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The tradition of the elders



Mark 7:1-13


When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of His disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned Him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother, and Whoever curses father or mother shall die. Yet you say, ‘If someone says to father or mother, ‘Any support you might have had from me is qorban’ (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”



You have set aside the commandment of god. Jesus rebukes the scribes and Pharisees for giving more importance to the “tradition of the elders” than to the Law of Moses. Among their practices are the detailed and precise rules for handwashing and purification of vessels. But Jesus unveils their hypocrisy and “fine art” of distorting God’s commandments in favor of their traditions.

Some people can manipulate laws so as to protect their interests while hiding the truth in the process. We can be so obsessed with rules and regulations that we like — even if they are not of divine origin — as to make them appear indispensable, while we set aside the more important laws of God.

We end up pleasing human beings more than God. We need to distinguish between God’s commandments and the laws we human beings create. The former are meant to promote good, to foster life and salvation. They are our guides so we do not go astray. Human laws and traditions are supposed to mirror God’s laws in promoting life and good. Unfortunately, some human laws can be oppressive.


SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2018,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail:; Website:

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