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Daily Bible Readings

Righteous Dishwashing and Hand Washing

Posted by Dan Sullivan on

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.)
Mark 7:1–4 ESV Read More

This is one of a few times that the Pharisees get mad about Jesus and His disciples not washing their hands before they eat. No, they are not a bunch of grandmas, there is a method to their madness. 

The Pharisees believed that if they could get everyone in Jerusalem to follow the whole law without a single slip for one day, the Messiah would return and the Kingdom of God would be ushered in. Their job, as they saw it, was to tell everyone what they were doing wrong and to work hard at making them do right so that the Messiah would take over the world and eliminate all evil once and for all. With that in mind, you can see why they would hate sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, and the like, because cause it’s those people’s fault that the Messiah didn’t come back today!

In the Levitical Law of Moses, a priest must ceremonially wash his hands before he approaches the altar with a sacrifice, otherwise the sacrifice is unclean and doesn’t honor God. The Scribes wrote extra laws on top of that and reasoned that since every man is the priest of his home, and the dinner table is the altar of his home, if he eats at that table with unclean hands, it is the same as bringing a sacrifice to the altar in the temple with unclean hands. 

They had holiness and righteousness messed up in at least two different ways. 

  1. They were trying to manipulate people to do stuff to be holy.  Any act of righteousness or holiness that is genuine comes from a movement inside of us. We may be compelled to give money to a charity but when we give out of guilt or pride, God uses the money but isn’t pleased with our hearts. When I make my kids read their Bible, one thing happens. When I tell them how awesome my Bible time was today and leave a Bible out near them, something entirely different happens. The Pharisees thought they could make people holy by making them do a bunch of stuff. When they didn’t have enough to do, they made up more laws to make people more holy. 

  2. They were trying to manipulate God. By thinking that they would make God honor them by returning, they were flipping the tables of blessing and judgment to make themselves the holy ones. Whenever we make ourselves a judge of who is holy and who isn’t, we bring Christ down. Instead of helping other people ascend in righteousness, the Pharisees would typically identify things that were wrong and create new laws or new customs to restrict that wrong from happening again. That’s where the washing of cups and pots and dining couches come in. The more you think God’s actions, like His blessings and curses, count on you and what you do, the more laws you’re going to have. The more you think God’s actions come by grace, the more freedom and mercy you are going to have. 

So wash your hands! But not for the sake of holiness. 

And don’t judge others that don’t wash their hands. They might be yucky, but it doesn’t make them unholy. 

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Tags: freedom, grace, judgment, law, legalism, maturity, pride