15 Some Pharisees and some teachers of the law came from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked, 2 “Why don’t your disciples obey what the elders teach? Your disciples don’t wash their hands before they eat!” 3 Jesus replied, “And why don’t you obey God’s command? You would rather follow your own teachings! 4 God said, ‘Honor your father and mother.’ (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16) He also said, ‘If anyone calls down a curse on his father or mother, he will be put to death.’ (Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9) 5 But you allow people to say to their parents, ‘Any help you might have received from us is a gift set apart for God.’ 6 So they do not need to honor their parents with their gift. You make the word of God useless in order to follow your own teachings. 7 “You pretenders! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you. He said, 8 “‘These people honor me by what they say. But their hearts are far away from me. 9 Their worship doesn’t mean anything to me. They teach nothing but human rules.’” (Isaiah 29:13) 10 Jesus called the crowd to him. He said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into your mouth does not make you ‘unclean.’ It’s what comes out of your mouth that makes you ‘unclean.’” 12 Then the disciples came to him. They asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were angry when they heard this?” 13 Jesus replied, “There are plants that my Father in heaven has not planted. They will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them. The Pharisees are blind guides. If a blind person leads another who is blind, both of them will fall into a pit.” 15 Peter said, “Explain this to us.” 16 “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see? Everything that enters the mouth goes into the stomach. Then it goes out of the body. 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart. Those are the things that make you ‘unclean.’ 19 Evil thoughts come out of the heart. So do murder, adultery, and other sexual sins. And so do stealing, false witness, and telling lies about others. 20 Those are the things that make you ‘unclean.’ But eating without washing your hands does not make you ‘unclean.’”
From the very beginning of his ministry Jesus contended with the Pharisees and teachers of the law, insisting that their emphasis on tradition had superseded obedience to “the command of God” [v.3]
They based their discussion on two questions. One about their tradition and the other about clean hands. In replying to them Jesus “pulled no punches” and exposed their hypocrisy. [v.8]
Jesus then addressed the crowd regarding the definition of clean or unclean. The disciples pointed out that he had offended his opponents. But again Jesus speaks directly about them by calling the Pharisees “blind guides” [v.14] As often happened during his ministry the disciples were confused and asked Jesus to explain what he meant.
In his reply Jesus explained that it is what comes out of the mouth not what goes into it he defined as unclean. His final word refuted the origin statement of the Pharisees.
This passage is a timely reminder for me that Jesus’ teaching continually opposed a legalistic religion which is based on traditional rules and which robs me of the freedom Jesus came to achieve.
Thank you Jesus for showing us how to live in your kingdom. We honour you for exposing the danger of following religious tradition. Thank you that in the kingdom, relationships are superior to any religion based on traditional rules and regulations. Bless you for freedom you provided for us in and through your sacrifice and your resurrection.
Written by Keith Bennett