We all know it is important to wash our hands before eating or handling food. We don’t want to consume more than we bargain for! So it seems not unreasonable in this passage for the Teachers to be pulling Jesus’ disciples up on not having washed their hands. These are men who live an itinerant life, and opportunities to wash must have been haphazard to say the least. How kind of them to worry about the health of the disciples…
But that is not really what they are quibbling about. They are not talking about hygiene, but about ritual. It is not about washing your hands, or fruit, or pots and pans – all of which is necessary, but about washing them a certain way, a ritual way, almost a magic way as if it’s not done ‘that’ way, it doesn’t count. It is just another way of control and rules and regulations that add nothing.
They want to know why Jesus isn’t doing things ‘their’ way.
Jesus, quite bluntly, tells them that they would be better worrying about what comes out of their mouths than what goes in. There words and behaviour are far more toxic than any bacteria.
What they do and say to people is harming them, potentially killing them, and it is certainly not pleasing God.
There words and actions are meaningless, because they are about their control not God’s ways. Where is that love that our readings have spoken of all week?
Forgive me Lord,
when I make up rules
when I focus
on things that don’t matter,
on what does;
when I point to people’s errors
and don’t consider
what I am really doing.
take me from toxicity
Mark 7:1-8, 14-16, 21-23 (CEV)
The Teaching of the Ancestors
7 Some Pharisees and several teachers of the Law of Moses from Jerusalem came and gathered around Jesus. 2 They noticed that some of his disciples ate without first washing their hands.
3 The Pharisees and many other Jewish people obey the teachings of their ancestors. They always wash their hands in the proper way before eating. 4 None of them will eat anything they buy in the market until it is washed. They also follow a lot of other teachings, such as washing cups, pitchers, and bowls.
5 The Pharisees and teachers asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples obey what our ancestors taught us to do? Why do they eat without washing their hands?”
6 Jesus replied:
You are nothing but show-offs! The prophet Isaiah was right when he wrote that God had said,
“All of you praise me
with your words,
but you never really
think about me.
7 It is useless for you
to worship me,
when you teach rules
made up by humans.”
8 You disobey God’s commands in order to obey what humans have taught.
What Really Makes People Unclean
14 Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. 15-16 The food that you put into your mouth doesn’t make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.”
21 Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, 22 unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. 23 All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.