At the beginning of the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees and the Scribe, the church leadership of the time. They come to accuse Jesus of breaking tradition. Now, this was not an accusation of breaking the written law but was part of what was known as the oral law. The religious leadership stated that this oral law, as it was known, was passed down by Moses (Mishnah).
So, this claim of violation of tradition was not about cleanliness before God but a ceremonial washing of the strict Orthodox Jew (Mark 7:1-4).
Jesus' response cuts to the heart of the matter. He starts by charging them with breaking God’s law by practicing their traditions and thereby rejecting God’s law. He condemned the practice of Corban (word meaning gift). This practice allowed the person to claim that something (money, property, etc.) was being offered as a sacrifice to God, thereby removing the need to us it to fulfill a duty. Jesus was condemning not the idea of a dedicated offering to the temple. Rather, he was pointing out the abuse of this practice by the religious establishment.
Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 and uses it to point out the hypocrisy and heretical actions of the Jewish leadership. They were following man instead of God. They were consumed with ‘ritual’ and ‘tradition’ which brought an empty faith, one void of power and truth. They were concerned with external obedience not realizing the internal condition of the heart is what matters.
So What? Why does all this matter? In these few verses, we, unfortunately, see that many of God’s Chosen People had allowed tradition to become more important and more authoritative than God’s Word. It is of great importance that we take heed and look to our own self. Let us be wary of following in the footsteps of Jewish Leadership! Let us listen to Christ and realize that it is the heart that matters. Let us have a heart for God and His ways:
Verse On Which To Mediate:
1 Samuel 16:7