The Tradition of the Elders

Mark 7: 1-13
Gen 1: 20—2:4 / Psa 8

Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.
(Mark 7: 13)

What traditions can purify us,
What man-made rituals can make us clean?
Nothing but by the Blood of Jesus
That had washed away all of our sins.

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of His disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed… So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?” He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ” ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” (Mark 7: 1-13)


When asked by the Pharisees and scribes why His disciples were not following “the tradition of the elders” by eating with hands unwashed, Jesus simply answered them that they committed the greater sin of violating the commandments of God by upholding their own man-made traditions. As an example of their transgressions, He cited the fourth commandment in Deuteronomy (“Honor your father and your mother”) which they had set aside in favor of a man-made law of giving the money intended for their support to the priests. Farther on in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus pointed out that it is not eating with dirty hands that defiles a person, but what he puts in his heart which comes out of his mouth that defiles him (Mk.7:15-16).

The Pharisees were a tight sect of Jews who were passionate in their desire to appear purified. But they were only “purists” in the sense that “the tradition of the elders” must be preserved at all costs. But as Jesus pointed out, they placed heavy burdens — the yoke of man-made laws– upon the people which was never God’s intention. They were hypocritical in being more concerned about the external appearance of piety and righteousness than with having a pure heart. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and self-indulgence” (Mat.23:25). “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” (Mk 7:13)

Jesus teaches us in Mark’s Gospel today that evil in this world thrives under the shadow of man-made laws that tend to subvert the will of God. They darken the truth, and cloud men’s minds in ignorance. Thus we have the evils of divorce, abortion, same-sex marriages, euthanasia, and all other lies propagated by Satan as license for man to have the freedom to “live life to the full.” When actually these are all products of the culture of death.

God became man so that we could have a model in the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. We only have to follow His Word in the Bible to realize that He is the true way to a life of sanctification. The tradition of the elders are man-made laws designed by the evil one to shield man’s disobedience to God. The pleasures of this world only serve to blind us, and divert us from the real happiness of God’s kingdom. True happiness can only be achieved if we first strive to be holy. Christ invites us to this path by rejecting the traditional ways of this world and following Him in His Gospel teachings.

Lead us, dear Lord Jesus by the power of Your Spirit in the right path of holiness. Give us the courage and strength to bear our crosses in life that we may truly be worthy of Your Name and the Father’s love. Amen.

Comments are closed.