SECTION 7: THE WITHDRAWL OF THE KING
RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS AND real defilement
THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND
Scripture To Consider:
“Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, ‘Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.’ But Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, “Honor your father and your mother’; and “He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death”‘“
“But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me has been dedicated to the temple”, ‘is released from honoring his father or mother.’ Thus, you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying, ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”
“Then Jesus called the multitude and said to them, ‘Hear and understand it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.’ Then His disciples came and said to Him, ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’ But Jesus answered and said, ‘Every plant that My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.’” Matthew 15.1-14
Something To Consider:
No sooner has Jesus crossed to the scenes of His earlier labors on the west side of the lake than the Pharisees and other so-called religious leaders from Jerusalem make a bitter attack upon Him. They declare that His disciples did not wash their hands when they ate bread. They did not mean that their hands were actually unclean, but that the companions of Jesus had neglected the ceremonial process of washing which Jewish tradition required.
The charge may seem trivial in our 21st century culture, but in fact, there is something ludicrous in the picture of supposed distinguished teachers making the long trip from Jerusalem solemnly to prefer such a charge against a great Prophet whose words and works were filling the land with wonder. However, to the mind of the Pharisees and so-called religious leaders, the traditions of the elders were to them matters of great importance.
These traditions consisted in the adding of collected man-ordained interpretations of the Old Testament law which was originally given by God to Moses and passed down by the Rabbis. These religious traditions had come to be regarded as of more importance and authority than God’s written law itself. To neglect these traditions was to these formalists the most serious of sins. This particular requirement of the washing of hands in a religiously prescribed manner before partaking of food was for some reason regarded as peculiarly sacred.
This charge gave Jesus an opportunity for rebuking the Pharisees and so-called religious leaders of His day, and it also gave Jesus an opportunity for showing the difference between religious traditions and real defilement. It opened the door wide to reveal the difference between purity of the soul and the observance of a form of religious behavior, and between true religion and false religion or true Christianity.
The Pharisees had accused the disciples of acting contrary to a human tradition. Jesus showed that it was possible in obeying human tradition to actually transgress divine law. Jesus sited an instance of what seems to have been a common practice among the Pharisees. According to an accepted tradition, if one pronounced over any property the word corban, which means a gift, that property was to be regarded as dedicated to God. No matter how thoughtlessly or deceitfully the word might have been spoken the vow must be kept. Even though a father or mother was in need of food, they might be allowed to starve but the oath could not be broken.
It was even suggested that a son might use such devoted possessions for his own comfort and enjoyment; but the law of God which required one to honor his father and mother might freely be set aside in order that the tradition of men might be sacredly observed. Jesus declared that this was and is the very essence of hypocrisy. He reminded the Pharisees that scrupulous observance of religious forms may be accompanied by utter disregard of moral law. This has been the peril of formalists, ritualists, and hypocrites of all ages.
Something Else To Consider:
In condemning the Pharisees Jesus quoted an appropriate passage from the prophet Isaiah: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” If the truth were told, in every generation since the time of Jesus, hypocritical leaders have committed the same spiritual crime as these so-called religious leaders Jesus addressed in our Scripture to consider.
And, if the truth were told, many false doctrines have been passed off as important as or more important than the written and preserved Word of God. Make no mistake about it, Jesus will deal with the 20th and 21st century wrongful, deceitful, and eternally damaging traditions of men when He returns and establishes His millennial righteous kingdom. Are we spiritually ready for the coming of end time events as described by Jesus and other insightful biblical writers? Or have we succumbed to any of the many false doctrines and end time traditions of men?
During this discussion with the Pharisees a crowd gathered. Jesus turned to them with the significant words involving the whole principle at stake, as He proclaimed, “Hear and understand it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man [woman, or young person].” The Pharisees had believed that the touch of a hand which was ceremonially unclean would defile the food which would in turn render the eater unclean.
Jesus strongly and rightfully suggested that the matter of eating with unwashed hands was not that which created spiritual defilement, but that the uncleanness which results from evil thoughts and an evil and impure heart truly defiled a person. The same is still true today some two thousand years later. And that is something else to consider!
The anger of the Pharisees was reported to our Lord, but He at once replied that His followers need have no concern. Men who are guilty of such hypocrisy were and are evidently not plants of the divine planting and they would surely be uprooted in time. These boasted teachers according to Jesus, were like blind men who were attempting to guide the blind. In the end, both they and their deceived followers who were made blind by their false teachings were certain to come to grief in the end.
More Scripture To Consider:
“Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Explain this parable to us.’ So, Jesus said, ‘Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man [woman, and young people], but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Matthew 15.15-20
Something More To Consider:
Peter turned to ask for a fuller explanation of the statement which Jesus had made. The Master at first rebuked him for his lack of spiritual perception but proceeds to further explain most clearly that real uncleanness is not a matter of the body, but of the spirit of a person’s heart. The only actual defilement is that of the soul. A man, woman, or young person is not made unclean by what enters into his or her mouth but by that which proceeds from their heart!
A person cannot be polluted by eating that which is ceremonially unclean, but only by thinking and doing that which is morally impure. To men of this present age, such teaching may seem elementary. There is need however, for its emphasis and for a new insistence upon reality in religion and upon distinguishing between what is formal and what is essential, between what is external and what is vital. To the Pharisees the teaching was revolutionary. It was a definite disclosure of their hypocrisy. It was a defiance of their proud claims. It was a defeat of their endeavor to discredit Jesus and or His disciples. It brought the conflict between Him and the so-called religious rulers to a climax.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were more concerned with ceremonial or traditional defilement than real sinful defilement. They were constantly pressing Jesus and or His disciples about trivial matters of traditions rather than exposing themselves to spiritual self-examination. To the so-called religious leaders, the transgression of the tradition of the elders was vastly more important than rightly responding to the conviction of God’s Spirit and God’s Word. All of this religious foolishness kept their minds busy with the everyday hypocrisy of their appearing religious without dealing with any inner conviction of sin.
With that said, how little have things changed in two thousand years? Can it be said that present day so-called religious ruling leaders honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him? Can it rightly be declared that many worship God in vain because they foolishly teach as doctrines the precepts and or traditions of men, or worse the evil doctrines of demons? According to Jesus, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
A Few Final Words:
Jesus was not overly concerned about offending the hypocrite style religious in appearance rulers of His day; nor is He overly concerned about His followers offending the so-called religious appearing leaders of our day. The key is in maintaining an attitude of restoration rather than an attitude of retaliation. Our motives should be driven by the desire to convert a person from error rather than to create conflict.
The stepbrother of Jesus, after believing in Jesus, wrote in James 5.19-20, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he who converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” If this process offends so-called religious leaders of the past, present, and or in the future, rather than converting one from error; then they have proven themselves to be as Jesus proclaimed, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”
Therefore, we are not to take part in the uprooting process of the ill-guided spiritually blind. That disciplinary action is to be left to our heavenly Father and His just discretion. Let us focus on the maintaining of pure hearts while desiring to live godly lives in Christ Jesus. Let us be found continuing to look unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.
Our Father in heaven, thank You for Your truly revealing to us that religious traditions, if they oppose Scripture, can and most likely will lead to defilement. Let us be found seeking first Your kingdom and Your righteousness as we pledge to endure to the end of this evil age or to the end of our blessed in Christ lives. And help us Father not to become among the blind leaders leading other spiritually blind individuals to a wrongful eternal destination. In Him Always Amen!