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They" condemn us with their impossible rules.

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

When Tradition Becomes Hypocrisy

A crowd of people had gathered, but nothing unusual was happening. The people looked at a man. He sat talking to friends and a bit separate from the crowd.

A group of Jewish politicians and religious leaders arrived. They stood rigid with tension and about twenty feet away from the man. Their eyes stalked him as they tried to hear his words and see everything that he did.

The crowd watched the angry men. Their clothing and arrogant manners revealed their identity. They were Pharisees and part of an elite religious fraternity of about 6,000 men, who possessed tremendous power. Only the occupying authorities from Rome out-ranked them.

The crowd murmured. “What do the Pharisees want with Jesus?”

“They hope to confront him and prove to the crowds that follow him that he has no special power. God did not send him, and his speaking and miracles are no credentials of divinity. He is a fraud!”

“How can he heal people?”

“I don’t know.”

“I saw him heal a leper and a man with a deformed hand.”

“So did I.”

“Often I do not understand him, but I think he may speak words of wisdom.”

“I agree. I am not going to judge Jesus by what the Pharisees think about him.”

“The Pharisees condemn us with their impossible rules. They have 613 rules that are supposed to control how we live.”

As the crowd talked, Jesus and his friends prepared to eat lunch. Some of his men poured water over their hands. Some did not.

Instantly the Pharisees asked Jesus, “What is wrong with your men? Are they refusing to follow our customs? Before eating, they should cup their hands and pour water over them. Otherwise, they are defiled.”

“You hypocrites,” Jesus replied. Hundreds of years ago the prophet Isaiah described you. He said that your worship mocks God. What you say does not match what you do. Your lips do not match your hearts. You take God’s commands and replace them with rules men made. You follow tradition, not God.

“For example, Moses gave you this law from God. ‘Honor your father and mother. Anyone who speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death.’

“You Pharisees ignore that law and substitute your own. You tell your needy parents, ‘I cannot help you. I have promised to give to God what I promised to give to you.’ You make excuses, so you can follow your traditions.

Jesus called to the crowd. “Come and listen. Try to understand. You are not dirty or defiled by what you eat. You are contaminated by what you say and do.”

When Jesus and his twelve disciples left the crowd, the disciples’ minds were struggling. They did not understand Jesus. They asked him, “What did you mean when you were talking to the Pharisees and the crowd?”

He replied, “My friends, it is the thought-life that defiles you, not the food you eat or how you clean your hands.”

This is Barbara Steiner with a Bible story from Mark 7 and Luke. Investigate to hear stories from American history and the Bible.

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