They followed after Jesus and his disciples always accusing and finding fault. “This is sinful,” “That is against God's law” On and on they went with threats and criticisms that never stopped. Even when Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead, the priests and Pharisees found something wrong with that.
Their hatred for Jesus was followed with more hatred and then still more. Never ending hate. And to make it worse, all of these attacks and accusations came from supposed men of God using God's Name! The priests and Pharisees were Jewish religious leaders that the people of Israel respected and obeyed! And it was the relentless accusations from these pious religious men who were supposed to be teachers of God's Word, that finally sent Jesus to the cross!
One day the scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus asking Him why He and his disciples “transgress the tradition of the elders? Your disciples do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” (Matthew 15:2) they fussed. They had been spying on Jesus and his disciples before they rushed over accusing them of not washing their hands. Washing hands back then did not include soap and running water like it does today. Washing hands back then meant that the person was to put a drop of water on the back of each hand and that action would make them ceremonially clean! One of their man made traditions..
God had given the Jewish people many laws, but the religious leaders had added many more man made laws and traditions of their own to God's sacred laws. This put extra burdens on the people to perform all of these busy work things. Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 in charging the Pharisees with setting aside God's laws with their traditions. Jesus dismisses their worship because their hearts were not aligned with their lips.
Jesus answered the scribes and Pharisees question about hand washing by giving them back a question. He asked them: “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying 'Honor your father and your mother' and, 'He who curses father or mother let him be put to death.' But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, 'Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God.' 'Then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you saying, 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips. But their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship Me. Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” (Matthew 15:3-9)
One of the Ten Commandments calls for us to honor our fathers and our mothers. (Exodus 20:12) Evidently back in ancient times it was expected behavior for Jewish family members to not only honor but to take care of one another in time of need. If an elderly parent could no longer care for her/him self, their children were expected to provide food and lodging for them if they were able. Jesus also seems to be saying that that is what this command means. Today we have retirement funds,Social Security, Medicare and often other savings accounts that senior citizens can fall back on. But two thousand years ago in ancient Israel, the elderly did not have these benefits to protect their survival.
We Christians in today's modern world usually take this commandment regarding honoring parents to mean that we are to respect our parents and to try to be a part of their lives. To treat our parents and other family members with graciousness and love. We humans are all vulnerable and need one another. But we live in a society today that teaches us to value our individuality and our independence. In Scripture we see that often God's blessings and laws were written not just for individuals alone but with families and groups and nations in mind. Whole tribes were blessed or cursed because of the way they treated one another. No man is an island. We do have a communal life and God put us together to fulfill that life.
Sometimes counselors today advise individuals who are having family problems to do whatever they want if it is in their best interest. If they could better themselves by cutting off a relationship with a family member, then that is what should be done. Today parents sometimes abandon their children and grown children sometimes cut off their parents. These harsh actions are approved of by some modern Pharisees to protect the individual from a “toxic” relationship. Everything is done for the wants or best interests of the individual. And holding the family together for the common good may come in second place..
But in the background God's laws still stand. He calls us adult children to “Honor our father and our mother.” (Exodus 20;12) And God's Word also says that: “If anyone does not provide for his own children, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” (I Timothy 5:8) I believe this verse is talking about the mother or the father running away from their responsibilities for their children. Of course illness and other problems can make it impossible for a parent to take full responsibility for their children.
Jesus was accusing these Jewish religious leaders of making up a new man made law saying that if a Jewish person wished to give money to the religious leaders and to the Temple, then God would not require that person to help their elderly parent if they were in need. Money – even money given to God – did not come before God's desires to see family members loving and being faithful to one another. Jesus finishes by saying that “the Pharisees and scribes make the commandment of God of no effect by their tradition”.(Matthew l5:6) And then Jesus turned on them and called them “Hypocrites!” (Matthew l5:7)
It seemed that there wasn't much that made Jesus angrier than hypocrites! What is a hypocrite? A hypocrite is a fake. He or she or she is proud and pretends to be someone that he or she isn't. He looks good on the outside but he only cares about himself and how important he is. He pretends to praise God to impress others but he is using God to show off. The Pharisees' laws were tacked onto God's laws, and forced upon the ancient Jewish people who believed that the Pharisees' words represented God's will . But these traditions were not God's will and the people were fooled into believing that man made traditions were the same as God's laws.. This really angered Jesus.
Jesus warns us to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6) Beware of what looks good on the outside but is not good all the way through. There are modern day Pharisees. Religious leaders today who tell us that we don't need to concern ourselves with God's laws. That we are smarter and know better now. That we are in charge of our own life and we can do whatever we want. Rebel, be brave and break the rules, who cares! But there is a God in heaven and He does care. And our life belongs to Him. And He calls us to trust and obey. .