Many of the things which are taught in the Christian church today, have nothing to do with Christ, nor has He ever commanded men to obey them.
Jesus came into the world to make a relationship with God simple, easy to understand, and readily accessible to every person. Men have taken the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ and polluted it with many traditions and false religious practices, which are unattractive and repugnant. No wonder that many people in the world today care nothing for organized religion. They have examined the hypocrisy of the various Christian denominations and concluded that they are a fraud. In many cases, their observations are absolutely true. When Jesus came into the world, it was to those who created these false religions that He brought ridicule on condemnation.
The Living God is interested in a relationship with mankind–not a religious experience. He came into the world personally, in the person of Jesus Christ, so that we could understand who God is and how easy it is to have a relationship with Him.
The traditions of men and the false religions of men, is the primary subject of the prophet Isaiah, in describing the coming of the Messiah into the world.
Isaiah 29:13 Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men…”
How could Isaiah predict, 700 years before His arrival, the very words the Messiah would speak? How could he foresee the social conditions of an entire nation before it was revealed? Only a transcendent being from outside linear time, could describe events that had yet to occur. God, who knows all things, communicated these precise events to Isaiah, who recorded these prophecies, so that we might be able to validate the true Messiah when He arrived.
In Matthew 15:7-9, Jesus speaks the precise phrase that Isaiah predicted in chapter 29:13 of his prophecy.
Matthew 15:7-9 “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.’ ”
When Jesus presented Himself to the religious leaders at Jerusalem, they listened to His words and witnessed His mighty miracles—all of which—were identical to every word spoken by all the Old Testament prophets.
Despite the massive evidence, the leaders of Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah. He condemned the unbelief of the scribes and Pharisees and revealed that they are the very men who Isaiah had described in chapter 29:13.
Included here is the entire context of this meeting between Jesus and the leaders of Israel so that you can see why He was able to attribute their words and actions to a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Matthew 15:1-9 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” He answered and said to 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.’ ”
By the time Jesus arrived at Jerusalem, the elders of Israel had elevated their traditions above the Laws of God. Jesus scolded these men for their error. By elevating their traditions above what God had said, they made the law of God ineffective.
Matthew 15:3- 6 Jesus answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.”
The Greek word used here by Jesus for tradition is paradosis—that which is handed down. The Traditions of the elders were established procedures for how everything in the life of a Jew should be accomplished. A great example of this is seen in the comments of the elders regarding Jesus disciples who did not wash their hands before they began eating.
Matthew 15:1-2 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
If we carefully examine what the Pharisees are saying, we find that it was not any disagreement over the Laws of Moses; it was their traditions which were at issue.
Where the Traditions of the Elders came from:
One of the major reasons for the captivity of the Jews in Babylon for 70 years, was their constant disobedience to the commandments of God.
The Lord commanded Israel that for every six years they plowed, planted, and harvested the land, they should allow it to lay fallow on the seventh year. God promised that He would give three years of harvest on the sixth year so that there would be sufficient supply to last through the seventh year of rest.
Exodus 23:10-11 Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow.
Leviticus 25:21 Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years.
For 490 years, Israel failed to let the land rest. Because the land had not been allowed its Sabbath for 490 years, Israel owed God a land rest debt of 70 years.
God warned Israel, through Jeremiah the prophet, that if they would not honor Him and listen to Him, they would be destroyed by a foreign nation. Nebuchadnezzar was permitted by God to take Israel captive and remove the best and brightest young men from their land and carry them back to Babylon for 70 years. This is the exact period of time that was owed to God for the land rest debt that Israel had failed to observe. God put the entire nation into captivity to serve another nation just because they had failed to give one year, in seven, to rest.
If we should ever think that the commandments of the Lord are optional, we might think again, considering what God did to Israel for their disobedience.
After 70 years of exile, the leaders in Jerusalem wanted to ensure that their former error was not repeated. Ezra set out to educate the people of Israel on how best to follow the laws of Moses. He did this by founding the school of the sopherim, who were later known as the scribes.
The primary function of the sopherim school was to thoroughly explain the laws of God to the people. We see an example of this in the Book of Nehemiah Chapter 8:
Nehemiah 8:1-3 Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. 3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
Nehemiah 8:1-3 was the beginning of the sopherim, who later became the Bible teachers of Israel. When Ezra died, the leaders of Israel felt that an exposition of the Laws of Moses, called the Torah, was insufficient. They proposed a new guideline known as, the fence or the hedge, that should be built around the existing 613 Laws of Moses. The purpose of the hedge laws were to act as an early warning system to prevent someone from actually breaking one of the Laws of Moses. As a person would break through one of the hedge laws, they would realize that they were very close to breaking an actual law of God.
The leaders of Israel also developed what they called the Pilpul Logic which originated from the idea behind what happens when a person eats a hot pepper. As spices enhance the taste buds during a meal, these hedge laws would serve to heighten a person’s sensitivity to sin. Although these additional laws were sincerely conceived to heighten awareness of what God required, their establishment added a mountain of laws for the people to keep.
The hedge or fence laws and the Sabbath
Concerning the Sabbath, over 1,500 fence laws were instituted to guard against any possible violation which might take place regarding the day of rest that God had commanded. Moses stated that on the Sabbath, no person could plant, harvest, thresh, winnow, or store any crop. The leaders of Israel added to these prohibitions, the Pilpul Logic, by stating that a person could also not walk on the grass of a field during the Sabbath. The reasons given were simple:
If while walking through a field, a stray stalk of wheat might be stepped on. This stalk might separate a grain of wheat: This would break the law of harvesting, which would in turn, break Law of Moses concerning the Sabbath. Further, if one of the grains of wheat were to fall into the edge of your garment and later the wind would blow that grain out of your garment into the air, this would be a violation of winnowing, which would also break the law of the Sabbath. If a grain of wheat should blow out of your clothing, a small bird might see the seed and eat it, then you would be guilty of storing wheat on the Sabbath.
This is why the Pharisees were so upset over what they viewed as a callous disregard of Jesus’ disciples in walking through a field of wheat on the Sabbath.
Mark 2:23-24 Now it happened that He went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”
About 200 A.D., Rabbi Judah Hansi completed the fence laws and various other teachings and combined them into what we know today as the Mishna. Later, a commentary on the multitude of these laws was added, called the Gemara. When all of these documents are combined together, they are called the Talmud. The Talmud was the final authority for every law and the correct interpretation of these laws.
The Pharisees taught that when God gave Moses the law on Mount Sinai, He gave him two laws. The written law, called “the Laws of Moses,” as recorded in the Old Testament; and the “secret law,” also called “the oral law.” Moses passed these oral traditions down to the elders of Israel—vocally, as they were prohibited from writing them. These secret laws were not be revealed until the need arose—at the proper time; this is, according to the Mishna.
Moses received the oral law from God on Mount Sinai and delivered it to Joshua, who delivered it to the elders of Israel, followed by the Judges. The Judges gave these oral traditions to the Prophets and the Prophets delivered them to the sopherim of Ezra’s day.
By the time Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, the traditions of the elders had the developed the same authority as the Word of God. This is how the traditions of men, over time, came to outweigh and overrule the Words of God.
In this greatly expanded edition of the Laws of God, there was an entire treatise called the Yadim, which described the things which must be done during ceremonial purification. You could pour water over one of your hands during a single rinsing, but not two hands during the same rinse. If a person were to pour water over both hands at one time, he was considered, unclean.
This issue of hand washing was a subject of great concern for the elders of Israel when they questioned Jesus about the practices of His disciples: “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread?”
The Scribes and the Pharisees would go to great lengths to make certain that they correctly washed their hands before eating, yet their hearts were hard and callous and completely unprepared for the coming of the Messiah. When Jesus arrived with all the credentials of the Messiah, the leaders of Israel were unprepared to receive Him, primarily because they were heavily weighed down with so many traditions. These men had hands that were washed—while their hearts remained defiled. Jesus observed their hypocrisy and often scolded these religious leaders of Israel. It was for His opposition to their traditions and false religion that the Pharisees hated Jesus so vehemently.
If you want to experience true wrath from someone, just question the authenticity of their confession of faith.
I have a particular sensitivity towards those who claim to be followers of Jesus while openly criticizing and publicly maligning other Christians. These individuals often make their negative comments, against Christian Authors by way of a review on Amazon.com. Rather than writing a private note to the author regarding their disagreement with what has been written, they choose a public form of redress for the whole world to see. When those who are outside of the church, see those who claim to be a part of the Christian church—tearing each other to pieces, this often moves them away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ very quickly. Who wants to be a part of a church that bites and devours each other?
Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
Jesus said that the way in which the world will know that we belong to Him—is by the love that we have for each other.
John 13:35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
As followers of Jesus we are to be kind, tenderhearted, gracious to each other. When people in the world see our love and kindness, they will be attracted to this love and be drawn into a relationship with Jesus themselves.
When I wrote in opposition to these negative comments to encourage the writers that the cause of Christ would be better served if we did not criticize each other in an open forum, I was added to the victims’ list. The scoffers turned on me and began to write grievous remarks about my comments.
I soon discovered that those who seek to sow seeds of discord amongst believers, care not what God thinks of their behavior, though they claim to belong to Him. There is one thing that the Lord hates above all others—regarding the behavior of those who claim to belong to Him: creating division within the body of Christ by public—verbal or written hostility.
Proverbs 6:16 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 (#6) a false witness who breathes out lies,(#7) and one who sows discord among brothers.
When criticizing the Pharisees, Jesus made a clear distinction between the commandments of God found in the Old Testament Scriptures, and the Halakic traditions of the elders. Jesus’ condemnation of these men was due to their willing ignorance of the word of God, strictly for the sake of keeping their traditions.
People will, many times, justify their behavior—trumping their traditions over what is just, right, and fair.
My wife and I live on a small island in the Philippines. We have encountered, on a few occasions, the local people who are extremely loud and disrespectful to their neighbors, and then justify their rudeness by saying: “It is our tradition.” Any tradition which violates the peace and serenity of another human being is an incorrect tradition.
The biggest problem that Jesus had with the scribes and Pharisees was their insistence on keeping their traditions instead of meeting the practical needs of the people.
On the Sabbath, the traditions of the Elders, prohibited a person from rescuing an animal who was trapped, or to help a sick or dying person. No work could be done on the Sabbath; therefore, the work that someone might do to help another person or an animal in distress, was prohibited. Jesus told the Pharisees that the purpose of the law of God was to benefit man, not to make his life more miserable.
Mark 2:27 And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.
After the scribes and Pharisees criticized Jesus for not instructing His disciples how to properly wash their hands before eating, Jesus tells these men:
Matthew 15:3-7 “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!”
The Verses of Scripture that Jesus was quoting from, were laws commonly known to the leaders of Israel:
Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”
Deuteronomy 27:16 “Cursed is the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ ”
Proverbs 1:8 My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother…
The English verb cursed, used here in Matthew 15:3-7, is too restrictive in defining the true meaning intended. The Greek word that was originally used in this text was kakologeo, meaning: to insult, to speak evil of, or to revile.
When Jesus said but you, the meaning is quite emphatic. Jesus was stating that they had neglected their responsibilities which were required by the word of God, because of their closely guarded traditions. The purpose of the law of God—required children to care for their parents in their elderly years. Because of the traditions which were held by the leaders of Israel, they had negated the word of God. The money that a person could have used to care for and support their parents could be dedicated to God, called korban. Under this tradition, a person could use the money, which had been dedicated to God, for their own personal use while withholding it from their parents. In essence, it was a legal loophole that allowed people to escape the responsibility of caring for aging parents.
When the scribes and Pharisees condemned Jesus and His disciples for not washing properly before eating—a law which God had never given—Jesus informs them that their contrived law of korban had made ineffective, the law of God.
This Halakic tradition created a law that commanded the washing of hands, while eliminating the need to care for the needs of their aging parents.
Jesus condemned these leaders of Israel for their Hypocrisy, and in doing so, fulfilled the words of this 192nd Old Testament Prophecy from Isaiah 29:13. It is clear that Isaiah was writing about the men who were now standing before Jesus, condemning Him for not keeping their traditions, while breaking the law of God by the same traditions. In doing so, the words of Isaiah’s prophecy were fulfilled:
“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men…”
The true intent of God’s law was to change our hearts and bring us to repentance. We would then become humble, gentle people who would love the Lord and other people. By understanding God’s heart for people, those who would come into an awareness of His word would develop the same kind of heart that God has. Instead, men instituted their own laws, which they hold as higher than the words of God and put heavy burdens on the lives of people. The people then vainly worship and follow God because they do not understand Him, nor what the purpose of His laws were in the first place.
This is the common flaw of religion in the present world. People go to church and follow the traditions of that particular church which they attend, without any knowledge of what God has really said in His word. Many of the leaders of the Christian church today are not teaching what the Bible says. Instead, they are teaching what the current traditions of men are. As a result, the worship which people offer to God is empty and meaningless, to themselves—and to God.
NOTES:￼  Exodus 34:21 “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.  Tractate Shabbat  All of this information is available in the Tractate Avot, Tractate Berachot, Tractate Sanhedrin, Tractate Yevamot and Tractate Eruvin.  Tractate Avot 10:1  The legal part of Talmudic literature, an interpretation of the laws of the Scriptures.  The collective body of religious laws for Jews, including biblical law (the 613 mitzvot) and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.
A poor representation of JesusErrors of the Christian ChurchFollowing Jesus