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 defiled, that is, unwashed. (Mk 7:1)

“He’s at it again,” I think to myself with disgust. “Some Rabbi! His disciples are eating and they haven’t even bothered to wash their hands! They sit right down and dig right in.”

And what does this self-styled Rabbi say? Does he rebuke them? Does he send them from the table to wash properly before they defile themselves? Of course not. He joins them. Reaches for bread with hands that have been who-knows-where!

How many people has he touched with those hands? How many sinners? How many objects has he picked up in the market that have been handled by strangers? How many dogs has he petted? How many sick people has he reached out to?

But he never respects the traditions we honor! He’s careless about the Sabbath. He makes no effort to fast regularly or teach his disciples to do so. He consorts with sinners and common people. He depreciates the importance of tithing and sacrifice. How can he call himself a Rabbi? When he disrespects our traditions, he disrespects the Holy One who gave them!

When I can stand it no more, I shout at him: “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

He turns and stares at me for a long moment. Conversation around the table dies. His disciples wipe their fingers and wait for his response. Some of them look a little ashamed (as well they should!).

HIs eyes move from me to take in my companions. He knows we are upset. He knows what we think of the way he plays fast and loose with the traditions of our people. He opens his mouth to speak. I think to myself, “Now is the time for you to acknowledge that traditions are good. Now is the time for you to stop playing with holy things and join us in championing the very rituals that set us apart as God’s chosen people.”

But Jesus is not known for his sense of timing or his reasoned ways. Instead of thanking us for teaching him holiness, he uses the occasion to lecture us on the subject! Rather than accepting our reprimand, he dares to rebuke us!

Does this man’s arrogance know no bounds? Is there no limit to his impiety?

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