1. Now the Pharisees, along with some other religious leaders and scholars who had come from Jerusalem, gathered around Him.
2. And, seeing everything in their world from a legalistic perspective, they were keenly aware that some of His disciples seemed to have no apparent regard for the observance of ceremony, specifically that of ritual washings before meals.
3. The Pharisees, in keeping with strict, Jewish legal tradition, do not eat unless they first wash their hands diligently...up to the elbow...with clenched fist. This practice is observed merely for ceremonial reasons, but to them, the careful and faithful adherence to doing it just right is of the utmost importance, and is to be taken very seriously.
4. Furthermore, when they come from the marketplace, they will not eat until they completely purify themselves according to the Law. And there are also many other traditions having to do with washing and eating...man-made rules handed down to them over the centuries...which they honor faithfully, and without question, such as the scouring of every cup and wooden pitcher and widemouthed jug, along with every utensil of copper.
5. So the Pharisees and Scribes, unable to imagine a world without all these rules to keep, kept asking Jesus, "Why do Your disciples flout the rules...the hallowed traditions handed down to us by the forefathers? How can they eat their food with hands unwashed and ceremonially not purified?"
6. But He said to them, "The prophet Isaiah hit the nail on the head about frauds like you...pretenders and hypocrites...and so it is written: 'These people make such a big deal out of doing and saying the right thing, supposedly to honor Me with their lips...but, in reality, nothing they do is motivated from the heart, and so their hearts are actually very far away and distant from Me.
7. Their so-called worship of Me is pointless and fruitless, because their top priority is teaching the commandments and precepts of men, demanding that they be obeyed as if they were the doctrines of God.'
8. In fact, you disregard and dispense with the actual commandments of God...the things that really matter to Him...and hold on for dear life to the empty traditions of men, keeping them carefully and faithfully, as if they really make any difference in the big picture."
9. And He went on to say to them, "You've really developed a sophisticated system of manipulation...you keep the people under your authority constantly uneasy about their approval rating with God, and in so doing have guaranteed that you'll always have a place of importance in this society. Your desire for significance, or just simple job security, has caused you to reject, thwart, and nullify the commandment of God...and so you place inappropriate importance on keeping your tradition and your own human regulations!
10. For example, Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother', and, 'He who curses, reviles, or mistreats his father or mother is worthy of death!'
11. But you have devised a legal loophole, saying, 'A man is exempt from having to provide for his parents in their old age if he tells his father or his mother that the money he would have used for their care and upkeep is "Corban", meaning that it is a gift already designated for and given as an offering to God'. And then this money that is freed up is, in essence, coming to you.
12. In doing this you no longer are permitting a man to do anything for his father or mother, but are letting him off the hook from his rightful responsibilities.
13. This little trick nullifies and makes void the purpose of the commandment, and the enforcing of it enables the traditions of men to make the very Word of God completely impotent and ineffective. And this is just one of many things like this that you are doing all the time."
14. Then He called the people who were in close proximity to Himself again and said to them, "I want you to listen to Me...every one of you...and I want you to understand what I say.
15. All this ceremonial cleansing that the religious leaders think is so vital is harmless in and of itself...but you should all know that there is not one thing from the outside world, which by going into a man or a woman, can pollute and defile him or her. It's the things which come out of a person...the fruit of the internal world...which have the potential to defile him/her and make him/her unhallowed and unclean!
16. If any of you can hear Me, then listen to what I'm saying...really listen with perception and comprehension!"
17. After this He left the crowd and went into the house where He was staying, and once inside, His disciples began asking Him about the illustration He had used.
18. And He said to them, "Please tell Me that you're not so unintelligent and dull of hearing that you don't understand this simple premise! Just think about it...whatever goes into a person from the outside cannot possibly make him or her filthy or unclean,
19. Since it doesn't go to his heart. It's the heart that determines the real standard of cleanliness in a person, so the heart is all that ultimately matters. Don't you realize that whatever is physically ingested automatically goes toward a person's digestive tract, and then is inevitably eliminated, passing into the place designed to receive waste?" And with this straightforward reference to human biology, He made and declared all foods to be ceremonially clean...in judging everything edible as being kosher, He abolished the ceremonial distinctions of the limited Levitical Law.
20. And He reiterated His point, saying, "It's what comes out of a person that determines what makes him or her unclean, or renders him/her unhallowed.
21. Instead of worrying about filtering or washing what comes in from the outside, you should be concerned with sanitizing what comes out of your internal world. For from within that place...that is, out of the heart...can come base and destructive thoughts, sexual dysfunction, stealing, murder, adultery,
22. Jealousy, endangerment to others, deceit, indecent conduct, obsession with what others have, slander, malicious misrepresentation, abusiveness, pride, recklessness, thoughtlessness, and so on.
23. All these evil purposes and desires can originate from deep within an individual, and these are the things that can make a person truly unclean."