Here Comes The Critics: Mark 7:1-4
“1) The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, 2) and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. 3) l(For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4) and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.)” Mark‬ ‭7‬:‭1‬-‭4‬
Keep in mind, Jesus was in the land of Gennesaret. It was located in the region of Galilee on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. It was a fishing village located a very long ways from Jerusalem. It was at least a four days journey by foot to get to Gennesaret from Jerusalem. It was a rather remote area.
But the popularity of Jesus was spreading fast and everyone seemed to be tracking His itinerary. Keep in mind, this was way before any form of electronic communications. Yet the ruling religious leaders down in Jerusalem knew exactly where Jesus was and sent critics and agitators to run interference with His ministry.
Sure enough, this band of scribes and Pharisees arrived at Gennesaret and started their devious work. Ironically, they could not fault Jesus with His teaching or miracles, even though they constantly accused Him of casting out unclean spirits by Beelzebul, the ruler of demons. (See Matthew 12:22-37)
This time they tried a new tactic. They accused Jesus and His disciples of violating the traditions of the elders. They could not counter or match his authority, miracles, power or teachings, so they accused him of violating established religious traditions. Many use the same tactic today!
Look carefully at the text. They specifically went after the disciples neglecting to follow ceremonial washings as laid down by the religious elders before eating. When you pause and think about this accusation, it’s both comical and ridiculous. They were accusing a group of rough fishermen and former tax gathers of not following good religious etiquette.
I could imagine the disciples looking down at their calloused and blistered hands and wondering; “What do manicured hands and fingers have to do with being godly?” One glance at the Carpenter and His hands were as calloused and rugged as theirs!
Frankly, if being religious means becoming girlish, most rugged men aren’t interested. That’s how ridiculous most religious traditions are, yet they are followed without question or serious thought.
Some ask; “Why are men absent from most churches?” If you analyze this text closely, you might discover the answer. Many religious traditions attack masculinity. I sincerely doubt these wimpy scribes and Pharisees would have endured one day with David and his nightly men! Who made the Pharisees the standard of godliness?
We need to step back and ask; “What is a Christian?” For that matter; “What does it take to be godly?” I confess, I’m a bit of a Maverick. I love Jesus and the Bible but have zero tolerance for most religious traditions. They distort the gospel and give a false picture of Christian living. Most are external and do nothing to change the human heart.
Stay tuned as Jesus answers the critics. They were about to get a dose of reality and maybe a whiff of fish slime and body odor from hard working men and broken people crying out for help and healing. The traditions of the elders didn’t translate very well into the trenches of real life.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global

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