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12: Tradition of Men (Mk 7:1-23)
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I.       The Basics

A.     Setting

Once again the Pharisees and the scribes accused Jesus of breaking the law, this time of being unclean. Unlike before, this time Jesus rebuked them openly and harshly.

B.     Key Verse

            “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men” (7:8).

C.     Did You Know…?

1.      “Wash their hands in a special way”/Ceremonial washing (7:3): Washing of one’s hands with a handful of water, a formal practice required before eating. This was especially important after a trip to the marketplace, where a Jew would likely come in contact with an “unclean” Gentile or such things as money or utensils.

2.      Tradition of the elders (7:3): Oral teachings that commented on the law and interpreted it in detailed rules of conduct, often recording the diverse opinions of competing rabbis. The Pharisees viewed it as having authority almost equal to the Old Testament writings.

3.      Corban (7:11): A vow dedicating money or property to the temple. Technically, after such a vow, what’s dedicated could be used only for religious purposes. In practice, the money didn’t necessarily go to the temple, nor was it prevented from personal use. A person could use this practice to legally exclude others from his earnings, thus circumventing his responsibilities.

II.    Observation

A.     Outline




B.     Key Words/Phrases

III. Segment Analysis

A.     7:1-5

1a. Why did the Pharisees and scribes gather around Jesus?

1b. When was the last time someone came down from Jerusalem to accuse Jesus?

2a. Read the accusations in 2:18, 24, and 7:5. What word do the questions have in common? What does this tell you about the reasoning behind the accusations?

2b. What do the accusations of the Pharisees and scribes tell you about their values? How were they mistaken?

3. Why didn’t the disciples wash their hands?

B.     7:6-13

4a. Read God’s command in Deuteronomy 12:32. Which part of it did the Pharisees disobey?

4b. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “And many such things you do” (13). On Chart C below, next to each of the Pharisees’ traditions, list the commandments they set aside in favor of that tradition. (cf. Mt 6:1-18; 23:1-35; Lk 18:9-14).         

5a. Are all traditions bad? When does a tradition become a stumbling block to our faith?

5b. Have you ever made the same mistake as the Pharisees have? How might we lay aside the commandment of God in order to hold on to our traditions?

5c. List examples of “tradition of men” among Christians today.

C.     7:14-23

6. How is what Jesus said in verses 14-16 a parable (cf. 17)? Compare it to the parables in 4:2-32. (For a definition of “parable,” cf. Lesson 7, Did You Know 1).

7. What does Jesus’ comment in verse 18 tell us about the disciples’ understanding?

8a. Under each column on Chart D, list the corresponding characteristics from Mk 7:21-22 and Gal 5:19-21, 5:22-23.          

8b. How does each of the characteristics in the left column defile a person? Give a modern day example of each.

8c. Pick a few of the evils that you are guilty of. How does the fruit of the Spirit help you clean up each of them?

9. If food doesn’t defile us (19), then why does the church forbid certain foods (cf. Acts 15:29)?

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