RITUAL OR RELATIONSHIP?
My God, I want to worship You in Spirit and in truth today. Show me how to live a life of worship.
Read Mark 7:1–13
That Which Defiles
7 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.[a])
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”
6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’[b]
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe[c] your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[d] and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[e] 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
a Mark 7:4 Some early manuscripts pitchers, kettles and dining couches
b Mark 7:7 Isaiah 29:13
c Mark 7:9 Some manuscripts set up
d Mark 7:10 Exodus 20:12; Deut. 5:16
e Mark 7:10 Exodus 21:17; Lev. 20:9
New International Version (NIV)
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ReflectWhat is true worship? What does God look for when we worship Him?
Many years ago, John Stott wrote a book called Christ the Controversialist (John Stott, Christ the Controversialist, Tyndale Press, 1970), a reminder that Jesus never shirked from conflict or controversy.
The Pharisees and teachers of the law were scrupulous in their adherence to the tradition of the elders, the many additional rules they had established beyond what the Old Testament required. They went so far as to allow people, under the pretense of piety, to say their money was devoted to God so that it need not be used for the support of elderly relatives (the practice of “Corban”). Jesus was very clear in His response. Such legalistic practice, devoid of heart commitment, was not acceptable to God. Further, they were placing human tradition above the Word of God. He describes them as hypocrites because He saw a discontinuity between what they said and how they lived.
This stinging rebuke antagonized these proud religious leaders. What an impression it would have made on the disciples! They were left in no doubt that true religion is a matter of the heart, of relationship with God, not the empty observance of rituals. The disciples were not sophisticated men, but they were sincere, which matters much more.
Why do you follow the religious traditions you observe? Is it to enhance Your friendship with Jesus? Evaluate why you do what you do.
Jesus, I want my Christian life to be about so much more than rules and observances. Help me to have a living relationship with You.