From The Heart

Some Pharisees and scribes came from Jerusalem. They had often made the journey to assist local leaders in their rulings of civil matters and in daily affairs. The Jewish community in the region, like every other, depended on their guidance to faithfully keep the law as they went about their daily activities. For this reason both the Pharisees and scribes were highly respected. The Pharisees were known for their zeal for God, while the scribes were experts in their knowledge of the Word of God.

While attending to various matters these leaders from Jerusalem noticed that some men did not wash their hands in the prescribed way. It mattered not who these men were; they were transgressing the tradition and were therefore judged accordingly. "Now when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is with unwashed hands, they found fault." (Mark 7:2)

The matter was serious as the washing of hands was considered an act of worship. It was a declaration before God that the participant's worship came from the purity of clean hands. As these men were disciples of Yeshua, the leaders approached Him for an explanation.

"Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, (Yeshua) 'Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?'" (Mark 7:5)

The tradition of the elders had been in existence since the days of Moses, and had become such an integral part of the application and understanding of the law in daily life that it held equal status with the law – it had become sacrosanct, and its ruling was as binding as the law. Perhaps the danger was not so obvious. But what would happen, as in this instance, if the tradition overshadowed the law?

The greatest commandment is, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:5) T he washing of hands did not necessarily mean that one had a clean heart.

"He (Yeshua) answered and said to them, 'Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: "This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, and in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men – the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.'" (Mark 7:6-8)

By placing importance in upholding the tradition the leaders had actually laid aside the commandment of God. The leaders had over-emphasized the importance of clean hands, without giving proper consideration to the condition of the heart. Therefore, the integrity of the commandment of God, which is to have a pure heart, was compromised.

It did not matter how many times a man washed his hands if his heart were not pure before God – he was defiled. Similarly, only when his heart was clean did the washing of hands have any relevance.

What was happening in Yeshua's day was that the commandment of God was being laid aside in order to observe and keep the tradition of men, just as it was in Isaiah's day.

What Isaiah prophesied to the people of his day, Yeshua applied to the Pharisees and scribes of His day, in that they honoured God with their lips, while their hearts were far away. Even though their lips uttered words of wholeness, their hearts were not.

"And he said to them, 'All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, "Honour your father and your mother"; and, "He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death." But you say, "If a man says to his father and mother, 'Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban (that is, dedicated to the temple)'"; you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.'" (Mark 7:9-13)

Indeed, the situation was much worse. The commandment of God was being more than overlooked; it was being rejected.

An example was given to the Pharisees and scribes to consider. According to their commandment, a man was no longer bound to bless his father and mother from his substance if he had decided to dedicate it to the Temple. Consequently, he was free of any obligation to bless his father and mother. However, to act in this way the man was actually cursing his father and mother. Therefore, his actions were contrary to the commandment of God to "Honour your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death." (Mark 7:10)

In truth, the spiritual leaders of the Jewish community were misusing and abusing their positions by enforcing their own commandments. Yeshua showed clearly how their commandments made the commandment of God useless and ineffective. The Pharisees and scribes knew it was true, and silence fell on those who had gathered.

Yeshua boldly taught the truth. "And when he had called all the multitude to him, he said to them, 'Hear me, everyone, and understand: there is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!' (Mark 7:14-16)

"Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?' And he said, 'What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornication, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.'" (Mark 7:17-23)

The Lord God, the God of Israel, sees the heart of a man and considers his actions. He looks for those who will worship Him from a pure heart. His Anointed One, Messiah Yeshua came not only to teach and to demonstrate this truth but to fulfil it. " Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil." (Matthew 5:17)

In keeping with the fulfilment, the Messiah gave up His life, therefore God has made Him the Way. God has determined that all who believe in His Messiah, the Holy One of Israel, are cleansed. God has declared that only in His Messiah will sins be forgiven.

"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 practise the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus the Messiah His Son cleanses 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." (1 John 1:6-9)