Debate over Tradition

January 25, 2023 in Today's Worship by TGV

Matthew 15: Worship Guide/ 40-BSG-15A, (Matthew 15:1-20)/ Theme: Debate over Tradition/ Hymn: “I would be like Jesus,” [Author: James Rowe]


Exploration: Jesus’ position on outward ritual vs. inward reality – (Isa. 1:11-17; Hos. 6:6; Am. 5:21-24).

As I was reading this passage, I was amazed by Christ’s enemies’ attitudes –[these were Scribes, Pharisees, Hypocrites, and Teachers (experts) of the law]. After seeing all the wonders of Christ: His miracles, teachings, compassion towards the multitude, and the undisputed fact that Yahweh’s hand was on Him, all they focus on is petty issues like “washing hands,” that Christ’s disciples did not wash their hands when they eat bread, according to traditional regulations (Mt. 15:1-20; Mk 7:1-23).

Note that there is no command anywhere in the OT that a person must wash their hands before eating. The Pharisees had added many of their own traditions to the OT commands. Here is just one example. It is not that “washing hands” is bad. In fact, for all humanity, handwashing is crucial; it is the first skill every Nursing Student must learn and pass successfully to be licensed.

The issue is this: Pharisees demanded it as a requirement for a religious person. They equated manufactured traditions like these with the Scriptures. It was their way of trying to earn favor with God. The washing of hands is still very prevalent in Judaism. It is called “netilat yadayim.” Jewish tradition calls for washing hands every morning, which serves as a reminder to use them for religious purposes.

Devotional Implication: Jesus blasted the Pharisees for being hypocrites and religious phonies. Jesus described His enemies with a quotation from the OT book of Isaiah– “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” (Isaiah 29:13, NIV)

The debate in this passage is not whether hands ought to be clean or not. The real issue was that “tradition” was being substituted for “God’s commandments,” the authoritative Word of God. Matthew 15:8-9 (a quotation from Isaiah 29:13) was fulfilled in Pharisees and Scribes: they spoke of God yet failed to honor Him. Instead, they elevated the teachings (or views of sinful men) to too high a standard. As a result, they nullified and made void the Word of God.

Today, many still values set customs/traditions above the inner realities, to whom “sacrifice” is more important than “mercy.” This message is for them. Beloved, God is never fooled by our outward appearance: “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” In fact, we are commanded to “have nothing to do with such people.” (2 Timothy 3:5, NIV). Let us not be bogged down by customs and men’s traditions but rather know the power of godliness. Amen?

The Gospel’s Voice: My son, I recognized a ‘clean heart’ above ‘clean hands.’ I focus on the internal and not the external. I am more interested in your heart obedience. I desire that you demonstrate your love to Me by keeping My Commandments out of love, reverence, and from your whole heart, and not ritualistic observance (obedience). This, My Spirit, will help you along the way. Would you?

My Desire: By God’s grace, I want to – 1. Denounce all human-made authority, customs, and traditions (traditions of the fathers and the church); 2. Uphold God’s word; 3. Heeding the warning conveyed in Christ’s words, “In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

David’s Confession: “Yes, I have more insight than my teachers, for I am always thinking of Your Laws. I am even wiser than my elders, for I have kept Your Commandments.” (Psalm 119:99–100, NLT)



Print Friendly, PDF & Email