It’s an odd story.
Religious leaders come looking for Jesus. The ones who were known for really knowing and applying the law of Moses to daily life. They watch the followers of Jesus take whatever food they had and eat it. And they didn’t follow the ceremonial process for washing hands before eating.
(I could research that and explain it, but we’ll go with the explanation in the text. There were, Mark writes, many traditions passed down as necessary religious practices that covered handwashing and dish washing.)
The observers told Jesus about the bad behavior of his disciples.
Instead of thanking them for their discernment, Jesus reaches back to the words of God to Isaiah, talking about people who had the right words and the wrong heart. Or perhaps, more accurately, who talked about God for their own gain.
The listeners would have known Isaiah very well. Two sentences would have captured whole chapters. These words made them the defendant, not the prosecution, in the court of law-keeping: “You have replaced God’s law with your traditions.”
And then he provides a specific hypothetical example.
The law says “honor your father and mother.” In a time before social security and pensions and nursing care, that meant actual financial support.
The law also talks about things being designated as “offered to God”. The owner still had it, but it couldn’t be used for anything other than God stuff.
So if a person designated their estate as “offered to God”, it couldn’t be used for “honor your parents.”
The target of the example is not the hypothetical person. It’s the scholars who used the law to limit obedience to the law.
Although I don’t want to jump to application, I wonder if this looks like “I don’t have time for X because I have to go to church all the time. I don’t have money for spontaneous helping because I don’t get a tax deduction as a charitable contribution.”
I think I need the weekend to think about this.
We’re reading (and writing) slowly through Mark this year. Here’s where we’ve been.