Matthew 15:1-9 Jesus Breaks Religious Traditions
1Then the Pharisees and religious scholars came from Jerusalem and approached Jesus with this question: 2 “Why do your disciples ignore the traditions of our elders? For example, they don’t ceremonially wash their hands before they eat bread.”
3 Jesus answered, “And why do you ignore the commandment of God because of your traditions? 4 For didn’t God say, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Whoever abuses or insults his father or mother must be put to death?’
5 “But you teach that it’s permissible to say to your parents when they are in financial need, ‘Whatever gift you would have received from me I can keep for myself, since I dedicated it as an offering to God.’ 6 This doesn’t honor your father or mother. And you have elevated your tradition above the words of God. 7 Frauds and hypocrites! Isaiah described you perfectly when he said:
These people honor me only with their words,
for their hearts are so very distant from me.
They pretend to worship me,
but their worship is nothing more
than the empty traditions of men.”
Good hygiene is necessary for keeping us healthy. We have learned how to wash our hands well during 2020 haven’t we? However, good hygiene is not what the Pharisees and religious scholars are concerned about as they approach Jesus and point to his disciples’ sin—not performing ceremonial hand-washing. These religious folks are simply offended that Jesus does not enforce the traditions of men the way he exalts the commands of God. Jesus knows their hearts, so he answers their question with an accusation and confronts them with the Truth.
Religion does not clean us up before God, friends. Only Jesus can do the job of making us clean and give us access to the Father. We know we have fellowship with God when we love and deeply care for one another. The Pharisees and religious scholars had found a way around God’s command to honor their parents. For example, if these religious folks declared all their goods or money was a gift from God and dedicated to God, then basically there were no resources available left to help their parents. Sounds like they were loving God with all they had, but what about loving their neighbors—their parents as God commanded? In their traditions there is an appearance of being near to God, but in actuality they failed to demonstrate God’s revealed Word of love. We will always find ourselves in trouble if we try to exalt empty traditions or our selfish and worldly ways above the commands of God.
Prayer: Lord, you created humanity to worship you, but deception has tried to cover the Truth. May we, as your children, stop pretending to worship you and begin to live extravagantly in the covenant of grace that calls us to love and care for one another. In Jesus’ name. Amen.