Our reading today takes us through the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark. This chapter records the growing hostility between the Son of God and the Jewish religious leaders who opposed Him. We are often critical of these leaders for their resistance to Jesus’ ministry and we should be. But it is helpful to first have a little background to help understand why these men were so opposed to His ministry.
By the time Jesus came to Israel the religious leaders had erected what they considered to be necessary ‘perimeters’ to protect the Law. Jewish tradition often refers to this as the “Oral Law.” These amounted to certain traditions such as what one could and could not do on the Sabbath, washing hands so as not to be religiously defiled, and avoiding any contact with sinners. Before long, these traditions were considered to be as binding as the Law itself, and any violation of them was considered a breach of God’s commandments.
This helps explain the growing hostility towards Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees viewed Him as continually breaking these traditions. Jesus made it clear though that He was not in violation of the Law, but of those traditions which had been erected around it, He viewed them as obscuring the true meaning of the Law itself. But the scribes and Pharisees were blind to the fact that Jesus kept the Law perfectly—how could they when they could not differentiate between the Word of God and their own tradition? To them, Jesus was a Lawbreaker and should be put to death for breaking the very Law which God gave Moses on Sinai.
Think about it. The Son of God, the Messiah of Israel came into this world, and men rejected Him because of their blind allegiance to tradition. They missed the day of their visitation while blindly pledging their allegiance to their systems and ways of doing things and in the process, missed the appearing of their own Messiah. They didn’t understand that the new wine of the kingdom had to be put in new wineskins (ways of doing things).
Author John Samson perhaps said it best: “those who are most bound by tradition are those who don’t think they have any.” Think about how many things that have grown up around Christianity which have nothing to do with Scripture at all. Yet multitudes of Christians blindly believe they are necessary; indeed that they are the very Word of God itself! And like those in the First Century, they miss the Messiah in order to remain faithful to their traditions. They will resent anyone who dares to even suggest these traditions obscure the grace of God.
Jesus told the religious leaders they nullified the Word of God for the sake of their tradition. We would do well to examine everything we have believed, presently believe, and will ever believe in the future in the light of Holy Scripture. Are we blindly holding on to something that we have believed or practiced since childhood without having ever examined it in the light of the Word of God? If we discover that we have blindly believed something told to us without such honest examination in Scripture, are we willing to abandon it in the light of what we have discovered in the Word of God? Only by continually examining our beliefs and practices in the light of God’s Word Written, can we be assured we will not nullify the Word for the sake of our traditions.