Disciples, Defilement, and DivisionMarch 16, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Posted in Mark | Leave a comment
Tags: alliteration, commentary on Mark, handwashing, Mark 7, Pharisees, sanitary practices in the Bible, Sunday School lessons on Mark
Chapters 7 and 8 are sections in the Gospel of Mark which highlight the teaching ministry of Jesus and some of the responses to it. The Pharisees wanted to attack Jesus, so it was natural that they went to what they perceived as one of their greatest strengths: tradition. Jesus was not opposed to traditions UNLESS they were traditions that were contrary to the Word of God.
The Pharisees had taken God’s Levitical laws about cleanliness, which God had given to separate the Jewish people from the Canaanites, and to help keep His people healthy, and had completely stripped them of their spiritual meaning. The Pharisees placed all their emphasis on the outward appearance, and none on the inward heart.
They saw some of Jesus’s disciples eating without washing their hands.
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with [their] lips, but their heart is far from me.
As a parent, you probably make your children wash their hands before they eat, and that’s a good idea. But would you let your children get away with lying, as long as they washed their hands first? If you caught your child with his hand in the cookie jar after being forbidden from taking a cookie, and the child said, “It’s okay that I’m disobeying you, because I washed my hands first,” would you accept that as a valid excuse?
Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. And when he had called all the people [unto him], he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one [of you], and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
It’s not that Jesus was interested in stopping people from practicing basic hygiene, or even in changing their diets to more risky fare in terms of “clean” and “unclean” meats. What He was stressing to them was that physical cleanliness and eating healthy foods did not matter if the attitude of their hearts was not right.
And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, [it] cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
Now contrast the attitude of the Pharisees, and their pride, with the attitude of the gentile woman who wanted Jesus to cast a demon out of her daughter.
But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast [it] unto the dogs. And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.
Remember, Jesus always taught with great authority. He was not a mealy-mouthed teacher. It’s almost as if the crowds who followed Jesus were becoming very divided. There were those who pridefully felt they should have some control over the miracles He was doing, and there were those who very humbly and with great urgency tried to fight through the onlookers and the skeptics and the proud observers because they truly believed Jesus was their only hope. We have this same type of people with us today. Will we block their way? Or will we usher them to Jesus?