Traditions of Men – sermon notes – Unwashen hands was a tradition of men. The danger of traditions of men is they remove the effect of the word of God. Some of us need healing in our bodies. Could it be traditions of men hinder the healing? Could it be traditions of men stop the financial breakthrough from coming? Some need something positive to happen in our marriages. Could the problem be the traditions of men? How can I know? Let’s look at three necessities to free oneself from the traditions of men.
Scriptures: Mark 7:5-8, Mark 7:9-13, Mark 7:14-16, Mark 7:17-23
PARABLES OF JESUS
By Pastor Delbert Young
Traditions of Men
Unwashen Hands – Traditions of Men
I have the great pleasure and honor of being the senior pastor of a great church in LaFayette, Georgia. We have an exceptional church. When people move away from our area for professional reasons or school, etc. they always have difficulty locating a church similar to Life Gate. I never push them to simply find a church to attend. This parable explains my reasoning. Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees, said, Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition. Traditions of men make the word ineffective. I do not want this for people. Too often when they “find a church to attend” they are taught traditions. They lose the effectiveness of the word of God.
The Gospel of Mark chapter seven is set in an environment of excitement. Jesus had fed the five thousand (Mar 6:34-44). He had walked upon the sea (6:49). People brought to him in beds those that were sick (Mar 6:55). As the Lord would go into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole (Mar 6:56).
Pharisees and certain scribes from Jerusalem
Jesus was in the land of Gennesaret which would be about one hundred miles from Jerusalem. Even at this distance, the Bible tells us Pharisees and certain scribes came from Jerusalem (Mar 7:1). Obviously, they came to investigate and find faults with the ministry of Jesus. It did not take them long. They could not find faults with the Lord’s doctrine, so they found fault according to the tradition of men. I pray it is this way at our church. I pray when a Pharisee comes in to find faults, they immediately see us breaking the traditions of men. I have never been accused of bad doctrine. I have been questioned concerning the doctrine of men. The Pharisees and certain scribes saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands (7:2). This does not sound like sin to us, but if you had been told all your life by a tradition, it would.
Tradition in this context means projecting something as sin that is not or, projecting a doctrine as true, but not taught in God’s word. We need to note right off the bat the danger of a tradition. The Lord said, Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition. When a tradition is in force, the word of God is not effective.
The elders had created a tradition concerning washing hands. Not only should hands be washed, they must be washed in a certain manner. If the hands were not washed in the proper Pharisee manner, the hands were defiled. Barnes comments on the passage.
“. . . the Greek Word pugmee (NT: 4435) meaning properly the ‘fist,’ and the meaning here is, ‘Unless they wash their hands (rubbing them) with the fist – that is, not merely dipping the finger or hands in water as a sign of ablution, but rubbing the hands together as a ball or fist, in the usual Oriental manner when water is poured over them. Hence, the phrase comes to mean ‘diligently, carefully, sedulously.’-Robinson, Lexicon. The idea is, unless they pay the utmost attention to it, and do it carefully and according to rule.” (1)
The Greek word translated defiled is koinos (Strong’s #2839) meaning common, by the Jews, unhallowed, profane. The articles in the Tabernacle of Moses were sanctified, which is the opposite of “common.” If an unclean thing ever touched them, they became defiled and disqualified from being used for God’s purposes until they were cleansed and sanctified.
This entire incident perpetrated by the Pharisees, was to disqualify Jesus and his disciples. It was to cause him to appear defiled to the people.
This hand washing thing was not taught in God’s word. However, the Pharisees and scribes had projected it as though it had been written. The issue here is not if hands should be washed before eating. The issue is the Pharisees had made not washing hands in a certain manner before eating a sin. It was projected the person with the unwashen hands had displeased God. Not only had they displeased God and sinned, the person was defiled and not fit for God’s use.
Traditions come in two forms. First, an issue is taught as sin, but is not. Second, a doctrine is taught as the teachings of God, but are not.
Let’s work here just a minute. Is it a good idea to wash our hands before eating? Should we teach our children to wash their hands before eating? However, if you did not wash your hands before you ate, have you sinned? You understand not washing your hands before you eat will not send you to hell, so let’s put this into perspective for today. How many have heard a preacher say something like, “People who smoke cigarettes are going to hell”? They say something like, “You have defiled the temple of God which you are.” How about, “People who drink alcohol are going to hell”? Have you ever heard gambling was a sin? Have you ever heard something like a child should not be baptized until they were at least twelve years old? Have you ever heard a child should not have communion until the child was older than twelve? Have you ever heard something like anyone using any other Bible translation other than the King James’ version was of the devil? Have you ever heard tongues were of the devil? Those are a few traditions of the elders we are familiar with today. Let’s list a few more coming down over the years. How about women wearing pants; women preachers; women wearing makeup; women wearing jewelry; women not cutting their hair; going to the movies; watching TV; going to dances; wearing bathing suits. Again I say, these are traditions that make the word of God of none effect.
So, because we have heard those things for much of our lives, if we see a Christian smoking a cigarette, or drinking a beer, or buying a lottery ticket, we immediately think he or she is defiled. We have just made the word of God of none effect. The person has lost credibility to us and with whomever we tell they sinned. If there ever comes a time when we need the person to pray for or minister to us or our family, they will be ineffective. We will have no confidence in them.
It was in this arena the Lord here ministered. Someone did not like something and taught it as sin. Or someone had their own prejudice about a matter and taught it as the Lord’s doctrine. It will be interesting to see what the Lord had to say.
some of his disciples
I believe it is important to note the scriptures point out it was some of his disciples breaking tradition and not all of his disciples. Even though the disciples had walked with Jesus, only some had come to a place they would break the traditions of men. They had heard all their life not washing their hands in a specific manner was sin. Even though they walked with Jesus, they still were not free from the effects of the traditions. I need to learn from this and understand this point. People are not going to walk in our church and be as free from traditions of men as I am. It has taken me twenty years to break as many as have broken. A person could go to church here for years, and you still may not be free from some traditions.
Mark 7:5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
The Pharisees and scribes asked the Lord about this situation. Notice the question. The question was Why do your disciples break tradition. They asked, Why do your disciples not do things the way we do them, the way we preach them, and the way we have preached them for years? Washing hands had little to do with it. Their problem was Jesus was breaking tradition and teaching his disciples to break tradition!
I am not different for the sake of being different. I am different because I refuse to teach tradition and will only teach the word. Jesus would not conform to their traditions. He was the word made flesh. He was not different for the sake of being different. Jesus simply was not going to conform to their traditions because their traditions stopped the effectiveness of the word. Let’s see what the Lord answered. Are you ready?
Mark 7:6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
Mark 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Mark 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
O me! Isaiah did prophecy about those people (Isa 29:13), but the you hypocrites part was from the Lord. Jesus looked at those Pharisees and scribes who condemned people and projected false teachings with traditions and said “. . . you hypocrites . . .” The word hypocrites (Strong’s #5273) means “an actor or stage player.” In ancient days an actor would play more than one part in a play. If they were two characters in the play, they would wear a mask for one of the parts to separate the appearance of the characters. This is the thought I see Jesus projecting. These Pharisees and scribes wore the mask as they honored the Lord with their lips. When the mask was taken off, it became obvious their hearts were far from the Lord.
We must ask, “Is this true today as well?” Are those who hold the tradition of men actually hypocrites? Is everyone who says something is a sin, but the thing is not a sin, a hypocrite? Are their hearts far from the Lord? We need to see specifically to whom the Lord spoke. A Pharisee and the scribe knew the word. The scribes were the copy machines of their day. They constantly were transcribing the scriptures from old writings onto new manuscripts. They were paid to transcribe dot for dot and tittle for tittle. They knew the word and these scribes were certain scribes. They were professional scribes. The Pharisees were schooled for years in the scriptures. They were the professors of the scriptures. These who Jesus said were hypocrites were knowledgeable people. They knew the word. However, knowing their traditions were not from God’s word, they continued teaching the traditions as if they were from God. We will see why in a minute.
The little guy full of zeal getting behind a pulpit and says people are going to hell if they smoke cigarettes or buy a lottery ticket is not who Jesus addressed. Those are simply ignorant to what the word actually says. They heard their preacher say this so they say it. However, when we have a person who has studied the word for years, written books, and is extremely knowledgeable concerning the word of God, then, we have a hypocrite. When the person is very aware of what the word says and declares something different and continues to teach and preach the tradition, then we have a hypocrite. Also when a person is shown their error, but continues to preach it as though the word did say it, we have a hypocrite.
in vain do they worship me
The next statement by the Lord is shaking. The Lord went on to say, in vain do they worship me. Their worship is vain. Their worship is useless. Their worship meant nothing. Why was this? Because they were teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. We cannot afford to miss the statement. They knew better, yet continued teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, so their worship meant nothing. The hypocrites taught man’s false doctrines and ideas as the Lord’s doctrines.
Mark 7:9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
Mark 7:10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:
Mark 7:11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.
Mark 7:12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;
Mark 7:13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
These who hold to the traditions of men reject the commandment of God. This is a powerful statement. It did not matter what the word said. Their traditions took precedence. The hypocrites did not only add traditions to the word. They preferred their own tradition as superior to the word. These literally would reject the commandment of God to keep their tradition. The King James’ version says, Full well ye reject the commandment of God. They knew full well what they were doing. It was not they were ignorant of what they do. The NIV version adds more light.
(NIV) Mark 7:9 And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
These develop a fine way to set aside the commands of God in order to observe their traditions. Today I watch some of the best make their videos and commercials. They have a very fine way of teaching their traditions making the word of God of none effect. We have a hypocrite. Many have been shown and instructed in the truth, but reject the truth to observe their traditions. Why?
The Lord gave an example of how they would reject the commandment of God so they could keep their own tradition. The fifth of the Ten Commandments (Deu 5:16) says, Honour thy father and thy mother. Exodus 21:17 says, he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death. Jesus said, But ye say . . . The Pharisees and scribes came up with something they believed superior to what the Word of God said. They said if a person would give a gift [Corban – a pledge to God] then the person was released from the requirement of the word to assist their parents. Instead of teaching people to assist their parents, the Pharisees took the money the parents should receive. The commandment to honor thy parents was the first commandment with promise (Eph 6:2). The promise was Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee. The Pharisees literally removed the authority of the word by their traditions. They taught the people to curse their parents which shortened the days of their lives and stop the effectiveness of the word as to how things went for them. They made the word of God of none effect.
Mark 7:14 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:
Mark 7:15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
Mark 7:16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
At this point the Lord began to call the people to him. He was very emphatic. He said, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand. He was saying, “You need to listen to me.” “This is important.” “Every one of you needs to listen to me and you need to understand this.” He then said, nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. We will talk about the meaning in a moment.
Mark 7:17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.
Mark 7:18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
Mark 7:19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
Mark 7:20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
Mark 7:21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
Mark 7:22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
Mark 7:23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
Are ye so without understanding also?
Alone with the disciples, they asked the Lord to explain this to them. The Lord felt the disciples should have been able to understand this parable without the need of it being explained. Why would they not understand it? The reason is all their lives they had heard they were defiled if they did not wash their hands before they ate in a certain manner. They were now being challenged to adjust their thinking. If a person has been taught all their life smoking cigarettes is sin, it really doesn’t matter what I say. The person will question the truth and believe the tradition. This is, unless the person has ears to hear. Traditions are powerful enough to deactivate the word of God.
That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
Then the Lord gave the truth to the matter. The hands do not need washing to keep us from being defiled. It is the heart requiring washing. It is what comes out of the man that can defile the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. Perhaps recording these from the NIV translation may help us understand what some of these are attempting to say to us. Jesus said, For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. It’s not only what comes out of our mouths in words, it is also our thoughts and our actions. It is our greed and slander and arrogance defiling us.
The danger of the traditions of men is they remove the effect of the word of God. I am certain I still hold onto some traditions of men. I desire to get rid of them all because they stop the effects of the word of God. Traditions stop what I want the word of God to bring about in my life. Some of us need healing in our bodies. Could it be traditions of men hinder the healing? Some of us need a financial breakthrough. Could it be traditions of men stop the breakthrough from coming about? Some need something good to happen in our marriages. Could the problem be the traditions of men? How can I know? I give three necessities to free oneself from the traditions of men.
- Study the word of God for yourself. A person will never be freed from the traditions of men unless they study the word. A sermon or teaching once a week will not break the traditions of men. In fact, it could add more traditions.
- Have fellowship and discuss what I suspect is a tradition of men. People need to be involved to help keep me from deception. I need to ask and open myself to people asking them to investigate me and see if they observe any traditions. I desire the word to be effective in my life and the lives of my family.
- Attend Bible study classes. One of the primary purposes of our Bible study classes is for this exact purpose. We search the scriptures to see what is and what is not the traditions of men. We understand the power of traditions and desire to terminate their negative effects.
Other Related Sermons:
- Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft