Tradition is defined as an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (such as a religious practice or a social custom). Tradition is synonymous with a ritual, habit, “the way we do things.” Every family, person, culture, church has a tradition. Within Christendom, there are longstanding traditions, for example celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December. Though Christ was not born on that day, it has become an established tradition.
Traditions in themselves are not bad; they keep order and permit structure. However, sometimes we are prone to follow traditions without fully understanding the purpose or meaning of the habitual practice. Tradition is safe. Tradition is comfortable. Tradition can enslave us; tie us to a dead past and stop us from experiencing the mighty move of God. Tradition can bind us and hinder our progress. God has not changed, He remains the same as He has always been, but He is always doing a new thing!
Like us, the Jews had many traditions, customs, and rituals, such as refraining from work on the Sabbath and washing the feet of guests and welcoming them with a kiss. Most of these traditions stemmed from the law of Moses. (Exodus 20:8-11). The Sabbath was established as a day of rest by God; anyone who violated the Sabbath law was sentenced to death. These traditions were created for a purpose; however, the Pharisees, a Jewish sect, distorted what was purposeful and made it oppressive.
Scripture is laden with instances where Pharisees, strict observers of tradition, often conflicted with Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. In Matthew 12:1-2, the Pharisees condemned the disciples after they plucked and ate corn on the Sabbath. Jesus retorts in the Matthew 12:3, “haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread-which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.” He proceeds in verse seven, “if you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath.” Jesus later enters the synagogue and finds a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees again attempt to enforce traditions, by asking whether it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath? To their inquiry, in Matthew 12:11, Jesus answers, “if any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
Strict adherence to tradition was preventing the Pharisees from appreciating the works and miracles Jesus performed. Their rituals and traditions prevented them from embracing Him. This is an effect of following tradition sometimes. When things that appear unfamiliar are introduced, we condemn it because it’s not what we’re used to. We often question the legitimacy or the authenticity of the Source because it’s not in accordance with our traditions.
In John 9, we discover how tradition prompted the Pharisees to claim Jesus Christ was a sinner. Scripture states Jesus healed a blind man by making mud with spit and sand and placing it over the man’s eyes. The Pharisees condemned the miracle merely because it occurred on the Sabbath. (John 9:16) Despite the testimony of the blind man, the confirmation by his parents (John 9:18-21), the Pharisees, blinded by tradition, could not receive the Son of Man. (John 9:28).
The works of Jesus were different than what the well-learned Pharisees had been taught. His works contradicted all that they knew and understood; because of that, they couldn’t access the revelation of Jesus Christ. The blind man healed of his blindness, received a revelation because he was willing to let go of tradition. He received healing because he didn’t allow tradition to keep him from acknowledging the presence of God. The blind man was not naïve to traditions, the way things are done. He knew speaking to the Pharisees in a harsh manner could cause him to be disciplined; however, he encountered someone Great, Who not only opened his physical eyes but his spiritual eyes as well.
Traditions can be good, but don’t let them choke you into a spiritual coma. You must be willing to break tradition to get more! It’s not always easy, but sometimes necessary. Mark 7:24-30 tells the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman with the demon-possessed daughter. Traditionally, as a Gentile and a woman, she could not freely approach Jesus. Fueled by desperation and the decision to break protocol, she pushed her way to Him. Despite discouragement by the disciples and an initial rebuke by Jesus, the woman proceeded. She cast aside tradition to receive deliverance for her daughter. Don’t sit on your issue because of what you’re used to. Break tradition and receive a revelation!
In Luke 8:43-48, the woman with the issue of blood decided to break protocol, disregard what has been a longstanding ritual regarding uncleanness (Leviticus 15) and pursue her healing. Any tradition, habit or attitude that stops you from seeing the glory of God must be tossed away.
Don’t miss glorious opportunities because of useless traditions. Are the traditions you’re following producing anything new? In Luke 5, expert fishermen decided to break the tradition and normal protocol of fishing and obey the words of Jesus; their result was a bountiful harvest such that their nets were breaking. (Luke 5:5-6).
Break out of your own personal traditions, wrong mindsets and get more from God. Jesus won our freedom and liberated us from the bondage of the law and meaningless traditions. Are you free when you come into His presence? Do you freely pray, freely worship, freely receive? What are you willing to break through or break off to see more of Jesus, to get closer to Him? To receive a revelation from Him, to make your walk with Him richer? To break the monotony of your worship?
Tradition will stop you from receiving a revelation. Break tradition!