Mark 7:1-23 - Religion sucks!

How do you react to the idea of religious rules and traditions?  I have to say I'm not a fan!  I'm all for helpful habits and routines that do people good but the idea of having a tradition or a rule that simply exists because it always has, really grates with me.  Why keep doing something unless it's actually helpful?  And why keep avoiding something unless it's still unhelpful?  When people start thinking that their repeated actions have value just because they're repeated, I can't stand it!  When people think like this (and it can be atheists as well as theists), there's no good or bad - only repetition.  Unthinking creatures of habit who think they're fine as they are or worse, better than everyone else.  Yuck!

Mark 7:1-23

The Pharisees and teachers of the law were self-righteous creatures of habit who made loads of nit-picky little religious rules and regulations about almost everything to make themselves feel superior and to exclude those who didn't do the same (v3-4).  Jesus hates it!

Jesus has been miraculously healing the sick, feeding hungry people, driving out demons, walking on water and teaching with amazing authority.  What would your question be when you met him?  How corrupt and distracted would you have to be to ask him why he hasn't washed his hands before eating his lunch?  This is what the Pharisees did and it showed how far from God they really were (v5-7).

Jesus knows the Pharisees are hypocrites and verse 8 is at the heart of their problem: 'You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.'  The Pharisees have twisted and adapted God's rules in order to do whatever they like and not feel bad.  Jesus tells them, 'You nullify the word of God by your tradition' (v12).  

After this, Jesus teaches the people something about tradition by explaining that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.  It's not about clothes or hand-washing or diet or prayers or Bible study or church-going or meditation or education or psychology or anything else that people try in order to fix themselves.  There's nothing wrong with any of these disciplines but they can't hide or solve the problem of our selfish, evil desires.  Someone once suggested that piling up good deeds as a basis for our peace of mind is like spraying cologne on a corpse.  If we're dead inside, no amount of discipline will ultimately help us.  Jesus is so not about religion! 

And what about this human heart problem that Jesus has left hanging?  Maybe that's what Jesus wanted people to ask about.  And he's probably got something better in mind than simply another set of religious rules.  We need a better solution than that!

Are you missing the point of Jesus?  If you've been reading about him in Mark's account, you've read some pretty incredible things.  What's your reaction?  Do you carry on as you are?  I hope you're asking better questions than the Pharisees!

Mark blog