"Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile."
Scriptures (Old Testament) spoke about purity laws. The were also talking about food laws. These laws were like signposts. They were pointing out to something. But once you reach the destination the you do not need the signposts anymore.
Jesus argument is that these purity laws and other food laws do not actually touch the real human problem. It is the kingdom of God that touches the real human problem. So Jesus brings to completion the covenant that God made.
Jesus, here, is making a distinction between laws and principles of life. Laws are time bound and they are for a particular situation. But the principles are true in every situation at every place at anytime and for everyone. The principles are: respect for person, love of the other, respect for life, freedom, goodness etc. These are in a sense eternal and they are true.
But the laws are true in one country and they are not practiced in another.
So Jesus is telling his listeners to understand this basic difference. Man is more important than the laws. Respect for life is more important than the sabbath laws etc.
Listen to the kingdom of God. Understand the kingdom of God.
Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. Mk 7,1-2
The Pharisees and some scribes observed that some of his disciples eating with unwashed hands. I wonder whether they observed what they were eating. The disciples are there to eat. So what must be observed is what they were eating. The pharisees reach only half way. They see their hands in their plates. But they do not see what is in their plates or in their mouth. And they get stuck with that. Many a times this happens
Do traditions end up this way – I mean the half way. Traditions, rules and regulations are made to help us complete something. They are there to assist us to reach a goal. Without the goal, the traditions are empty. The rules have no relevance. Often times this what happens: we go in search of a goal but we reach half way and we get stuck with that. We spend all our life in the half ways.
Precisely on this ground that Jesus makes his comment on them when he says:"Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.' You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition."
Here again they reach only half way: they use words (lips service) not with hearts. They talk about worship but spend their time discussing about human doctrines. They start with God's commandments but end up with human traditions.
We need to reach beyond the traditions. Observe beyond the traditions.