This is Tuesday of the third week of Lent. The reading is Matthew 15:1-20, with a focus on 1-9. (If you want to listen, scroll to the bottom of that page for the audio links.)
Wright focuses on how Jesus responded the traditions of his day: “So when the Pharisees challenged Jesus about the fact that his disciples weren’t keeping the purity traditions in the proper way, Jesus reacted with a counter-charge of his own. What happens when traditions, however venerable, cut across what scripture itself said? He gave as his example a piece of special pleading. You could, in his day, make a formal declaration that the money that could have been used to support your parents was instead ‘given to God’ — thus neatly getting out of the open-ended, and often sad and messy, business of looking after the elderly. Scripture has been overthrown, as Isaiah said would happen, by human tradition.”
“Jesus then took the occasion to develop his own vision of purity. He didn’t say physical cleanness didn’t matter. What he did say was that inner purity was far more important. Following deep strains of thought in scripture itself, he warned that the human heart is the source of the greatest pollution, and that nothing in human tradition can purify it. The implication is clear: Jesus is offering a cure for the polluted heart.”
Keith Green addresses this purity of heart using the words of Psalm 51: Create in Me a Clean Heart.
On a lighter night, here’s a classic interpretation of the place of tradition, the first song in ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’