March 3, 2018
“Healing Elders and Outsiders”
Pharisees and scribes have come from Jerusalem up to the north, to see this Galilean phenomenon. The rock star and his groupies, roadies, security team are not keeping kosher. The narrator feels it is necessary to explain these practices of ritual purity in Judea in Jesus’ time – presumably because we are not longer there, or then.
The shape of the opposition has moved from Herodias and Herod against John, and the odd scholar in a bigger crowd, to Pharisees and scribes speaking, not just thinking, challenges to Jesus. Jesus. Remember this pattern of conflict about ‘working on the Sabbath’ put the Pharisees and Herodians together to conspire together against Jesus? The narrative presents escalation, with experts from the city.
The Pharisees and scribes challenge Jesus – why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands? It seems a legitimate question, to the religious. Jesus calls them hypocrites, not in our pejorative sense of deceit, but in simple dissonance between ideals and practice. He cites Isaiah at them for lip-service, but not heart-felt commitment to God. He says they confuse human, cultural rules with knowing God stuff. Woe to you who abandon Torah for keeping kosher. As if that were a clear distinction and difference!
There is a challenge to traditional Temple Judaism here – and to some elements of the newly emergent synagogue Judaism of Talmud and diaspora, which the Pharisees led concurrently with the invention of Christianity. After the Temple is razed, these differences will grow, as two sibling movements claim the legacy of the earlier religion of the Temple. What old and new religious movements seem like this to you today?
Now when the Pharisees
and some of the scribes
who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around him,
they noticed that some of his disciples
were eating with defiled hands,
that is, without washing them.
(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews,
do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands,
thus observing the tradition of the elders;
and they do not eat anything from the market
unless they wash it;
and there are also many other traditions that they observe,
the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.)
So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him,
‘Why do your disciples not live
according to the tradition of the elders,
but eat with defiled hands?’
He said to them,
‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites,
as it is written,
“This people honours me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.”
You abandon the commandment of God
and hold to human tradition.’