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.

Key Verse

(7:8)

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. [ref]

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. [ref]

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. [ref] In practice, the money didn’t necessarily go to the temple, nor was it prevented from personal use. [ref] A person could use this practice to legally exclude others from his earnings, thus circumventing his responsibilities. [ref]

Outline

  • Pharisees and Scribes Confront Jesus
  • Jesus Rebukes the Pharisees and Scribes
  • Further Explanations on Cleanliness

Segment Analysis

  • 7:1-5

    1a.

    Why did the Pharisees and scribes gather around Jesus?

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    To question Him (11:27-28); to find fault so they could accuse Him (3:2); to plot to kill Him (3:6).

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  • 1b.

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

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    In 3:22, the scribes came to accuse Jesus of being demon-possessed. This time, the Pharisees came with the teachers.

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  • 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?

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    “Why?” The Pharisees and the scribes asked Jesus why He broke God’s law. They assumed Jesus’ guilt. It is like asking an innocent man, “Why did you steal?”

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  • 2b.

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

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    The Pharisees and scribes were very particular about their outward cleanliness. However, true cleanliness does not come from a godly appearance but from a God-fearing heart. This is why Jesus later rebuked them for letting go of the commands of God and holding on to the traditions of men.

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  • 3.

    Why didn’t the disciples wash their hands?

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    The disciples were not thinking about the meaning of true cleanliness when they ate without having washed their hands; they asked Jesus to explain the teaching to them later (17). Perhaps they never had a habit of strictly observing the “tradition of the elders” (cf. 2:23). They were not educated like the Pharisees, who prided themselves in observing every law to the letter (cf. Mt 23:5-7; Lk 18:11-12).

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  • 7:6-13

    4a.

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

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    They added their own rules to God’s commands and turned God’s commands into a burden to the people.

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  • 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).

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    Teachings/Traditions of Men:

    Teachings/Commandments of God:

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  • 5a.

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

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    Jesus does not condemn traditions in general, but traditions that take precedence over God’s commandments. Religious traditions are beneficial if they help us worship God and do good deeds. However, when traditions become habits without meaning, we are in danger of becoming hypocrites. Worse, the Pharisees twisted religious rules for their personal advantage, and oppressed the less fortunate. Jesus rebuked them for the evil that came out of their hearts. (cf. Matthew Bible Study Guide, Lesson 22, Question 4).

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  • 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?

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    Sometimes we have strong opinions on issues that have nothing to do with our salvation. If we insist on our views, we are setting aside the commands of God to love one another. Many controversies arise in the church because of this. Members argue over the format of worship or having certain decorations in the chapel. In the apostolic church, there was an argument over food. In response, Paul wrote that even though the truth is that all food is clean, he would not eat meat or drink wine if it would cause a brother to fall (Rom 14:20-21; 1Cor 8:13).

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  • 5c.

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

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    Observing the Sabbath on Sunday; celebrating Easter, Christmas, Chinese New Year

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  • 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).

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    Jesus compared the damage from food to the damage from the evil in our hearts. While speaking these parables, Jesus repeatedly said, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” (4:9, 4:23, 7:16). He urges us to pay attention to the spiritual teachings. Like before, Jesus explained this parable to his disciples.

    The parable of cleanliness is abstract, not in the form of a story like the earlier parables. While not everyone had understood Jesus’ earlier parables (4:12), this time Jesus called the crowd and told them to “understand” (7:14).

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  • 7.

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

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    Jesus said, “Are you thus without understanding also?” [emphasis added], implying that the disciples were no better than the Pharisees. They were bound by their (different set of) traditions just as much as the Pharisees were by theirs.

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  • 8a.

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

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    Evil that Comes from Inside/Works of the Flesh:

    Fruit of the Spirit:

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  • 8b.

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

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  • 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?

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    Although the evil things in our hearts outnumber the fruit of the Spirit, God’s power is more than sufficient to overcome them. (cf. Lesson 8, Questions 10a-b).

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  • 9.

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

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    Acts 15:29 lists three foods that we should abstain from. They are forbidden because of their spiritual significance.

    1. Food sacrificed to idols—If we eat it, we are participants with demons (1Cor 10:14-22).

    2. Blood—This commandment was given long before the Mosaic law was given (Gen 9:4); we must still obey it. It carries spiritual teachings on the relationship between blood and life. Life is in the blood. Therefore, God has reserved blood for the purpose of atonement (Lev 17:11). The blood that was shed for atonement was a foreshadow of the precious blood of Jesus, which was poured out for the remission of our sins.

    3. Meat of strangled animals—Blood of strangled animals has not been let out of the flesh.

    Furthermore, Paul teaches us that although all things are permissible, not all things are beneficial. We must act from our conscience and spiritual knowledge. Even in small matters such as food and drink, we must not cause anyone to stumble (1Cor 10:23-33).

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