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A Form of Godliness
7:1 Now the Pharisees and some of the experts in the law who came from Jerusalem gathered around him.
The fame of Jesus had spread as far as Jerusalem and the reports of his teaching, more than his miracles disturbed the chief priest and the religious rulers. So they sent a contingent of Pharisees, who represented the Law and laid great stress not on the righteousness of an action, but upon its formal correction, and the Scribes who were teachers of the Law, to find out exactly what was happening. They did not come with open hearts or minds they had already judged the Lord and came with a criticising spirit, which can be an hindrance to the church and the work of God and the downfall of many a righteous man (2 Cor. 8:20; Acts 11:2 NIV).
7:2 And they saw that some of Jesus' disciples ate their bread with unclean hands, that is, unwashed.
That is why these spies, for that is what they were, when they saw Jesus' disciples eating without washing their hands they criticized them in order to get at Jesus. For if he allowed them to do this kind of thing as their master then he must do the same.
7:3-4 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they perform a ritual washing, holding fast to the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. They hold fast to many other traditions: the washing of cups, pots, kettles, and dining couches.)
They expected everybody to do the same as they did, according to the rules and regulations which were additions to the Law of God that had been handed down by their forefathers. It was not for hygienic reasons they washed their hands or the other items mentioned for it had to be done in a special way with ceremony, and that is all it was ceremonial.
7:5 The Pharisees and the experts in the law asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with unwashed hands?’
So they kept on asking Jesus why his disciples did not keep these traditions.
7:6-7 He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.'
He knew their hearts and that they had a form of true religion but denied and rejected the power of it and thus he quotes to them from Isaiah 29:13. If we are called to give an answer to anyone it is far better to quote from scripture (not necessarily the actual words, although it is better if we can, but the correct meaning of them) than to try to from our own knowledge and our own words.
He called them pretenders and hypocrites (playing at being religious) for although outwardly they honour, that is, esteem, praise, exalt, God with their mouths their hearts are hardened and they are in truth far away from him (2 Tim. 3:5). Their worship of God was useless because it was not acceptable unto him for they do not worship in spirit and truth (Phil. 3:3). Instead they went about ordering and teaching the commands of men.
7:8 Having no regard for the command of God, you hold fast to human tradition.
They despised the word of God and in fact rejected it in preference for that of men. By doing this they were placing a heavy burden upon the people, more than they could bear and that God demanded. That is why Jesus could say in Matt. 11:30 “my burden is light”, for he did not come to place a burden upon us but to take our burdens away.
7:9 He also said to them, ‘You neatly reject the commandment of God in order to set up your tradition.
They rejected and discouraged people from following God's word in order to keep their own. In the next few verses he gives an example of this.
7:10 For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Whoever insults his father or mother must be put to death.'
He quotes from a number of scriptures (Ex. 20:12; Ex. 21:17). God considers it very important that this command should be obeyed. Honour, that is respect with tenderness of feeling and obedience (Col. 3:20) both parents with equality, that is, without having preference. (Note: If obedience to parents would mean disobeying the word of God - then we must obey God rather than man). There may be many reasons that we may come up with as to why we shouldn't obey this but God has said that it should be so and for a good reason, in order that we may benefit. Any resentment or bitterness on our part causes a barrier between us and God (Heb. 12:14-15). Curse not - that is, do not speak ill of or abusively against either parent. Under the Old Testament Law this was punishable by death, and although under the New Covenant this is not the case, it may still result in great spiritual loss.
7:11-13 But you say that if anyone tells his father or mother, 'Whatever help you would have received from me is corban' (that is, a gift for God), then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like this.’
They taught that if a son or daughter told their parents that whatever they may have received from them or whatever they had that would have been a help to them, is given as an offering and gift to the Temple instead. The result of this was that there was no caring or providing for the parents, which was in contradiction to God's word (1 Tim. 5:8).
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This study is taken from our Bible study guide Faithbuilders - The Gospel of Mark