Thursday, January 19, 2017

Setting a Higher Standard

Mark 7:1-13

“Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.  And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.  For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.  And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.

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?” (Mark 7:1-5)

The Pharisees found themselves in quandary similar to the one many Republican found themselves in with the election of Donald Trump.   They were determined to prevent him accomplishing his goals, while fully aware that they could lose all credibility with the people it they openly opposed him.  They scrutinized every statement and action in an effort to find something they could use to discredit him, while pretending to go along with him. 

In Leviticus, god had given some simple rules for washing things to prevent the spread of disease,  By Jesus’ day the Jewish rabbis had developed a tradition of washing similar to surgical cleaning procedures that went far beyond simply preventing the spread of germs.  Though they knew nothing about germs, they were the original germophobes.   They insisted anyone who failed to follow the tradition would be punished  by God.    In many ways, they became like some people have become with the hand sanitizers in modern society, refusing to touch anything until they have wiped it down.   

The Pharisees from Jerusalem were all office workers and hardly ever did anything with their hands.  They could keep their hands constantly clean.  Many of Jesus disciples were fishermen or other kinds of workers whose hands were constantly dirty.  The Pharisees were offended that the disciples weren’t as worried as they were about dirt and blamed Jesus for not enforcing their rules.  They demanded to know why he was allowing it. 

“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.  Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.  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.” (Mark 7:6-8)

Jesus responded by quoting  from Isaiah 29:13, “…this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men.”  He went on to say that they had replaced God ‘s commands with their own ideas about what God should have said. 

“And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.   For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: 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.  And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” (Mark 7:9-13)

Because of the emphasis on using hand sanitizer, many people do not realize that ordinary soap kills more germs that the sanitizer does, but the soap contains no harmful chemicals, while the sanitizers contain several chemicals, including alcohol, that are absorbed through the skin and cause other health problems.  Those chemicals cause mutations in the germs and viruses, resulting in some varieties that are far more virulent and harder to kill, leading to worse problems.  It would be far better to simply use soap and water to wash one’s hands after touching than to use the sanitizer on something before touching it, because the germs and viruses are not absorbed through the skin. 

Just as the focus on hand sanitizers encouraged people to think they are safe while exposing them to greater dangers, the Pharisees rules about how to obey god had actually encouraged people to sin, thinking they were save.  They were implying that what God had required was not good enough, when in fact, it was much better.

God is perfect and so is his standard.  When people think they have a higher standard than he does, they need to realize they have gone over the top and are in danger of falling off the other side.  God’s standard is the highest possible.   Anything else is going downhill.  

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