalem. This is a continuation of the conflict between Jesus and the political religious leaders of Judea that started in Capernaum.

The scribes and the Pharisees are often mentioned together because the Pharisees were the religious political party in the Sanhedrin and the scribes were the teachers of the Law who often were also part of the ruling class.

Their view was the religion should to rule the state, so they favored the union of religion and state and, of course, they were all very religious people. They were the recognized experts of the Mosaic Law and the traditions and regulations of the elders

Mark 7:2; They critically observed that some of Jesus' disciples were eating food with "unclean" hands. Unclean" is translated from the Greek word "koinais" that means common.

This means that their hands were ceremonially unwashed. This was a technical term that the Jews used to describe something that according to their religious ritual was contaminated and therefore unfit for use.

Mark 7:3-4; This is a parenthetical statement where Mark explains for the benefit of his Gentile readers who may not understand the Jewish practice of ceremonial washing because did not live in Palestine.

The Pharisees and all the Jews observed the ritual washing regulations as part of the tradition of the elders that they carefully observed.

These rules that were designed to regulate every aspect of Jewish life and were considered to be as binding as Mosaic Law and were passed on to each succeeding generation by faithful teachers of the law (the scribes).

The most common ritual cleansing was the washing of one's hands with a handful of water, a formal practice required before eating food This was considered to be especially important after a trip to the marketplace where a Jew would likely come in contact with an "unclean" Gentile or such things as money or utensils that had been handled by a Gentile.

The tradition of the elders was the oral law handed down in Israel. It was developed outside of the scriptures, then eventually reduced to writing and collected under a manuscript system called the Mishna that were explained in more detail in the Talmud.

This washing of the hands before meals is not a commandment in the Old Testament scriptures but became a very strong part of the Mishna. This is why they did not refer to it with the word "scripture" but instead used the phrase "tradition of the elders"

Washing of the hands was an excellent practice for sanitary reasons, but the rabbis and the elders made it a condition of spirituality. In other words, they said you were not spiritual unless you washed your hands before meals.

Sanitation is good but it is not spirituality so what we have here is the taking of something good and making a false issue out of it. Washing before meals is not a means or condition of spirituality, it is merely a good sanitary precaution.

Because Jesus' disciples did not keep this taboo so they came under the critical eyes of the scribes and Pharisees.

A principle that comes from this is that religion and legalism is constantly looking for any opportunity to criticize anyone who loves grace and truth and anyone who objectively seeks to learn God's word of truth.

A second principle is that good in and of itself is not spirituality. This was a good taboo because it has to do with sanitation but just because something is good does not mean it has anything to do with having a relationship with God or being spiritual.

What we see here is religion promoting pseudo-spirituality and this is what Jesus addresses in the next few verses.

At the time, disregarding these regulations was considered to be a sin for a loyal Jew. To follow them was the essence of goodness and service to God. This religious legalistic pseudo- spirituality was a major factor in the Jew's rejection of Jesus as their Messiah because Jesus did not come to fulfill their traditions He came to fulfill the Law and these people were offended when Jesus did not obey their traditions.

Mark 7:5; Religious people often appear to be very interested in learning so they came as though they were seekers but in reality they are not seekers at all they were just looking for an opportunity to express opposition so they asked him a leading question.

The Greek word that is translated as tradition is "paradosis" referring to the oral traditions that had been handed down generation by generation. The "traditions of the elders."

The word translated "elders" is the Greek word "presbyteros" that means "older men" so what they are referring to are "traditions of men" that are not part of the law of God.

The Pharisees regarded the unwritten traditions that had been handed down as being as important as the Law but Jesus rejected this and insisted that what was demanded of man was exclusively related to obedience to God's commandments.

Mark 7:6-7; Since they have brought up the issue of observing their traditions, Jesus proceeds to give them a tongue lashing. He starts by calling them hypocrites and then quotes Isa 29:13; NASB almost word for word from the LXX and tells them that it is referring to them.

'But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.' "Neglecting the commandment of God (the Torah) you hold to the tradition of men (the oral traditions of the Halakah, the legal section of the Talmud)."

After generations of ritual without reality they were involved in rote or a catechistic mechanically learned religion. This is the mere memorization of rules and regulations or doctrines and precepts. It looks at a fixed course or routine and repetition without attention to meaning and application.

The rote resulted in rut or mere religious habits, going through the motions without spiritual reality. Rut is walking in a religious routine of ritual and memorized sayings and ideas, but without any spiritual or personal application.

That led to rot or the failure to produce. They were nonproductive and as a result would come under Divine discipline. They were spiritually dead religious unbelievers, who were white washed tombs. They looked good as though they were painted white on the outside, but they were rotten and dead on the inside.

They were "hypocrites" because they made an outward profession of worshiping God but they actually did not worship Him at all. Their "worship" was a pious act so it was in vain or "futile" because like the Jews of Isaiah's day they were teaching the rules of men as though they were authoritative teachings of God.

Religion always has the wrong emphasis. It focuses on what people do not how they think. Truth always addresses how one thinks because when the thinking is right the doing will automatically follow. A right thing must be done in a right way for the right reason at the right time.

Mark 7:8; NASB So Jesus puts it back on them, Having set aside the commandments of God You (plural)," "hold to the traditions of men". The commandment refers to the doctrine of the Word of God, in this case Exodus 20:12.

The religious traditions of the Pharisees are legalistic and therefore are contrary to the principle of grace. Washing the hands before meals is a good thing but to make it a part of spirituality is a bad thing making it evil legalism.

In other words, you are doing something to become spiritual, you are washing your hands. So a good thing is magnified out of its context and it becomes evil legalism when it is falsely brought into the spiritual realm.

And now Jesus is going to show them that they are the ones who are wrong. So He says, "by your tradition," which is dia plus the accusative, and literally, "because of your tradition" you are in violation of the Word of God.

Jesus goes on to accuse them of abandoning the commands of God and His Law, and replacing it with the traditions of men. He emphasizes the human origin of their oral teachings and He completely rejects its authority.

He tells them that they had become experts at manipulating God's Word through clever deceit so they could justify their disobedience to God's word in order to set up and establish their own rules.

He supports his accusation by giving them an example of how they have cleverly sidestepped God's law God in order to establish their own rules.

Remember this is not simply a religious argument because the Scribes and Pharisees are the political rulers as well as the religious leaders of Judea so in effect he is accusing and condemning the political rulers of Judea.

He is speaking truth to power and he does not obey them but in the end he does submit to their authority even though he had the power and authority to kill them all. Matt 26:51-56;

What we have here is doctrine versus tradition. Truth versus propaganda. In tradition we have what seems to be a good thing, a taboo, and there may be nothing wrong with it except that it is not spirituality. So Jesus says that this is not an issue.

Whether the disciples wash their hands or not is not an issue in spirituality. But the scribes have brought the issue of the truth of God's word versus the tradition of the elders, so Jesus is going to give them a real example of how their traditions actually contradict the Word of God and He is going to turn their leading question against them.

Mark 7:9; When they approached Jesus they had emphasized their tradition, that is their criterion instead of doctrine, so Jesus is going turn it around and answer them by going from the traditions and taboos that they have developed to the Word of God and He is going to start from the Word of God.

Their problem is that they have substituted tradition, taboos and programs for doctrine. They emphasized their tradition and their program and the Word always emphasizes doctrine.

He does not even address their specific allegation he ignores it.

We have to learn how to do this when we are confronted accusations from those who function from human viewpoint propaganda. Ignore the specific accusation and go right to doctrine. Refute the premise of their accusation by demonstrating the inconsistency, deceit and lies that are the basis of their human viewpoint propaganda.

Every facet of the progressive's propaganda that is being accepted as truth today should be refuted in this manner.

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