Wednesday, August 26th Mark 7:9-13

Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)— then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.” Mark 7:9-13

There are three ways that Jesus figured out that the Pharisees he was talking to were withholding financial support from their parents in order to give those gifts to God. (In other words, to accrue the personal prestige that goes with being a ‘big giver’ at church.)

He might have had insider information – a Pharisee who came to him to talk about the practice. Highly unlikely.

He might have used his Superman-like x-ray vision into their hearts. I suppose that would be a viable option should you opt to go that route.

Or, the practice could have been so widespread among the religious leaders that Jesus could just assume it was a common practice among his audience that day as well. Bingo! Jesus helps us see this is the answer in his words – “thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on.”

Justifying ourselves, building a case for what we want rather than what God wants, even using key Bible passages to build the case, is as old as the story of eating the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. Even there, the man is so intent on justifying himself that he even includes God in his self justifying explanation – the woman whom YOU GAVE TO ME…

Remember the days of listening to music on vinyl records? No matter how hard you would try to take good care of your records, no matter whether you always kept them in their sleeves, brushed them before and after every play, replaced the needle more often than necessary, they would still get scratched. And once scratched, every time you would like to that particular song it would skip or hiss or crackle.

My friends, we have all been scratched. We are all sinners. We are all given to the temptation to justify ourselves, our actions, our attitudes, our practices, both corporately and individually. We are blind and lame. We are broken. The best of us are no different than the rest of us.

So God comes among us in Jesus. And Jesus becomes for us both Law and Gospel. His words and actions hold a mirror in front of us that expose us where we are most unloving and most likely to fall short of God’s intentions. He, by talking straight to a group of religious leaders, is the Law of God in their lives, not some dusty rulebook that can be twisted and manipulated and swallowed up by ever evolving human traditions.

And Jesus is the Gospel. The one calling us still to honor our parents, still to receive our daily bread with thanks, whether or not we wash our hands before eating. For Jesus came, not to ridicule, belittle or reduce the Pharisees to ashes, but to love them (and us) to the very end.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, a great price is paid when we seek to justify that within and among us that fall short of your loving intentions for people. Forgive us for twisting life around to conform to our image of it, rather than embracing our calling and responsibility to be reflections of your image. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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