Then came together to him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.…
Pharisees and scribes of Jerusalem had detected some of the disciples of Jesus eating bread "with defiled, that is, with unwashen, hands." "Holding the tradition of the elders" with great tenacity themselves, they demand of the new Teacher a reason for his disciples' departure from the old paths. It was a favorable opportunity for exposing the error of substituting human for Divine precepts, and for placing the external in its right relation to the internal and spiritual. Christ here appears as the authoritative Interpreter of the Divine commands; and, as a true Teacher, discriminating between the "commandment of God" and "the tradition of men." Of old time it was well said, "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart." Here the men who "sit on Moses' seat," alike in what they "bid" and in what they "do," lay great stress on the "washings of cups, and pots, and brasen vessels," and of hands. Truly great matters! But the searching eye Divine discerns the hidden "heart that is far from" God, and whose many evils send forth a thick stream of pollution in unholy practices, defiling not merely the hands but the whole life. Jesus rebuts their accusation against his disciples, first by a justly merited rebuke, and then by readjusting the relative authority of the commandment of God and the tradition of men, which, in the practice of these accusers, through their selfish, grasping covetousness, had been so greatly distorted. He teaches once and for ever that no commandment of men, no tradition of elders, must be allowed to make "void the Word of God." Thus Jesus, who is so often erroneously spoken of as despising "mere commands," redeems the very "word," and pays his utmost tribute to the letter of the command. In the conflict between the Church and the sacred relationships of common life, to the latter must be assigned the pre-eminence. The necessities of the temple, of its services or its servants, must not be met at the expense of filial faithfulness. The sin of the Pharisees and scribes was -
I. A GROSS PERVERSION OF THE RELATIVE CLAIMS OF THE PARENT AND THE CHURCH.
II. A WICKED INTERFERENCE WITH THE FIRST COMMANDMENT WITH PROMISE.
III. A CRUEL UNDERMINING OF FILIAL AFFECTION AND FIDELITY, AND AS CRUEL AN EXPOSURE OF THE AGED AND ENFEEBLED PARENTS TO A FALSELY JUSTIFIED NEGLECT. And it was -
IV. AS UNWARRANTED USURPATION OF AUTHORITY TO WEAKEN THE OBLIGATION OF A DIVINE LAW. Christ's words, whilst correcting these errors,
(1) traced the tradition to its true source - "your tradition, which ye have delivered;"
(2) reduced it to its proper place of inferiority; and
(3) exalted the Divine command, "Honour thy father and thy mother," to its unassailable supremacy. So he prepares the way for a correction of the "many such like things" which were done by these "hypocrites," who taught "as their doctrines the precepts of men." - G.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.