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In Clean and Unclean-Blind Guides, the Pharisees confront Jesus about observing their traditions and He confronts us with the choice of following religious traditions or God's Word. 

Clean And Unclean-Blind Guides

Harmony Of The Gospels Series-20, MT 15:1-20

For more information about Jesus see these books on the History of Jesus Christ

Throughout history, we've set up religious practices to attempt to "reach" God. We inherently know we're not good enough for God, and, so every one of these religions has some ritual, law, or other vehicle to "purify" us. Sadly, we didn't get the memo God sent us about mercy, and how, all we need is to believe He loves us and accept him in our lives. So, we keep inventing religious practices. In fact, in doing so, we keep placing ourselves at odds with the very God we're so desperate to reach. Today, we'll look in on just one episode in the struggle between God and religion. It's one in which Jesus takes on the religious leaders of His time. We'll review the practices then, and see why they conflict with the mission of Jesus. Our purpose isn't to learn a bunch of details about a culture from long ago and far away. Instead, we want to capture something for here and now…something that impacts our lives today…a 'timeless truth'. The truth we can capture from this episode of Jesus' life is this:

We must choose between following religious tradition and following Jesus.

This seems odd because of what we're taught about religion in school and in society at large; that all "religions" are generally good, equal, even interchangeable and all teach "virtues" that are socially beneficial. We've all learned some version of this unless we were raised in a culture that favors a specific religion. Today, we'll learn that, in the kingdom of God, we must believe in and follow Him, rather than our own religious traditions. Our Scripture lesson shows us that Jesus is in conflict with religious tradition.

1. Conflict: vs 1-9 "Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!" Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: "‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men."

Those were unique times in Israel's history; they were ruled by Rome through a Governor, but were allowed to govern themselves as long as they didn't revolt against Rome. They governed themselves through a council of religious leaders, much like the Taliban in Afghanistan, not long ago. The council was in charge of the people's social and religious behavior. Violate their religious rules and you could be fined, imprisoned or even stoned to death. They had rules about everything. Just as with the Taliban in Islam, these rules bore little resemblance to their alleged Scriptural source. They were silly and cumbersome, hundreds of rules on what was and wasn't "work" on the Sabbath, rules for washing cups, saucers and hands before eating anything, all purported to bestow a certain holiness on the follower. Everyone knew these rules were meaningless, because the religious council practiced them, but still stole, lied and cheated. It was these religious leaders that came to 'judge' Jesus. We begin to understand why He showed them little patience.

Not much has changed since then. Leaders of a thousand religions still twist God's Word to abuse His people. A recent movie (Chocolat') is based on modern "Pharisees" twisting Christian teachings to strangle the life out of Christ's Church in a town so steeped in 'tradition' that anything new is taken as sin and strongly condemned. Kinda' like how U.S. religious people regard TV. and the Internet, this town condemns a woman for the "sin" of opening a Chocolate shop. The movie has a good ending which I won't share-you'll have to see it. The story's point was clear. It reminded me of the Pharisees in today's lesson:

Religious tradition revolves around sacrifice, exclusion, and judgment.
Christianity revolves around celebration, acceptance, and mercy.

Jesus taught, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." Mt 9:13. To reduce Christ to religious tradition is a…

Continued at Clean And Unclean-Blind Guides-2

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