Jesus answered, “And why do you refuse to obey God’s command so that you can follow those rules you have? God said, ‘You must honor (respect) your father and mother.’ And God also said, ‘Any person that says bad things to his father or mother must be killed.’ But you teach that a person can say to his father or mother, ‘I have something I could use to help you. But I will not use it to help you. I will give it to God.’ You teach that person to not honor his father. So you teach that it is not important to do what God said. You think that it is more important to follow those rules you have.”
We cannot live or worship without traditions. Traditions help us make life more predictable and manageable. They give worship a sense of purpose and recognizability. The problem comes when we let our traditions force out the things and will of God.
In Matthew’s Gospel, we clearly see Jesus take on the huge traditional interpretation of the Law God had given to Israel. Jesus, as God with us, brings us in word and action a demonstration of what God intended from the Law. He challenges many of the accepted traditional practices and interpretations. He moves directly back to God’s will.
For us to be true disciples, we must learn from Jesus what God’s will is. Here, he reminds us that NOTHING, no teaching or tradition, can be allowed to replace the clearly stated will of God. Otherwise, those who are hungering to find God get left out and those who know all the little rules and traditions can feel smug and saved. Jesus came so the last could be first and the first last. When tradition crowds out the will of God, the truth is lost, from first to last!
Righteous Father, keep my heart open to your will above all other things. I want to serve you and please you and bring you joy. Please don’t let my mind become clouded by confusion and lose sight of your desires. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Today’s Verses in Context
Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus. They came from Jerusalem and asked Jesus, “Why do your followers not obey the rules given to us by our great people that lived before us? Your followers don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Jesus answered, “And why do you refuse to obey God’s command so that you can follow those rules you have? God said, ‘You must honor (respect) your father and mother.’ And God also said, ‘Any person that says bad things to his father or mother must be killed.’ But you teach that a person can say to his father or mother, ‘I have something I could use to help you. But I will not use it to help you. I will give it to God.’ You teach that person to not honor his father. So you teach that it is not important to do what God said. You think that it is more important to follow those rules you have. You are hypocrites ! Isaiah was right when he spoke about you. Isaiah said: ‘These people say they honor me, but they don’t really make me an important part of their lives. Their worship of me is for nothing. The things they teach are only rules that people have made.'” Jesus called the people to him. Jesus said, “Listen and understand what I am saying. It is not the things a person puts in his mouth that make him wrong. It is the things a person says with his mouth that make him wrong.” Then the followers came to Jesus and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees are angry because of what you said?” Jesus answered, “Every plant that my Father in heaven has not planted himself will be pulled up by the roots. Stay away from the Pharisees. They lead the people, but they are like blind men leading other blind men. And if a blind man leads another blind man, then both men will fall into a hole.” Peter said, “Explain to us what you said earlier to the people.” Jesus said, “You still have trouble understanding? Surely you know that all the food that enters a person’s mouth goes into the stomach. Then that food goes out of the body. But thebad things a person says with his mouth come from the way a person thinks. And these are the things that make a person wrong. All these bad things begin in a person’s mind: evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual sins, stealing, lying, saying bad things against other people. These things make a person wrong. But not washing his hands before he eats does not make a person wrong.”Matthew 15:1-20
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