v 5. So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”
Tradition meant everything to the Jews; things had to be done the ‘proper’ way – which meant the way it had always been done. Such tradition is always hard to challenge, even today when we as Christians know the ‘right way’ to do things, by which we usually mean the way Church has always done things.
This kind of ‘Keeping up the traditions’ lies at the very heart of much religious activity. We traditionally sit in rows, gazing at the back of various heads. Eye-to-eye contact is amazingly difficult, and who knows, perhaps it is not ‘right’! And of course, we have to meet in a special ‘church’ building – and would you dare to eat a bun or drink coffee during this ‘Church Service’?
I remember a comedian contrasting the church hymn book, ‘Ancient and Modern’ with his liturgy of ‘Mild and Bitter’. It was all a matter of which tradition you followed and preferred. The heart of the matter for Jesus is found in v 8 ‘For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition. ‘
It is notoriously difficult to sort out some of the traditions we keep in the 21st Century from the essentials of what believe to be our Christian Faith and duty. Let me suggest 3 areas where it might be helpful to explore in Faith and the daily experience of Church life.
First, the issue of where we meet. Remember, in the early days of the Church there were no special buildings. The norm was to meet in homes. Yet today vast sums of money are spent on maintaining beautiful buildings. What questions do you think need to be asked about Church buildings?
Next, the question of when we meet. Tradition demands Sunday mornings and evenings. Why? Might it be more helpful to meet at a different time – even a different day?
Finally, the question of what we actually do when we meet. Tradition demands singing, praying and preaching – but are the helpful requirements of spiritual fellowship met in that way? Can you visualise a different format that honours God and strengthens the bonds of love amongst believers?
I don’t believe that Jesus set out to be establishing a different pattern; He was not an iconoclast but had a vision of what was good for people. He was different, He was a Man willing to break through tradition like no other.