“Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) “ (Mark 7:1 – 4)
When the Israelites were traveling from Egypt to the land that was promised them, it was a dusty and dirty trail. Just as in our modern days, camping can be messy. But, sometimes that is the fun of camping – not having to observe the genteel niceties. What was logical practice then, became tradition by the time of Jesus. And, what better way to show disdain for the common rabble than to insist upon cleanliness in one’s home and practice. Contrast this with the disciples, who with Jesus, were traveling on the road and may not have had access to potable water.
It also makes me think of the practices that are evolving in our modern times; cleanliness has gone from being a basic sanitary practice to being litmus point: who does and does not wear masks; who is vaccinated and not vaccinated; who wipes down all surfaces and who “merely” cleans. I am not taking either side in that, beloved reader; just merely pointing out how practices for a good cause/reason become judging points. But, back to the scripture text.
“So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” (Verses 5 – 8)
It is sometimes easier, beloved reader, to successfully follow human traditions than the commandments of the Divine. But when members of humanity suffer by holding to pointless traditions, it is time to start looking at why/how those traditions started in the first place. And if the cause & reason was situational to that long ago time, or that the tradition was started to maintain an injustice – then it is time to last the tradition down and begin a new & improved way of treating each other.
“Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” . . . For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Verses 14 – 15, 21 – 23)
A feeling of great sadness overcomes me, beloved reader. A thinking back over the history of humanity, and remembering the low points in our treatment of each other. All that has been inflicted upon a member of humanity by another member of humanity has come from the mind and intellect. I would add to the list that the writer of the gospel of Mark – prejudice, hatred, violence, and the list could go on. The writer of the gospel of Mark, and by implication Jesus, was thinking of the sins of the Pharisees and scribes lumping together the Jewish rulers and officials whose disdain and dismissal of the common folk coupled with sins committed because they had the power and influence to do so. (That was a long and twisting indictment!) That indictment could also includes more modern day leaders, rulers, officials and others who oppress and do worse.
Now that I have made myself totally gloomy . . . . let me say that out of that same mind and intellect of corporate humanity has come sterling and compassionate acts that lift up the common folk and create a refuge for them. Humanity can do better. We have been shown how. Let us remember that as we go about our every day lives; that the doctrine and theology of love and shalom is more important than other any hygienic practice. And actually if we practice and live out the that doctrine and theology, we will do constantly the best of everything for each other! Shalom & Selah!