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Mark 7:1-13

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- Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. 2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. 3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. 4 And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. 5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? 6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. 10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: 11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. 12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; 13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.


In verse 5, the Pharisees and scribes asked Jesus a question. “Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? They are certainly testing Jesus about what he would say regarding the keeping of these traditions. Jesus does not hesitate to point out their hypocrisy by challenging their “traditions of the elders.” Mark gives us some backround information to help us better understand the question.

Unwashen Hands

In our society today we tell our children, “It is time for dinner. Go wash your hands.” Most of us would not think to eat without having first washed our hands. In biblical days they likely knew nothing of diseases that are spread through germs. We do it to preven this spread and to reduce cross-contamination. For us it is a hygiene issue.
This was not so in the days in which Jesus lived. The tradition of the elders to wash your hands prior to eating had more to do with a sign of spiritual purity. Mark refers to the market. When one would go to the market they would likely, with little exception, come into contact with Gentiles. The Pharisees considered you unclean if you but touched or brushed against a gentile. So, when they would return home they were to wash their hands, clean all the pots and pans that the food would be placed in, and they were to thoroughly wash their table to prevent any Gentile corruption in the food. For a devout Jew to avoid this “tradition of the elders” was something that Jewish leadership frowned upon very highly.

Commandments of Men

Jesu replied to their question by quoting the prophet Isaiah, “This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Jesus challenges their “traditions of the elders.” He says, “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” He was telling the Pharisees that their “traditions of the elders” were not commands of God, but demands from faulty men. The Pharisees had formed a list of rules they referred to as “The Traditions of the Elders.” They enforced these rules upon the Jewish laity though they had no lawful authority to do so as they were not commands from Scripture.
Jesus would go on to say how that they would disobey or set aside the command of God to obey the traditions given by man, “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men.” Jesus was saying that their traditions were more important to them than the commands of God.


Jesus then offers them an example of how their traditions of the elders were held more sacred that the commands of God. He quotes one of the well known commandments from “THE 10 COMMANDMENTS”. “Honor thy father and mother...” The word Corban refers to gifts. It was one of the traditions of the elders primarily used to bypass the command to Honor thy father and mother. In those days, children were financially responsible for their parents. If they had the money that enabled them to care for them the children were expected to do so in order to fulfill the command to Honor one’s parents.
When someone gave the vow of Corban what they essentially did was vow to give that sum of money to the Temple as a gift. So, if a child wanted to be freed from the expectation to care for his parents he would give the vow of Corban on his entire estate. The thing about this vow was that while they had promised it to the Temple they did not have to give it until their death. So, as long as they lived they could utilize the money, live on the land, and profit from the wealth of the estate. However, they were not allowed to give any of their estate to someone else. They were not even allowed to give it to their parents. So, if one wanted to be free of the command to financially care for their parents they would pronounce Corban on their estate, live off of the estate, enjoy the pleasures of the estate, but not be expected to give anything to his parents or help his parents in any way.
Through this “tradition of the elders” they could actually circumvent the actual written LAW OF GOD.


Jesus called these religious leaders hypocrites because they portrayed themselves as Spritually Devoted and Dedicated, but they were more dedicated to their traditions than they were to the Law of God. They sure were spiritual. After all, look at how much of the law they keep. But they were not keeping the law. Instead, they were following the “commands of men”, the “traditions of the elders.” They were far from following the commands of God. So, Jesus calls them out for attempting to question his disciples over something as little as not washing their hands before they eat when they dismissed the weightier matters of the law.

Religion Does not Make You Spiritual

- “But we are all as an unclean thing, And all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities like the wind, have taken us away.
This verse is not meant to make us believe we should not do good things. It does not mean we should not strive to be good people. What it does mean is that we cannot think highly of ourselves just because we do good things or that we strive to be good people. Our sin has blackened our hearts and no good that we do can erase all the bad things we have done.

Dedication to Spiritual Rites

Some people think that they can become spiritual by simply following a list or collection of religious rites. We know this to be false for that is exactly what Jesus was pushing back against in this passage. The idea that you follow a list of rules seems to make you think that you are spiritual, but Jesus said they were hypocrites. They certainly were dedicated to keep the religious rites of the elders. Jesus made it clear they were allowing their religious rites to overshadow that actual words of God.
Anything, regardless of how much good perspires from is not good enough to make a person spiritual simply by staying dedicated to it.

Dangers of Sacred Traditions

Dedication to a set of Spiritual Rites does not make you spiritual; in fact, there are dangers to sacred traditions. Like it is recorded here in our passage the “traditions of the elders” had become so important to the Pharisees and the scribes that they actually preferred them over the actual Word of God. What a danger it is when we begin to allow the sacred traditions of men to put us at odds with God and His Word. When we allow traditions to overshadow the Word of God we are in major trouble. Being good and doing good is something for which we should all strive for, but when traditions begin to determine good and bad then it means that man is determining what is righteous and what is evil. When fallen mankind begin to make those determiniations we are left to ourselves to “determine that which is right in our own eyes.” This causes personal heartache, divine judgment, and extreme emptiness for Jesus quotes Isaiah by saying, “their heart is far from me.”

Direction to Seeking Souls

If we cannot be spiritual by simply being good, if we cannot be spiritual by acting good, and if we cannot become spiritual by keeping religious traditions then how do I become spiritual? This is exactly the question that the Pharisees and the Scribes must have left Jesus asking. If you cannot be spiritual by doing the things we are doing how does one become spiritual?

Acknowledge There is None Good

- “What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one;
- There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doesth good, no, not one.

Apply the Blood of Jesus

Apply the Blood of Jesus

- This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
-  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Assess Your Priorities

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