December 20

Text: Matthew 15:1, 2

Then some Pharisees and scribes *came to Jesus from Jerusalem, saying, "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." (NASB)

Matthew saw in Jesus a person who was bigger than the present Jewish religious “how to’s.”  Conservative Jews had a religious answer for all things.  There was a right “why.”  There was a right “way” to do the right “why.”  Theoretically, no one was bigger than the right “why” and the right “way.”

For example, there were divinely revealed “cleans” and “uncleans.”  As time moved forward, new discoveries and situations demanded declarations of “clean” or “unclean.”  One of the “rules” for making such applications involved this: “Will the new discovery/situation produce defilement?” 

If the person through genuine (not pretended) ignorance came in contact with something unquestionably unclean, the person’s whole body became unclean.  As a result, his worship offended God.  Thus through ignorance, the unknowing person could offend God as he (she) tried to honor God. 

What was a Jewish person to do to avoid such an offense?  As always, there was an accepted religious remedy.  One observed the religious ceremony of “washing hands” before eating.  This eliminated the most common means of defilement.  (Emphasis must be placed on the fact that this ceremony was a religious practice, not a hygiene practice.)

What was the origin of this religious practice?  The origin is unknown.  It was an ancient remedy, an approved remedy, an unquestioned ceremony, and the accepted way to care for a religious dilemma.  However, it was not a God-given “way to do it.”

Jesus was bigger than the ancient, approved, unquestioned, accepted way of doing things.  As a result, Jesus’ disciples did not observe the ceremony.  The religious leaders did not like the disciples’ practice.

Suggestion for reflection: Are your religious practices ancient habits or faith-filled surrender?  (Read Matthew 7:15-23.)

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