Jesus has a way of saying things that cut to the heart of a human being quicker than a surgeon’s scalpel. Before you know it, you wake up and realize that you’re in the middle of open-heart surgery.
Long before Jesus walks the earth, the prophet Nathan provides this necessary spiritual remedy for King David. After David sins against God, neighbor, Israel, Bathsheba, and Uriah (not exactly in that order), Nathan tells him about the rich man who stole the poor man’s only sheep. David is incensed, but before he realizes it, Nathan has cut his heart wide open. “You are that man,” he says.
When Mark makes Jesus’ cutting remark, you do many things like this (v. 13), the last line of the conversation in today’s text, he must want us to feel its sting. How do we use tradition to avoid being obedient to God? In a thousand different ways, if we’re honest. Maybe our family tradition is to never talk about painful secrets, so we never have the healing conversation we need. That grudge we bear against a loved one becomes an infected grievance because “that’s just the way this family does things.” Jesus has a way of broadening our narrow-minded vision.
Long ago, a person from a non-traditional religious background came to me seeking baptism. My first emotion was joy. My next thought was,“I wonder what the bylaws say about this specific situation?” The bylaws, just one of the layers of human tradition that stand between us and the living God, get you every time.
If Jesus had walked into the coffee shop where I sat with a baptismal candidate, thinking about those bylaws, he might have said to me, you do many things like this. And just like that, my heart would be lying on the table, open and bleeding, ready to be filled with God again.
What bylaws or human traditions keep you from being obedient to God? Name them if you can.
Lord, we often let our traditions become a barrier between us. Help us tear those barriers down in your name. Amen.