The old paths said, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”
Jesus said, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” – Mark 7:4-8
The old paths said, “We are not stoning you for any of these [miracles], but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
Jesus said, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” – John 10:22-39
The old paths said, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful (picking some heads of grain and eating them) on the Sabbath.”
Jesus said, “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. Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 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 Lord of the Sabbath.” – Matthew 12:1-8 … “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:27
The old paths said, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
Jesus said, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”
The old paths said, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
Jesus said, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” – Luke 13:10-16
The old paths said, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” – John 5:1-18
The old paths said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” – John 9
Luke recounts that Jesus chose not to wash before a dinner hosted by a Pharisee – and his apparently unspoken surprise prompted the Lord to call down six woes upon the proponents of the old paths.
The old paths quoted a lot of seemingly-related scripture and applied it to a given situation in order to attack and demean and refute and destroy what they had decided God didn’t mean. Jesus spoke what God gave Him to say; He spoke scripture, to bring good news to the poor and set the captive free and bring sight to the blind.
The old paths were about law enforcement and self-righteousness and prosecution and persecution. Jesus was the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The old paths were what were originally new paths that God’s people – in defiance that Jeremiah prophesied in that oft-quoted passage – blazed by their “I will not”s. Frustrated by their captivity in Assyria and Baybylon, and their inability to follow God’s law because of their separation from His temple and His presence, they logically interpreted their own supplementary law – and it was intentionally far stricter – far more difficult to comply with – than what God had, in generalities, decreed.
It was commentary, not commandment.
It was tradition, not testament.
It was legalism, not law.
It was nit-picking, not soul-shaping.
It was human logic, not divine love.
It was their word, not God’s word.
All because they were blind to the fact that the law was underwritten by love, because God is love; that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him; that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ; that “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ “
Do those who call us to seek the old paths today see those truths in God’s word? That He is law and love; justice and mercy; severity and kindness? The old paths they call us to follow – are they the paths of scripture only? Or the teachings of men who – not miraculously but logically – came to a perfect understanding of all scripture as law, somewhere between fifty and two hundred years ago and whose teachings must be accepted and followed and unquestioningly obeyed lest hellacious damnation befall the infidel?
Did Jesus seek those old paths? Should we?