The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
” ‘These people honour me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.’
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”
And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
Mark 7:1-13 (NIV)
Today is the International Day of Older Persons, as declared by the United Nations. It is a day where we should be reminded and encouraged to show respect to those who have gone before us. Far too frequently, we hear in the news of robberies where an elderly person has been severely injured, often for only a small amount of money. Respect for elders has disappeared, as it had in Jesus’ time.
We read here a question put to Jesus by the Pharisees, about the disciples eating with unclean hands. Jesus responds by quoting scripture, then telling them that they break one of the ten commandments: Honour your father and mother. Through their tradition, the Priests declared the help they would have given to their parents as Corban, or a gift devoted to God. What this meant is that the priest’s parents would not receive help in their old age, and the money devoted towards that would be a gift to the temple. But as they were Priests, they would receive that money back. Thus, not only were they breaking one of the 10 commandments, but they were doing so selfishly, for their own benefit. Jesus went on to say they did many things like that.
We also need to remember this. How often do we not honour our father or mother? How often do we not respect the elderly? It’s very easy to fall into: “Grandpa driver…” is one example where we don’t show respect. I’m sure you can think of more. Today, on this day where we remember our elders, why not Pray to God, to ask him to help you to remember your elders, to respect them, no matter who they are.