Conflict over the tradition of ceremonial uncleanness

Jewish leaders ignore the miraculous healing of people and focus their attention on their rules and regulations.
Matthew 15:1-20, Mark 7:1-23

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One Reply to “Conflict over the tradition of ceremonial uncleanness”

  1. The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law approach Jesus (who they must have known was healing many brought to him) and pointed out they he and his disciples were not obeying their rules for ceremonial washing. This becomes a teachable moment.Jesus teaches us that matters of the heart are much more important than rules created by men.

    The Pharisees probably didn’t see this one coming, the context for the discussion of the breaking the 5th commandment seems out of place, but Jesus uses this to make his point. First of all, the reference to Isaiah is significant:

    These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
    They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.

    Before we jump on the Pharisees, it’s important that we examine ourselves carefully. Are there times when our lips say one thing while our actions indicate something totally different? Hmmmm. Traditions of human creation must not become stumbling blocks for worshiping God fully. All too often we get our priorities out of order. This is a call for reexamination.

    For a concrete example, Jesus reveals how the Pharisees endorse the practice of declaring that which “might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God).” Ok, I can’t say I completely understand the Corban Rule, so off to research land! The Pharisees were teaching that people:

    …could give money to the temple in lieu of helping their parents in need. Whatever money might have been used to provide for aging parents could be dedicated to the temple treasury instead. Saying, “It is Corban” would exempt a person from his responsibility to his parents. In other words, the Pharisees took a legitimate Corban offering and used it in an illegitimate and devious way to defraud their parents (and enrich themselves). Thus, the Law of God was nullified.

    Other resources point to words of Josephus that indicate the temple used the Corban rule to avoid contributing to secular plans by the Romans when they were taxing people to build the aqueduct systemNote.

    I suspect this was common knowledge and a term that all around could appreciate. I also suspect we run the risk of violating this principle by making tax deductible contributions just to avoid taxes rather than actually supporting whatever organization we are supplying with money. The disciples are concerned that Jesus was offending the Pharisees without knowing it so they pull him aside and ask, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they hear this?”

    Jesus makes certain all understand that intentions are more important than the rules. I suspect he was angered at this point and used the topic to broaden the discussion.

    To be clear, Jesus starts from the original objection about ceremonial washing where he explains (for those of us that are so dull), that food enters and exits our body, but goes far beyond that example:

    For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come–sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.

    There is no room for lip-service among Christ followers. Lord help us to examine our hearts daily, continuously, that we would constantly root out any evil intentions, those things that truly defile us.


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