Church of Christ
Locks Cross Roads
1) Matthew 15 - Tradition of the elders
Matthew 15:1, 2
There came to Jesus from Jerusalem Pharisees and scribes: this fact harmonizes well with John's comment (John
7:1): "After this (the feeding of the 5000 and the Sermon on the Bread of Life preached at Capernaum) Jesus went
about in Galilee; He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him."
It was the scholars' design to define the Law so that, theoretically, ordinary people could actually achieve a
condition of holiness as defined in the Law. They extended their influence over the people through education in the
synagogues whereby their exegesis and applications of the Law molded the popular mind; naturally, any evidence
of weakening or lowering of the traditional interpretations or standards would be viewed by the Pharisees as an
instant threat to the holiness of Israel.
The basic obligation of searching out the meaning and application of Torah was no easy matter. It was assisted by
the recognition that Torah had already been applied and "lived out" by earlier figures from the time of the prophets,
preeminently exemplified in the restoration of Torah under Ezra. Thus the notion of "Scripture" was as important as
the acceptance of Torah, since with the writings coming from the later period, the first interpretations of the meaning
of Torah could be found.
For Jesus to ignore tradition meant to reject the scholars, which was one of the most essential tools of Biblical
When Jesus' popular ministry numbered thousands in His audiences and when He publicly flouted time-honored
traditions, His fame and influence plainly signaled a revolution in public thought.
Matthew 15:2 saying, "Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands
when they eat bread." Look how cleverly their denunciation is worded: they consider Jesus' disciples to be the
living fruit of His ministry, the exemplification of His doctrine, almost as if they turned Jesus' own words against Him:
"By their fruits you shall know them (false prophets)." This charge is serious, because it implies that Jesus Himself
teaches His disciples to violate the rules, because the followers undoubtedly reflect Jesus' own views (Luke 11:38).
On other occasions they had attempted without success to expose His miracles as worked by secret agreement with
Satan (Matthew 12:24 and following, Matthew 9:33). Having been thoroughly embarrassed by His answers there,
these experts now apparently make no effort to deny or "explain" the reality of His supernatural credentials upon
which the authority for His claims and practice was based. These critics now blast the Lord where they suppose
they can hurt Him worst: His disregarding their revered traditional practices. To believe wrongly is bad enough, but
to teach others to ignore the accepted norms is infinitely worse. So, had the Pharisees only been theologically
correct, their attack would have been rightly ordered and truly devastating.
Cleanness, simply stated, is, that state in which man might not only worship or approach God, but also in which he
might live in fellowship with his human society.