Moral Versus Ritual Cleanness (15:1-20)

The reader recognizes Jesus as God's Son who acts not only as the prophets of old (14:13-21) but as the Lord of creation himself (14:22-32). The disciples acclaim him as God's Son (14:33), and the masses approach him for healing (14:34-36). In this context the pedantic response of the Pharisees and scribes, a sort of religious and academic elite, stands in all the starker contrast to reality. (They were no denser than some ministers and religious academicians today who likewise seem able to obscure the forest of God's saving message with far less relevant trees.)

Jesus points out that though the Pharisees use their traditions as a standard for righteousness, some of their traditions can be extended to contradict the written law. Christians today who strongly advocate particular views as biblical, yet cannot demonstrate them from Scripture understood in context, follow tradition rather than Scripture just as did many of Jesus' contemporaries. (I have unfortuantely witnessed this problem in some circles where most members insist they are biblical, led by the Spirit and devoid of tradition.) A religious community may have helpful cumulative wisdom (especially if it has remained faithful to God's earlier revelations), but ultimately the revelation comes only from God himself, and especially from his word to his apostles and prophets preserved for us in Scripture. When we really hear God in Scripture, its message can awaken us and transform us (for example, 2 Kings 22:11-13).

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