What a tremendous force tradition plays in our lives. A delegation of Pharisees and religion scholars came from Jerusalem with the intent of finding something in His ministry that they could oppose. The tradition that they chose was ritual washing.
The Jews had a practice of ritually washing their hands before they ate. The tradition did not come from scripture, but Pharisees had become so insistent about it that it had taken on the authority of scripture. Jesus’ disciples were aware of the practice, but, for whatever reason, in this case, they didn’t do it! And these legalists saw this as error, and they confronted Jesus.
The tradition had begun as an attempt to understand the Law. But over time, there was built up a tremendous mass of tradition, which demanded inflexible obedience and scrupulous observance of even the minor details. The purpose of the Law was forgotten.
This is what Jesus is dealing with. These Pharisees assessed Jesus and His disciples’ spirituality and they had concluded that Jesus couldn’t be righteous because He wasn’t doing what they expected Him to do.
Jesus responded to this legalistic attack by asking, “Why do you use your rules to play fast and loose with God’s commands?” Any accurate measure requires the use of proper instrumentation. If we use the wrong tools—the wrong instruments—then, no matter how diligently and carefully we use them, we’re going to end up with a faulty reading because we used the wrong criteria. This is where legalism fails—and Jesus calls them out on it.
The point: It’s never a good idea to let someone else measure our spirituality based on prejudicial and subjective criteria.
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