February 7th, 2023

The Gospel according to Mark (7:1-13) 

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
(For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.)
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”  
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy 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 as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
He went on to say,
“How well you have set aside the commandment of God
in order to uphold your tradition!
For Moses said,
Honor your father and your mother,
and Whoever curses father or mother shall die.
Yet you say,
‘If someone says to father or mother,
“Any support you might have had from me is qorban”‘
(meaning, dedicated to God),
you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother.
You nullify the word of God
in favor of your tradition that you have handed on.
And you do many such things.”


The Jesus of Mark’s Gospel does not shy away from challenging the religious authorities of His time, whenever He Himself is challenged for how He (or His disciples) choose to live out their lives and their faith.  Today’s story is an example of that conflict.

It comes down to Jesus’ main complaint against the Pharisees and scribes: they lived their faith out through appearances, not through faith that came from the heart.  The Pharisees, you may recall, are those who taught about the Law of Moses, yes, but they also enforced it.  And, as we see in today’s story, they also enforced the “oral traditions” of Israel, which were in addition to the words recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Enforcing those other “traditions” is not necessarily a bad thing, but the Pharisees saw them as equivalent to the Law of Moses, and as we see in today’s Gospel, they could get very specific and could single out a seemingly minor infraction as being equivalent to breaking one of the Ten Commandments.  The point is that the Pharisees and scribes were more focused on appearances, than on having actual faith.  That would continue to be the root of the conflict between them and Jesus throughout His ministry.

For me as a follower of Jesus, I am called to see my whole life as an expression of my faith.  It isn’t about how someone may see outwardly that indicates my faith.  My faith should be in evidence from all that I do.  Am I a kind person?  Do I forgive others?  Do I ask forgiveness when I have wronged another?  Do I care for those who are less fortunate than I am?  Do I share my blessings with those who are in need? 

Those are the things we are called to do as followers of Jesus.  We are to live the life of light and love, and not condemn others for what we may think they are not doing correctly.  Let us focus on that, and leave the rest to God.  As one of the internet memes said that I read recently, “Just love everyone, and I’ll sort them out later. Signed, God”

Action for the Day:

Pay special attention to how you act and think toward others.  If you catch yourself judging another, ask God to help you to stop.  Seek to only build others up today!

If you would like to hear this reflection, click the link below! 

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