When worship becomes farce (Mark 7:1-8)

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Jesus receives a delegation from Jerusalem. It’s kind of like the rabbinic version of an OFSTED visit. The scribes and pharisees have come to see him, to check out what he is saying and doing, to test him and no doubt hoping to trap him. It looks like they are welcomed in and offered hospitality. Yet they quicky find something to be offended at. Jesus’ disciples don’t go through ceremonial washing before meals.

To be clear, this is not an issue of food hygiene concerns rather it is to do with the religious distinction between clean and unclean.  The requirement for ritual purity has been developed into a whole system of rules and regulations by what Mark describes as “the traditions of the elders”. The disciples just get on with eating.  Notice that by implication they are not going against actual scriptural commands.

The Pharisees complain to Jesus about this expecting him to sort his disciples out. Instead, he challenges them directly.  They are so caught up in rules and regulations that they miss what really matters.  They pay lip service but their hearts are far from God.  Their obedience is skin deep, external, ritualistic but they don’t truly honour God. The result is that their worship turns to farce.

In what ways can we become obsessed with our own traditions and with finding outward ways of seeking to honour God?

What does it truly mean to love and honour God with your heart?

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