Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.)
So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”
He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” – Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
It is easy to read about the Pharisees and see them as hard-headed and set in their ways. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a part of the new world Jesus came to bring? Surely no modern Christian would be so stubborn to let traditions get in the way of something new the Holy Spirit was calling them to do. Sadly, this is not the case. We Christians, those who claim to follow the ways of Jesus, often allow our own traditions, customs, and ideas about God or church to quench the power of the Holy Spirit.
For just a moment, think about the tradition you hold most dear…
Now, imagine Jesus asking you to give that tradition to him in exchange for something better. You don’t know what this better something might be, but Jesus promises that if you trust him, it will be worth it. Would you let it go?
I love the way our traditions, new and old, speak to us and form us in our faith. I also know that the formative traditions of one generation can sometimes become barriers for the next. May we learn to follow Jesus into the heart of our faith and become less concerned with the things we see on the outside. Let’s continue to celebrate our favorite traditions while remaining open to the ways Jesus wants to transform them into this image for generations to come. Follow him.