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By Augustine Agwulonu
Tue, 09 Feb 2016


The Pharisees and Scribes from Jerusalem observe and criticize Jesus's disciples. They accuse them of eating without washing their hands. Jesus challenges these traditionalists and indicts them. He says that they are the ones, whose behavior the Prophet Isaiah condemns. Finally, Jesus enumerates the traditional things they do, which are contrary to God's commandments.

Contextually, this passage marks a shift from Jesus being encircled by the sick who desire healing from him to the group of traditionalists who take to critically observing Jesus and his disciples. We can say that Jesus' camp is now infiltrated by the opposition from Jerusalem. With this episode, Mark introduces a new dimension and a different tone to Jesus's ministry. The Lord now moves from healing the sick, expelling demons and preaching to polemical dialogue with the traditional religious leaders.

Jesus was going to be crucified in Jerusalem, the religious capital of Judaism. So, it fits into Mark's literary plan to have Jesus's opposition come from Jerusalem right from the onset. Jesus has his peculiar way of approaching some traditional practices of Judaism. This clashes often with the understanding of the same practices by the Pharisees and Scribes. Thus there are controversies. In all, Jesus stands in a better position to interpret the Jewish Scriptures. Mark presents Jesus as the one who leads the people back to the true meaning of Scripture and its injunctions. So, we must learn the truth from Jesus.

God's commands must never be reduced to human (callous) traditions. They simply must be obeyed as given! The sanctity of God's injunctions must be preserved and respected. Jesus redirects people to the true foundation of a good moral life. Some of the traditions, which the Pharisees and Scribes observe, defend and try to enforce are aberrations to God's real commands. Reductionism does not lead to any authentic moral life. Morality must be practiced, not according to human traditions but in respect of God's commands in the Scriptures.

Jesus is the hope of his followers. He does not only show them the way to the correct appreciation of the Scriptures, but he also shows them the way to a true relationship with God. Jesus is the beginning of the end time. His interpretation of the Scriptures holds up the ladder of ascent to God on high. With Jesus's public ministry, God's angels descend from God to human beings on earth and ascend back to God on high. In and with Jesus, heaven and earth unite. And humanity is made whole again.


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