Tag Archives: Tradition

Influence of the Religious System

You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. (Mt. 16:1-12)

The Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes were the three sects among the Jews. Pharisees were the most popular during Jesus’ time. They strictly followed the written Law and the traditions of the elders, who, according to them, have the authority to explain and interpret the Law. Each party tried to explain the Law in detail as per its view and lay down rules for others to follow. They tried to influence people by their ideology and exert authority over them. This often made life difficult for ordinary people. Incidentally, Pharisees and Sadducees could never get along theologically and ideologically. Pharisees believed in angels and the bodily resurrection of believers while Sadducees did not believe any of this. They felt that Jesus was gaining influence among ordinary folks and found Him as a threat to their authority.

Artificial Unity
To attack Jesus leaders of these two parties came together. This was an unholy union with a common agenda. They tried to test Jesus by asking Him for a sign from heaven. He exposed their plan by telling them to interpret the signs of the times as they interpret the signs of nature. Calling them evil and adulterous generation He pointed to Jonah as the only sign for them.

Evil leadership spreads its evil influence
Jesus told the disciples to be alert against the evil influence of the religious system. They are often politically motivated and not spiritually moved. Those who follow Jesus should keep away from the religious system that would enslave them.

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Tradition often leads to hypocrisy

Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat. He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?

 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone. (Mt. 15:1-20)

Tradition often leads to hypocrisy and legalism. This was the problem the Pharisees of Jesus’ day had. This can happen to anyone. Traditions become meaningless without an awareness of their origin and purpose. This was the reason the Old Testament instructed the Israelites to explain the reasons behind their practices, like festivals, sacrifices and so on, to their children.  

Tradition is outwardly
It focuses on the external appearance and performance. Obeying God is always above observing traditions. Pharisees tried to escape from obeying the Law by observing traditions, so they created traditions of convenience. They gave an impression that their external performances were the signs of faithfully keeping the Law. Jesus confronted the Pharisees who questioned him on this.

Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. (Mt.15: 3-6 NLT)

Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 29:13) who foretold about the hypocritical attitude of people.

Obedience is inwardly
It springs from the submissive attitude within. It demands commitment, and being faithful to it. It is always above traditions and rituals. It is to please God than men. In 1 Samuel 15:22 we read prophet Samuel’s reminder to king Saul. Obedience originates from trust. Without faith or trust it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).