Mark 7:5

So the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked Jesus this question – “How is it that your disciples do not follow the traditions of our ancestors, but eat their food with defiled hands?”

a big question
why are you different

side-stepping bigger questions
who are you

are you my teacher
are we in this together

is the risk you represent
worth the taking today

if I convert
can I keep my accomplishments

isn’t hand-washing
a daily reminder of belovedness

with each denial
differences widen

Finally the question comes: “Why didn’t you do a better job in selecting holier people for your work? The great unwashed won’t do as they are too common to make a difference.”

There is an alternating reality of the source of change—top-down or bottom-up.

The questioners are about living by the rules. περιπατοῦσιν (peripatousin) is better here in its literal translation of “walking”, rather than “living”. This makes it easier to see that behind the question is the assumption that conformation, lock-step along the way, is the way to go—given the fraught situation of occupation in any age or setting.

Moving from physical walking to figurative living diffuses the situation regarding what is at stake with this encounter. Perkins606 puts it this way:

The implication of the question is that if Jesus does not teach his disciples such rules of piety, he cannot be a religious teacher…. The arguments in this section may have been formulated when Jewish Christians had to defend their failure to observe such [traditions/orthodoxies].

This attack on the disciples stands in a long line of arguments between teachers. The aphorism of “the proof is in the pudding” is an easy one to claim the failure of cook or teacher. When we can’t get directly at a teacher/leader we point at their students/appointments. And, as usual, this doesn’t do anything other than confirm each side in the rightness of their approach. There are still many more layers of onion to go through to get to a larger picture.