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46: Tradition versus The Truth

May 14, 2009

Major Text: Mark 7:1-23

Harmony Texts:

Matt. 15:1-3a, 7-9, 3b-6, 10-20      Mark 7:1-23      John 7:1


  1. The Pharisees Question Jesus Mark 7:1-5
  2. Jesus Answers their Question Mark 7:6-13
  3. Jesus Explains His Answer Mark 7:14-23


I feel Mark’s gospel is the most complete and chronological text regarding this conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus. Note that these Pharisees and teachers came all the way from Jerusalem. Previous accounts involving Pharisees were probably from those in Galilee. Spies from Jerusalem, no doubt, were also present from time to time as they were in this text.

The Pharisees are observing Jesus and His disciples [“by their fruit ye shall know them”] and ask Jesus why His disciples do not wash before they eat. This was not only for cleanliness but it was a ceremonial washing too. It was a legitimate question and Jesus is fairly gentle in His answer compared to later on in His ministry. He does point out that they are hypocrites though, telling them they place more emphasis on their traditions than on the commands of God. He backs up His accusation by citing an example of how they avoid caring for their parents by saying that they are giving that money as corban to God. They think that giving money to God is more important than caring for their parents. They don’t realize that God asks for their heart and not their money. Their priorities are not in line with God’s priorities.

Jesus goes on to explain to the crowd that what goes into man is not unclean but only that which comes out. It is another parable that the disciples don’t understand so Jesus has to explain what He means further. It is true that what comes out of man is unclean but Jesus was referring to the heart, not the stomach. Our real uncleanness is that which comes from our hearts in the form of sinful and evil acts. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. We are in need of forgiveness through a repentant heart washed in the blood of Jesus.


1. Traditions are not necessarily bad BUT they have a tendency to smother TRUTH. Traditions can not and must not take precedence over TRUTH. In other words, religious traditions do not please God when they take precedence over doing good and/or fulfilling our God-given responsibility.

2. The attitude expressed in one’s heart is the real test of uncleanness. Our emphasis must be on keeping our hearts clean, free of sin and evil desires, and obedient to God.

3. Hearts devoted to Christ and His will, cleansed by His blood, will enable us to discern good from evil, cleanliness from uncleanness, and the will of God from the traditions of man.

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