There is such a strong contrast of focus in this passage. Jesus is focused on the heart, whilst the Pharisees are wholly focused on religious practise. Here they are, face to face with the Saviour of the world, yet all they seem to notice is that the disciples fail to wash their hands before eating. In this, it is not the desire for righteousness that Jesus condemns, but the fact that the Pharisees “ignore God’s law and substitute their own tradition”. If they were acting out of zealous passion for God’s law, then maybe there would be some concession for their attitude and behaviour. But they aren’t acting out of passion or love, they are ignoring God’s law and substituting it with their own ideas.
This passage should encourage us to have our focus in the right place. If our eyes are fixed on Jesus with our hearts open, then we are well set up to follow Him and live in wholesome relationship with Him and others. If our eyes stray to religion, to trying to get it right without His grace, then we will inevitably drift off course with hard hearts.
We should also be careful when explaining, defending and living out our faith, that our motivation comes from God’s truth, and not from our own well-formulated ideas. We are allowed to get it wrong, and we will, but this should serve as an opportunity for us to learn from our mistakes, realign our attitudes and soften our hearts before God.
Jesus, help me to stay focused on You. Help me to love You and love Your word. Let me always be found with a soft and humble heart before You and before others. Amen.
Written by Matt Samperi