Today’s Reading: Mark 7
In today’s reading, Jesus makes a statement to religious people that we have to put the spotlight on. Jesus speaks to the Pharisees and Scribes these cutting words about their relationship to the Bible, God’s Word. Let’s read it from The Passion Translation:
“You abandon God’s commandments just to keep men’s rituals, such as ceremonially washing utensils, cups, and other things.”
Then he added, “How skillful you’ve become in rejecting God’s law in order to maintain your man-made set of rules. For example, Moses taught us: ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever insults or mistreats his father or mother must be put to death.’
“But your made-up rules allow a person to say to his parents, ‘I’ve decided to take the support you were counting on from me and make it my holy offering to God, and that will be your blessing instead.’ How convenient! The rules you teach exempt him from providing for his aged parents. Do you really think God will honor your traditions passed down to others, making up these rules that nullify God’s Word? And you’re doing many other things like that.” (Mark 7:8-13)
The New American Standard Bible says, “Thus invalidating the Word of God by your tradition” (verse 13).
Wow! Invalidating the Word of God. Nothing could be more horrible.
Taking something as powerful as God’s Word and making it invalid. That word is so vivid and so appropriate. An invalid is a person who is disabled by an injury, illness, or disease. They cannot do what they were designed to do because of their handicap.
Jesus told them they had just put the Word of God in a wheelchair. Instead of it walking on its own, they crippled it and did it by their traditions.
That’s what had happened to these religious people. They studied the Bible and did not do what it said. Instead, they made it confirm their lifestyle.
E. Paul Hovey said it like this: “Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them.” The Bible contradicted them so they made it say what they wanted it to say, “thus invalidating the Word of God by their tradition.”
This verse is so important. Jesus was cautioning the religious from interpreting the Bible through their religion. They saw things with their experience instead of letting the Bible interpret the Bible.
Now before we get really ticked at the Pharisees, this is happening to us today. Consider the last part of Jesus’ statement, “by your tradition.” Let’s take out the word tradition and fill in the blank.
Ways people can invalidate the Word of God:
It is invalid . . .
• by their denomination. They will interpret passages denominationally (such as water baptism).
• by their soapbox. They will interpret passages from their soapbox (such as political leanings).
• by conspiracy. They will interpret passages from their conspiracy (such as end times).
• by experience. They will interpret passages from their experience (such as Jesus visitations).
• by their pain. God is a horrible Father based on their natural father.
• by their ethnicity. Seeing passages from a minority standpoint and cause instead of for what they say.
• by their parents.
• by their upbringing in church.
• by their pastor.
• by their seminary.
As Søren Kierkegaard said, “The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.”
The story that has always intrigued me is from Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Jack Deere was a seminary professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. Both they and he held to a very strong cessationist theology, which basically says that the gifts of the New Testament are no longer needed or in existence. One of the simplest things that changed Jack Deere was this thought: If I gave a new convert a Bible and put him in a room and told him to read the Bible, I can’t see him coming out saying, “That was such power in the New Testament, too bad we don’t have access to that power today. Too bad the gifts are no longer available for us.” He said that was impossible. He realized that by simply reading the Scriptures, you can’t end up as a cessationist. You end up as a continuationist, someone who believes the spiritual gifts given in the early church continue on today.
Jack Deere realized that entire generations are being influenced by men’s interpretation of the Bible and theology, and he wanted to be influenced by what the Bible is really saying.
One of the liveliest debates I had in seminary was with a great theology teacher whom I highly respected. He said that those that know Greek can read the Bible better than those who don’t. I countered, “So just to be clear, are you saying an unsaved Greek scholar has a better chance of understanding the Scriptures than I do, who is in my fourth semester of Greek and who loves Jesus?” He said, “Absolutely.” Nothing could be further from the truth. He was influenced by his Greek and ancient language.
Make a commitment not to allow your “traditions” to put your faith in a wheelchair.