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A Lenten Journey of Release & Renewal (Day Seventeen)

Day Seventeen

Scripture: Mark 7:1-13

1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ 6 He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

“This people honours me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me;

7 in vain do they worship me,

teaching human precepts as doctrines.”

8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.’

9 Then he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, “Honour your father and your mother”; and, “Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.” 11 But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, “Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban” (that is, an offering to God)— 12 then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.’


Last Saturday, I had a chance to go to an Ethiopian restaurant in Santa Clara with Lara, Katie, and Katie’s husband, Ben. There, they do not give you a knife and fork or spoon and chopsticks. You just have to use your hand to unroll injera, a thin, pancake-like bread that acts as a scoop for food. That communal-style food was so delicious and enjoyable.

The only problem was that I honestly forgot to wash my hands before we started eating. Thankfully, I was with good friends and no one at the table was judging me for that. We just enjoyed the new experience together.

I know I still had to wash my hands for hygiene purposes. It’s a good habit to have to stay healthy. However, at that moment, somehow I felt like it would be inappropriate and disrespectful to tell my friends, “Let me go wash my hands first.” I would argue that I valued more of our communal act of eating than my individual cleanliness. Is that an exaggeration? Will you judge me for this?

The Pharisees were not concerned about the hygiene of the disciples when they challenged Jesus, saying, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” They had a problem with them because they believed that these disciples did not keep the commandments of God.

In response, Jesus points out that it was them who abandoned the commandment of God and instead held onto human tradition. God gave commandments to protect the people from falling into chaos and guide them to walk in the right direction. God’s ultimate commandment is that we should love, not judge, one another as God loved us. However, these religious leaders at that time used God’s commandments to make traditions and social orders that were misused to judge, restrain, and oppress others.

We should stay clean, physically and spiritually. However, may we remember that to stay clean, ironically, it is required to get our hands dirty to be with those who are categorized as “unclean” to share the love of God.


  1. Do you have an instance where a tradition had negative consequences rather than positive ones?

  2. How are you planning to keep yourself “clean” before God?

Prayer / Reflection:

Song of Reflection: God Will Make a Way

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