Dangerous Traditions

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?

Mt. 15:1-3

I was reading the other night in Matthew’s gospel and was struck by this passage. Jesus is challenged by Pharisees because Jesus’ disciples break the “tradition of the elders.” Jesus responds quickly by highlighting the Pharisees’ preference for the “traditions of the elders”over “the commands of God.” How often are we guilty of the same? What’s worse is the fact that I’m not certain if we are really aware how pervasive the “traditions of the elders” are in our lives.

How often do we stop and reflect on our behaviors and practices? When is the last time we turned off all those things which could so easily distract our minds to honestly reflect on whose “traditions” we actually embody? The world, flesh, and devil are aligned against us, and most likely not necessarily in obviously devious ways. I believe we are subtly lured from the truth to non-truth. Are we paying close enough attention?

In Matthew 16, Jesus tells his disciples he is going to Jerusalem to suffer at the hands of sinners, to be killed, but will rise from the dead. Peter rebukes Jesus! Peter thinks he knows better than Jesus. Peter knows the “traditions of the elders” that a crucified messiah is a failed messiah. In Peter’s mind, there can be no way God’s plan includes the humiliating death of his Chosen One. After all, other messiah-claimers have come along, and non were successful. Peter preferred the safe traditions instead of Jesus.

What is wild is all the times Peter has witnessed Jesus’ power. By Matthew 16, Jesus has healed countless diseases, calmed waters, changed water to wine, fed 5000, and then fed 4000 others. Time and time again Jesus has demonstrated a power, authority, and knowledge the world and “traditions of the elders” couldn’t match. Yet, he preferred the traditions so much so that he challenged Jesus.

What are our preferences?

In what ways do we transgress God’s commands by obeying the “tradition of elders” over His law?

How has culture’s “tradition of the elders” rooted itself into our soul?

I encourage you to make time to get alone and get quiet and listen carefully for the still, small voice speaking to you not in the whirlwind or the earthquake, but in the breeze of the Spirit through your heart.


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