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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood




The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) (Mark 7:1-4, NIV)

What question would you ask Jesus if you walked 100 miles to get to Him? I doubt you would ask Him, “Why don’t Your disciples wash their hands before they eat?”

These religious leaders are not the only ones who ask the wrong question. I’ve seen it happen in the church.

I was once called upon to meet with a small group that was upset at a pastor’s decision. I drove 150 miles to meet with them. They were led by a longtime church member who was now in his 80s.

The church sanctuary seated about 1,000 people, but the congregation had dwindled down to about 100. They had been so divided that a pastor was appointed to lead them, and the church in the next two years had grown to around 300. Good progress!

Now, this group wanted me to listen to their grievance. I asked, “What’s the problem?”

Their elderly leader answered, “The pastor moved the church nursery without our permission.” The nursery had been at the back of the church, but so many new families were coming that the pastor had wisely relocated the nursery near the front. This group was upset because they had not been consulted.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people like them who are more interested in their own agenda than people coming to Christ.

So many conflicts in the body of Christ result not from division over doctrine, but difference over preference.

We can be as bad as the Pharisees in picking the wrong issue!

The likes of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law have never gone away. There are still those today who look at the small things they deem wrong rather than the wonderful things God is doing! They nitpick at those who are doing the work of God because the way that work is being done doesn’t please them.

The Pharisees’ faultfinding with Jesus comes at the very time the sick were being healed in villages, towns and the countryside (6:56). They should have rejoiced rather than criticized.

Mark takes time to explain the custom of handwashing. His parenthetical aside shows us he is writing to a non-Jewish audience who would not be familiar with the customs of the Pharisees.

Is it wrong to wash your hands before you eat? By no means! There are hygienic reasons for that. We are careful in handling food lest we contaminate our bodies with unwanted germs. But the Pharisees had substituted a ritualistic legalism for matters that were best left to individual judgment. Jesus let His disciples violate these rules because such proscriptions had no bearing on one’s relationship with God.

Let’s not repeat the Pharisees’ mistake. Jesus is more interested in a clean heart than clean hands.

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, help me not to be a person whose initial tendency is to find fault with what someone else is doing. Help me first to look for the good, and if any fault remains, then grant me wisdom to know how to lovingly address it. Help me to care about what You really care for.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

On Your Mark

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2013 On Your Mark

2012 On Your Mark

2011 On Your Mark

2010 On Your Mark

2009 On Your Mark

2008 On Your Mark

Podcasts of On Your Mark are available in video and audio.
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