The Problem with Traditions

Mark 7

Friday, July 29, 2022

How easily can we judge others for not upholding our standards which don’t even derive from the word of God? In Mark Chapter 7, the religious leaders gathered around Jesus and began to ridicule him and his disciples for not upholding their traditions. They didn’t even pretend that this was the command of the Lord, they said to Jesus, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” The sad thing is that they wanted to enforce their traditions on others. Jesus quickly rebukes them with the words of the prophet Isaiah, “These people honor me with their lips, But their heart is far away from me…”. It is a matter of the inner man (the heart), these people acted for an outward display of “their righteousness”. “For they loved the approval of man rather than the approval of God”(John 12:43). Jesus goes on to say “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition”.

It’s so easy to look at the Scribes and Pharisees and ridicule them for being so unbelieving. However, if we’re being honest, the modern day church is a lot like them and maybe it’s become worse. Let us ask ourselves, have we become experts in setting aside the word of God to hold to our traditions? Have we skillfully misinterpreted texts and passages to alter the identity of Jesus Christ? Have we become experts at downplaying scripture which glorifies the all powerful saving grace of God? Maybe the church relates to the Scribes and Pharisees a lot more than we think, “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done, so there is nothing new under the sun”(Ecclesiastes 1:9). “Let us examine ourselves” but let us also be merciful because, “this man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross”(Acts 2:23). Could it have been any other way? There had to be the unbelieving ones who would hand him over. The Scribes and Pharisees were clay in the hands of the potter. They were doing only what God’s plan intended. Did Jesus not have to die for the sins of the world? Would we have forgiveness of sins if he hadn’t? 

Later on in the chapter, Jesus declares that it’s the things that flow from the heart that defiles a person, and not that which enters, “(Thus he declared all food clean)”. Jesus is speaking of the works of the flesh and sinful nature we have inherited. Romans 11:32 says “For God has shut up all in disobedience so that he may show mercy to all”. And again, “the body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable”(1 Corinthians 15:42). For a temporary purpose God has given us corruptible, sinful, and perishable bodies. However, “Just as we have borne the image of the earthly, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.”(1 Corinthians 15:49). Out of the heart (inner man) flows these sinful actions and thoughts. But thanks be to God who gives us his spirit to purify the inward man to be renewed day after day. Romans 8:29 says “For those he foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son…”. It is an ongoing process that we are being made into the image of God, we are being conformed, even as I type this and even as you read this. “For God is at work in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure”(Phil. 2:13). 

Later on in Mark 7, Jesus performs a miracle and heals a deaf and dumb man. Jesus says “Be opened!”, “And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and began speaking plainly”. The people spoke “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak”. Before I give the spiritual revelation on what Jesus is doing, these things can still happen today. God can still do miracles because “For I, the Lord, do not change”(Malachi 3:6) God is still just as powerful today as he was back then. Okay moving on, what is happening? “However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.”(1 Corinthians 15:46). Jesus is doing something first that we can see and experience with our eyes, then he will later perform the spiritual. There was evidence naturally that the man could now hear and speak. “Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear”(Deuteronomy 29:4). God has to open our eyes and ears and hearts spiritually for us to understand and perceive the things of the spirit. Jesus opened the man’s ears to hear naturally, but Jesus opens ears now to hear and perceive spiritual truths. “But the person without the spirit of God does not accept the things that come from the spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:14). And again “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so”. (Romans 8:7). The person without the spirit of God cannot understand. The person who Jesus doesn’t say “Be opened!” to, cannot yet perceive. This however, is only a temporary purpose, “for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea”(Habakkuk 2:14).  Jesus opens our hearts, minds, and ears by giving us the spirit of God so that we can hear and speak the truths of God. Otherwise, we cannot hear. It’s a miracle from God for us to understand spiritual truths. “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted”(Matthew 13:11). 

-Ryan Prott (recently earned his Associates degree from Atlanta Bible College and currently serving in Arkansas)

Application Questions

  1. Truthfully consider, what human traditions do you hold tighter to than to the commands/word of God? Why is this a problem? What changes need to be made?
  2. Pray, asking God to open your eyes, ears, and hearts to spiritual truths. Who else will you pray this prayer for?

Writing the Law on our Hearts

After being taken out of Egypt, crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, grumbling their way through the Desert of Sin and failing many tests, the people of Israel have made it to Mount Sinai where God is going to meet with them and establish the rules for them.

Exodus 19

3 Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. 6 And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”

Then, after Moses runs up and down the mountain several times, God gives the ten commandments to the people, and it was completely overwhelming.

Exodus 20

18 When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear.

19 And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!” 20 “Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!”  

21 As the people stood in the distance, Moses approached the dark cloud where God was.

When the Israelites saw the pure raw power of God displayed before them they were terrified and realized that they had been disobeying and testing the one true God.  But this encounter was very impactful and the Israelites stuck to the ten commandments and the rest of the law until the time of Jesus, but we do see that their teachers had really perverted the commandments by then.  

In today’s New Testament chapter (Mark 7) Jesus is talking to some of the religious leaders, and they are mad because his disciples are not washing their hands before a meal, which is an old religious tradition from the time of Moses.  Jesus is disgusted with them because of the cleanliness of their hands contrasted with the perversion in their hearts.

Mark 7

9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”

14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.

We have talked a bit about remembering what God has done for us, and having it in as obvious of a place as possible to remind us so that we do not forget about what God did for us, and this often leads to traditions, which can be very good to remind us.  For instance we have Christmas as a time to remind us to celebrate and thank God for sending Jesus, but it has turned mostly into a celebration of consumerism and credit card debt.  In all of this we need to remember that it is what comes out of our heart that is the most important.

-Chris Mattison

Links to today’s Bible reading Exodus 19-20 and Mark 7

Do You Get It?

Malachi 1-4


Wednesday, April 26

Have you ever tried reasoning with someone who just doesn’t get it? After reading Malachi that’s exactly how I felt. At this point the temple is built and the Israelites are settled back into their traditions and way of life. They are now waiting for the prophecies of their Messiah to be fulfilled. But with this wait and settling in came the return of sin, doubt and once again a disconnection and separation from God.

The Israelites began to sacrifice improper animals, they were withholding tithes, they were marrying outsiders, they weren’t obeying and honoring the covenant they had with God. With all this corruption going on they refused to see themselves as the problem. Instead they put the blame on God questioning his very love for them (Malachi 1:2) . Almost desperately God points the finger back at them, reminding them of his great love and his promise of a messiah. He urges them to take responsibility for their actions and remember to obey the covenant they have with Him.

I found it interesting that the last book of the Old Testament left me with a feeling of desperation. You felt the need for the Messiah and I almost couldn’t wait for him to come, then I realized: wait, Jesus did come! Today we have a new covenant with God, one that is fulfilled by grace through Jesus Christ.


I hope you get it.


-Elleigh Dylewski


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