Is the tradition of the elders always the same thing as the wisdom of God? (v. 3) When we read this story about Jesus, the Pharisees, and the Scribes, the obvious answer is, “no.” Still, many families choose to keep a matriarch or patriarch happy by following tradition despite the dysfunction it creates. Much of our entertainment and politics avoid needed change by trying to escape to a time when things seemed better. Often our congregations greet proposed changes from newer and younger members with, “We’ve always done it this way.”
Keeping the wisdom of our elders and our ancestors alive is good and healthy for us. I don’t think Jesus has any issue with the Pharisees washing their hands. But Jesus calls out their foolishness for elevating this ancient, outward act over the ongoing, inward wisdom- seeking to which their faith calls them.
When we follow Jesus, who often says, “You have heard it said… but now I say unto you,” he reveals that the wisdom of God is alive, a mystery that continues to be revealed over time in our minds, hearts, and our ongoing conversations within communities. The same Spirit that empowers Jesus fills us. It blows unpredictably like the wind in the trees but is also as close to us as the next breath on our lips.
Loud voices around or within us may tell us that the wisdom of the elders is the only way we are allowed to live. Sticking to “the way we’ve always done it” may feel easiest and most comfortable but keep your ears and heart open for Jesus’ invitations to draw near and follow more closely. Pray for the courage to honor and seek Christ’s always-emerging wisdom right here, right now.
When was the last time you changed your mind on something important? Could the Holy Spirit change your mind again?
Truth of the Universe, I give thanks that your wisdom is too wonderful for me to attain, too great for me to comprehend all at once. Holy Spirit, speak here, now, and draw my heart close to yours. Amen.