Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by John Mark. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first twenty-three verses of the seventh chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find the introduction of yet another one of the religious groups which were present during the days of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Within this passage of scripture we find that Jesus continued to encounter the religious spirit which continues masquerading itself behind the masks of the religious system that was present during the days of Jesus upon the earth. Having already come through the New Testament gospel of Matthew—specifically the twenty-third chapter of the gospel account of the apostle—we are met and come face to face with the tremendous opposition the religious system and community Jesus faces and experienced within and throughout His life and ministry. The entire twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew is centered upon and centered around Jesus’ indictment of the Pharisees and the scribes who were in fact the religious and spiritual leaders during this days. The entire chapter describes and outlines the incredible and overwhelming hypocrisy and legalism of the religious establishment during that day. This particular chapter was one that perfectly and completely painted an incredible picture of the incredible legalism and hypocrisy of the religious system which was widely perceived as the religious and spiritual leaders of the day. What is so absolutely and incredibly interesting about this particular chapter is that it paints in proper light the Pharisees and the scribes which were in existence during the days of Jesus—groups of teachers and leaders who were widely and largely perceived as being the ones who would teach and lead the people into all truth and all righteousness. What is actually quite interesting and astounding about this is that almost from the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry we find Him calling out and indicting the Pharisees and the religious leaders which were present during that day. In fact, when you come to the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find him recording Jesus’ words when He spoke during the sermon in the mount. In this particular sermon we find Jesus emphatically and boldly declaring that unless the righteousness of those who wished to follow Him exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees they would in no wide enter into the kingdom of heaven.
I have to admit that Jesus’ words which are written and found within the Sermon on the Mount are incredibly challenging when you actually take the time to read them. As you proceed with reading the sermon which Jesus spoke and taught unto the people you will find that what began with the attitudes and behaviors of the kingdom would quickly transition to an emphatic declaration and invitation to pursue and seek after the righteousness of the kingdom. Within this particular sermon Jesus clearly compares and contrasts the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven as firstly set against the righteousness of the Pharisees and of the religious leaders which were present during that day. Jesus was sure to compare and contrast the righteousness which proceeded from the Law of Moses—a righteousness which was of men and not God—with the righteousness which proceeded forth from the kingdom of heaven. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize the clear and present distinction between the righteousness which is according to the Law or Moses, as well as the righteousness of men which is according to the traditions of men, for this is precisely what the scribes and Pharisees sought to teach the people of Israel during those days. What’s more, is that when we come to this particular passage of scripture we find a showdown and confrontation between the traditions of men which were taught as law and as righteousness versus and set against the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven. In fact, I am convinced that in order to truly and priory understand that which is found in this passage of scripture we not only need to understand the righteousness of the religious system which proceeded forth from the traditions of men which were taught and presented as righteousness and obedience to the commands and statues of the living God. Within this passage of scripture—not only do we find the presence of the traditions of men which were taught as righteousness and obedience to the laws and commands of God, but we also find present within this chapter the presence of the offense, the accusation and the judgment of the Pharisees and religious suffer that was present during those days. We must recognize and understand this very important principle, for to kiss out and lose sight of it would be to fail to understand that which is truly taking place on this occasion.
I firmly believe that if we are to understand that which is found in this passage of scripture we need to come to terms with the accusation and condemnation of religion and of the religious spirit against the disciples of Jesus the Christ. What’s more, is that it is necessary that we recognize and understand the offense, the quarrel and the fault religion has always and will always find with the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, as well as with His followers and disciples. What we find within this passage of Scripture is not only the presence of religion judging the disciples of Jesus Christ based on their actions, which coincidentally violated the traditions which were established by men, but we also find the offense of religion and the quarrel which religion has always and will always have with the disciples of Jesus Christ—those who pursue the righteousness of the kingdom and not the righteousness which is of men and of traditions which have been created by men. Before we get into a revelation of the judgment of religion, as well as the accusation of religion, and even the offense and fault of religion, it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that which is found within this passage of Scripture. It is when you read the words contained within this passage of Scripture that you will find the Pharisees coming together with certain of the scribes from Jerusalem and making their way to Jesus. Why? Why would the Pharisees and certain of the scribes come unto Jesus from Jerusalem? What was their sole intent and their sole purpose in making their way from Jerusalem in order that they might come unto Jesus the Christ while He was with His disciples? The answer is actually quite simple and quite clear within this passage. Beginning with the first verse of this particular chapter we find the following words which were written and recorded by John Mark:
“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 deviled, 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, hold 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, brasen 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).
Please don’t miss and lose sight of that which is taking place within this passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture we find the scribes and the Pharisees basing their judgment, and finding fault with the disciples of Jesus Christ—not based on that which was commanded in the Law of Moses, but rather by that which was found in their own tradition and in the tradition of the elders. As you read this passage of Scripture you will find that the Pharisees and the scribes based their judgment and their accusation against the disciples solely and completely on their perceived violation of the tradition of the elders—a tradition of washing hands prior to eating any type of bread and meat. If you read this passage of Scripture you will find that everything centers upon, and everything is centered around the tradition of the elders, which might very well have been their own interpretation of the law, or might very well have been their own addition to the Law of Moses based on their own understanding and their own finite knowledge. What we must recognize and understand within this passage of Scripture is that within this passage we find the scribes and Pharisees deliberately and intentionally presenting themselves before and unto Jesus in order that they might accuse them in His presence based on their own perception of the disciples violating the traditions of the elders which had been in place for quite some time. What’s worth noting, and what’s worth mentioning is that as you read the words which are contained within this passage of Scripture you will find that what is found first within it is the perception of violation of the traditions of the elders, and it is from and based on that perception we find the Pharisees and scribes finding fault with the disciples of Jesus. It was from that place of finding fault with the disciples of Jesus that we find the scribes and the Pharisees then accusing the disciples of Jesus before Him and in His very presence in order that they might present the disciples as being guilty of violating that which was taught as law, and that which was taught as righteousness and obedience before and in the sight of the living God. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand what is taking place in here, for there is within this passage multiple distinctly realities which are often found within and among the religious system(s) which are present within the church, and within the earth. I am utterly and completely convinced that in order to properly understand what is taking place and what is found in this passage of Scripture it is necessary for us to not only study what Scripture says in certain places concerning judgment, but also what Scripture says in certain places concerning accusation. To properly set the stage for that which is found within this passage of Scripture I am going to begin by calling your attention to that which Scripture speaks concerning judgment and the passing of judgment against another, and then transitioning to what Scripture speaks concerning accusation—specifically the accusation of the adversary against the righteous of God within the earth.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).
“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your Boston. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:35-38).
“Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon ever soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that workers good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Romans 2:1-13).
It is quite clear when reading these particular passages of Scripture that the Spirit of the living God is quite clear on the fact that we have never been, nor will we ever be released to cast and pass judgment on those which are before and around us. Within His Sermon on the Mount Jesus the Christ clearly and emphatically declared and proclaimed unto all those who were present on that day listening to Him speak that they were not, and had not been released to judge those which are before and those which are around them. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to declare that we dare not and ought not judge lest we find ourselves also being judged. As you read the words which Jesus spoke you will find that He went on to declare that with whatever measure we meted out, and with whatever measure we passed on to others, with that same measure we ourselves would receive. Perhaps one of the most interesting concepts of judgment is its reciprocity in nature, for Scripture seems to clearly indicate that judgment is one of those habits and one of those actions that seems to always have a reciprocal effect directly linked and directly connected to it. Jesus was quite clear that with whatever measure we judged another we would ourselves receive that same measure of judgment. What’s more, is that Jesus brought His hearers face to face with self-perception and self-examination before and preceding any form of judgment toward and against another. If you read the words which Jesus the Christ spoke, you will find Him speaking of pointing out the speck that is found within the eye of another, and yet being completely and utterly unaware of the mote and the plank that is present within our own eye. In all reality, it is quite possible that most who feel they are justified to cast and pass judgment have not thoroughly examined and looked at themselves in order to see that which they themselves need to address and deal with. Scripture is quite clear that we play a dangerous game when we set ourselves up as judges of others—particularly and especially when we refuse to confront and deal with the issues which are present within our own heart. The scribes and the Pharisees were incredibly quick to pass judgment against the disciples of Jesus—not based on that which was commanded in the Law of Moses, but based on the tradition of the elders which had undoubtedly been passed down within and through generations. The scribes and the Pharisees felt they were qualified and positioned to pass and cast judgment on the disciples of Jesus because of their perceived violation of the tradition of the elders which was being taught and propagated as righteousness and obedience to the living God. With that being said, it is now necessary and imperative that we come face to face with the voice and source of accusation which has long been masked and concealed behind religion and the accusation of religion among the disciples of Jesus and followers of the most High God. Consider if you will that which is found in the Old Testament book of Job, as well as that which is found in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ:
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and He will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord” (Job 1:6-12).
“Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? And still he holdest fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered the Lord, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes. Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips” (Job 2:1-10).
“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I hear da loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength,and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:7-12).
Everything we have read and considered thus far concerning judgment and accusation are absolutely and incredibly vital for our understanding that which is taking place on this particular occasion within the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and the disciples following Him. The seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark opens and begins with the Pharisees coming together with certain of the scribes which came down from Jerusalem, and coming unto Jesus for one specific reason and one specific purpose—to accuse and judge the disciples before and in the presence of Jesus. If there is one thing that I can’t help but recognize and understand when I read the words which are contained within the New Testament gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, it’s that Jesus experienced His greatest opposition—not from and within the demonic and spiritual realm, but from and within the realm of religion. If you take the time to study the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find that Jesus—and not only Jesus alone, but also His disciples—found the greatest opposition from the religious system and the religious community that was present during those days. What we have and what we find within this passage of Scripture is yet another example of the direct opposition Jesus and His disciples faced with and from the religious system and the religious establishment that was present during those days. ON this particular occasion we find both the scribes and the Pharisees coming unto Jesus after finding fault with Jesus’ disciples based on their observation of them supposedly violating the traditions of the elders. We must get and we must understand what is taking place here, for within this passage we find religion finding fault with the disciples and followers of Jesus—not based on a perceived violation of that which was commanded and that which was instructed by and within the Law of Moses, but based on the traditions of the elders. The accusation of the Pharisees and scribes within this passage of Scripture is based solely on their perceived idea and perceived notion that the disciples were not only violating the tradition of the elders, but were also defiling themselves by eating bread and eating meat with unwashed hands. That which is found and that which is contained within his passage of Scripture is absolutely and incredibly challenging, for it brings us face to face with our own ability to accuse others in the presence of Jesus based on our own interpretation of their actions. That which the scribes and that which the Pharisees engaged themselves in on this particular occasion was their own interpretation of the actions of the disciples of Jesus, and their perception that they were in violation of the traditions of the elders which had been passed down within and through the generations. It is necessary that we recognize and understand this, for it will help us to understand what is taking place within this passage—namely, finding fault with the disciples of Jesus and then accusing them before and in the presence of Jesus based on our own perceived interpretation of their actions.
What I so love about this passage of Scripture is the question which the scribes and Pharisees asked of Jesus, for after finding fault with the disciples of Jesus they proceeded to ask Jesus why His disciples walked not in and walked not according to the tradition of the elders. The scribes and the Pharisees inquired of Jesus why His disciples violated the tradition of the elders, and seemingly didn’t walk in and observe such tradition as though it was commanded by the living God Himself. This is quite interesting when you think about it, for that which we find the scribes and Pharisees doing within the lives of the disciples is placing the traditions of the elders in the same category and place as the commandments of God, and even in the Law of Moses. Within this passage of Scripture we find the scribes and the Pharisees condemning the disciples of Jesus for violating traditions of man rather than recognizing that which truly defiled and that which truly caused a man to be unclean. It’s worth reading this passage of Scripture for the scribes and Pharisees were deceived and ignorant concerning and regarding that which truly defiled and that which truly caused a man to be unclean—not only before the living God, but also among men. The scribes and the Pharisees perceived the disciples as being defiled and as being unclean because they ate bread and ate meat with unwashed hands, and yet they were completely ignorant to the fact that it wasn’t that which entered into the body that defiled a man, but that which proceeded forth from the body that truly defiled a man. Upon hearing the accusation and judgment of the scribes and Pharisees Jesus proceeded to declare concerning the scribes and Pharisees that Isaiah did well prophesy of them when he spoke of a people that honored God with their lips, and yet their heart was far from Him. Well did Isaiah prophesy when he spoke of a people who in vain worship the living God, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to emphatically declare unto the scribes and the Pharisees that they adhered and clung to the tradition of men while completely neglecting and ignoring the commandment of the living God. The scribes and the Pharisees were so incredibly consumed with the traditions of men that they were completely and utterly oblivious to the commandments of God. What’s more, is that they perceived that the traditions of men were in the same category as the commandments of God, and that violation of the traditions of men was worthy of accusation, judgment and condemnation. One thing we must recognize and understand concerning religion is that it has always and will always seek to accuse us based on an ignorance concerning the commandments of the living God. Religion has always and will always seek to accuse us based on its own interpretation of the commandments of the living God, and more often than not will set up its own traditions, regulations and rules for which the disciples and people of God should follow.
It’s worth noting within this passage that not only does Jesus speak of laying aside the commandment of God in order to hold to the tradition of men, but Jesus also speaks of making the word of God of none effect through the tradition of men. LAYING ASIDE THE COMMANDMENT AND MAKING THE WORD OF GOD OF NONE EFFECT. As I sit here and consider that which is found within this particular passage of Scripture I can’t help but be convicted and challenged by our ability to remove ourselves from underneath the authority of the word of God, and out from under the authority of the commandment of God because of our holding to the traditions of men. As I sit here and consider the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that what Jesus was truly speaking unto, and what Jesus was truly saying unto the scribes and Pharisees was not only that the word of God had no impact and no effect within their hearts and lives, but they were also removed from the authority that was found in the word of God, and in the commandments which are found and contained therein. Oh, there is a place where the word of God is of no effect within our hearts and lives, and there is a place where the word of God no longer has any authority within our hearts and lives. One of the most dangerous characteristics of religion and the religious spirit when it lays hold of and captivates the heart of an individual is that it causes such individuals to be brought out from under the authority that is found within the word of God, and the commandments of God no longer have any effect within one’s heart and life. Religion and the religious spirit is so incredibly dangerous, for it causes us to live and abide in a place where we are no longer able to allow the word of God to have any place and any authority within our hearts and lives. What’s more, is that this also indicates the fact that the word of God is no longer able to bring any conviction within our hearts and our spirits, for we move and operate in a realm that is outside that which is controlled by the word of God, and that which is controlled by the Spirit of the living God. What I find within this passage of Scripture is one of the most dangerous realities concerning religion—namely, that it limits, restricts and hinders the ability for the people of God to move and operate in a place of conviction by the Spirit of the living God, and by the word of the living God. Religion is so incredibly dangerous for it operates outside the realm and sphere of the word of God, and completely and totally limits and restricts the ability for one to be convicted by the Spirit of the living God when reading the word of God. The scribes and Pharisees laid aside the commandments of God for the traditions of men, and they made the word of God of none effect because they put in the place of the word of God the traditions of men. Oh that we would read the words which are found and contained within this passage and that we would carefully and thoroughly examine our hearts and lives in order that we might see whether or not we ourselves have made the word of God of none effect, and have allowed ourselves to come out from the place of being convicted by the Spirit of the living God because we have not given and do not give the word of God the true and proper place it needs within our hearts and lives.