TRUST YOUR HEART?

Mark 7:14-23

BRIEF INTRO:

In our previous study, we jumped head first into a situation where some scribes and Pharisees gathered around Jesus and confronted Him regarding the behavior of His disciples. They noticed that they did not wash (ceremonially) their hands before eating, so they were defiled according to their traditions. Jesus exposed their hypocrisy by citing Isaiah’s prophecy from Isaiah 29:13 (vv. 6-8).

The charges:

  1. They honor Him with their lips while their hearts are far away from Him (v.6)
  2. Their worship of Him is in vain because they elevate man’s words above His (vv. 7,13).
  3. They “wisely” or shrewdly set aside what He says to keep their traditions (v. 9).
  4. By doing such things, they no longer allow people to obey the Law He gave and therefore invalidate (nullify, render it of no effect) the word of God by their traditions of men (vv. 12,13).

The central issue of this section, verses one through twenty-three, is their hypocrisy (7:6-8). The topic of washing hands, cups, and other things only reveals the underlying problem they face- false morality, pseudo worship, and the elevating of men above God!

Moving forward, we will read Christ’s view on what defiles a person and quickly understand that His view is opposed to theirs. It must be so because their traditions come from sin-fallen men, in contrast to Christ’s teaching, which comes from God! His authority is the most significant because He is God!

The Pharisees and some of the scribes *gathered to Him after they came from Jerusalem, and saw that some of His disciples were eating their bread with [a]unholy hands, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the other Jews do not eat unless they [b]carefully wash their hands, thereby holding firmly to the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they [c]completely cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received as traditions to firmly hold, such as the [d]washing of cups, pitchers, and copper pots.) And the Pharisees and the scribes *asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk in accordance with the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with [e]unholy hands?” But He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
And in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘The one who speaks evil of father or mother, is[f]certainly to be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a person says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is, [g]given to God),’ 12 you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 therebyinvalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

FOCUS ONE: The parable

This confrontation with the scribes and Pharisees (v.1) broke up the multitude in some way or another that Jesus had to call the multitude unto Himself again (v. 14). He then spoke a parable to them (v. 17). Is this a parable? That through me for a moment because it is not like other parables that Jesus used to teach the multitudes (Matthew 13, for example).

He implores them to listen and understand (listen with purpose, intentionality, to gain wisdom-vv. 14,16). Jesus thought this teaching was critical for the multitude to understand. They had been placed under a heavy system that added many burdens to their application of the Law. This came from men that added to what Moses had divinely given them over the years, making it impossible for them to be obedient to God (vv.11-12).

The parable pictures food and drinks that they/we would consume daily as being “outside” the man. Such things, and take notice these things are not explicitly qualified, cannot defile a person because they do not go into His heart. So, Jesus is stating that defilement can only come from the heart, something within a person, not outside of a person! What does defile the man is what proceeds out of Him—that which comes out of his heart.

17 And when He later entered a house, away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him about the parable. 18 And He *said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding as well? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the person from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and [a]is eliminated?” (Thereby He declared all foods clean.) 20 And He was saying, “That which comes out of the person, that is what defiles the person. 21 For from within, out of the [b]hearts of people, come the evil thoughts, acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, acts of adultery, 22 deeds of greed, wickedness, deceit, indecent behavior, [c]envy, slander, [d]pride, and foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile the person.”

FOCUS TWO: The Parable explained

Here, again, we witness the disciple’s “slowness” or “dullness, in comprehending what Jesus was saying. “Are you so lacking in understanding,” he says to them. Even though they had been with Him awhile and were His “inner circle.” Even though they had witnessed many amazing miracles and heard His teachings, they were slow to grasp what it all meant! It is as if Jesus said: “Really? After all the time we spent together, you still don’t get this?”

That statement by Jesus convicted me. When I think of how long I have been walking with Him, reading His word, praying, and still, I am slow to understand things at times. I am “dull of hearing,” just like them. Maybe you can relate to this as well.

Jesus proceeds to explain His teaching to them. External things do not go into the heart and therefore cannot affect the morality of the heart. They pass through the stomach and then are eliminated by normal biological functions! (A person is not defiled morally if his hands are unclean or not ceremonially washed before eating).

The issue here is not what’s on the outside of the man BUT what’s on the inside! Defilement proceeds from within man’s heart (the seat of emotions and will).

All kinds of evil, perversions, coveting, pride, etc., come forth from the heart of man. They are ALREADY in us and defiling us. Even though a person observes ceremonial rituals with diligence, he can still be MORALLY unclean by the issue of sin in his heart (lusted with her already in your heart- Matthew 5:27-28).

Verse 19 was probably written to help non-Jewish readers who may have been confused over Jewish food laws (Roman’s 14:14; Galatians 2:11-17).

“Evil thoughts unite with one’s will to produce evil words and actions.” It is these things that proceed from the man and defile him.

“I sicken as I think how man has plaqued his fellow-men by his sins. But I will not go through the list, nor need I: the devil has preached upon this text this week, and few have been able to escape the horrible exposition” (Spurgeon).

“This is a powerful reminder that what God first wants from us is our heart. We can only really be changed before God from the inside out. If the life and the power and the work of God isn’t real in our heart, then it isn’t real at all” (source unknown).

Tenacious warfare

Extended reading: Hebrews 11

Devotional reading Hebrews 12:1-3

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Sadly, I don’t often think about Christian people from past generations, much less many generations ago, that have had the same unending battle with sin as I do. That is my first mistake. I also find that my struggle with sin, more often than not, revolves around the same sin, the one that “so easily entangles” me. And I know I’m not alone, each of you are in the same boat with me.

But this scripture reminds me of a great host of people throughout bible times that have struggled with sin, many and varied; people who suffered through difficult circumstances and by faith “fought the good fight” and persevered! This scripture says that others have done it, so can we, and that is encouraging for the battles I face daily in my walk of faith.

So, while I can look back in history and find others who have been where I am, and in most cases, struggled with things I will never have to, and have walked by faith, I am encouraged. BUT, even better, I can fix my eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith!

Far greater than anyone, Jesus endured the cross and its shame, endured such hostility by sinners against Himself accomplishing not only our salvation, which is absolute, but ALSO our encouragement and strength to continue to walk by faith and not by sight! ”so that you may NOT grow weary and lose heart” (v.3).

What a precious reminder this is. No matter what afflictions we face, persecutions we suffer, or sin we constantly battle, we can fix our eyes on Jesus and find the strngth and encouragement we need to ”run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

The true source of religious authority

Mark 7:1-13

BRIEF RECAP: Jesus, along with the twelve, had just left the region of Gennesaret, where they were met by a multitude of people that had heard about Him and the miraculous things He was doing (6:53). It appears some people may not have been healed that day because “as many as touched it (the fringe of His cloak) were being cured” (6:56). It wasn’t the “fringe” that had healing power; that’s what animism teaches. Animism is the belief that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence and have healing power. Jesus is not an animist!

Instead, their healings took place when faith was exercised in Jesus (5:34 as an example). I venture to guess that some did not have faith in Him to heal or anything else.

7 The Pharisees and some of the scribes *gathered to Him after they came from Jerusalem, 2 and saw that some of His disciples were eating their bread with [a]unholy hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the other Jews do not eat unless they [b]carefully wash their hands, thereby holding firmly to the tradition of the elders; 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they [a]completely cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received as traditions to firmly hold, such as the [b]washing of cups, pitchers, and copper pots.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes *asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk in accordance with the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with [c]unholy hands?

FOCUS ONE: Pharisees and their traditions

As this chapter opens, we immediately notice the initial audience that gathers around Jesus. It seems that this is taking place in Capernaum where His home base was (7:17; Matthew 4:13). The Pharisees and some scribes had made the trip from Jerusalem to watch and confront Him (v.1).

This section begins with them “seeing” some of Christ’s disciples eating bread with unclean hands (That is, ceremonially unwashed hands according to the “traditions of the elders). This upset them because they would not eat unless they observed the washing first (v.4)!

We have not heard from these people in a while. As I look back in the gospel, it appears the last time we heard anything from them was way back in chapter three (3:22), when they rejected Him and accused Him of doing works by the power of Satan!

Now, here they are again, unchanged in their thinking, and they are offended when they see some of the disciples eating with “impure hands” that are unwashed.

“1The scribes were learned men who’s business it was to study the Law, transcribe it, and write commentaries on it. Ezra from the Old Testament was a scribe (Ezra 7:6). The scribes took their job of preserving scripture very seriously. The Pharisees were an influential religious sect within Judaism in the time of Jesus and the early church. They were known for their emphasis on personal piety, their acceptance of oral tradition in addition to the Law, and their teaching that ALL Jews should observe all 600 plus laws in the Torah, including the rituals concerning ceremonial purification.”

“The traditions that they held in such esteem were written down centuries before and were still oral in Jesus’ day.” These traditions were “traditions of men,” NOT laws from God! This means that over the years, they had elevated them to the status of scripture, and so by not observing them, a person could be found guilty of violating them. So, in their view, a person was obliged to follow them. But, as we will see shortly, that was not the view that Jesus held!

  1. What is the washing of the hands?

The Law of Moses required external cleanliness as a part of their religion. Moses prescribed them in moderation as was suitable for various occasions (Leviticus 5:2-4; 11:29-45; 12). The Pharisees added many ordinances on top of what Moses gave, and ultimately they began to be viewed as Law.

“For the Pharisees, the ‘impure hands’ refers to a state of ritual impurity. So they are accusing His disciples and ultimately Him as well, of behaving in a way that makes them unclean in respect to their traditions. Mark, understanding that non-Jewish readers may not understand about these ceremonial washings explains briefly what ‘washings’ means” (7:3).

And there are other things mentioned that they do according to the tradition of the elders. Washing cups and pitchers and copper pots!

So, they approach Jesus and ask Him about the disciples not following the tradition of the elders.

6 But He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
7 And in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

9 He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘The one who speaks evil of father or mother, is [a]certainly to be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a person says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is, [b]given to God),’ 12 you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thereby invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that

FOCUS TWO: The hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees

After reading those verses, some issues come to light:

  1. They neglect the commandment of God to observe the traditions of men (v.8)
  2. They “nicely set it aside” to keep their tradition (v.9)
  3. Example given in verses 10-12 (What Moses commanded vs. their rule)
  4. The results: Not allowing people to obey the commands; Invalidating the word of God, and that’s just for starters (v. 13)!

The whole context is about the “traditions of the elders” and the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees proclaiming to follow God while setting aside His word for their traditions (v. 9,13).

What was Jesus’ response?

  1. He uses OT scripture from Isaiah 29:13 to reveal their hypocrisy and call out their neglect of the commandments God has given them to observe.
  2. He exposes how “nicely” they set His word aside to do this (v. 9). “The tone of sarcasm in Jesus’ use of the word (kalos) emphasizes the charge of hypocrisy, because it commends them for the cleverness with which they disobey God and yet still portray themselves as righteous.”
  3. He Uses another OT scripture to prove the point (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16).

I can’t help but notice the arrogance in their thinking: Moses said, but you say. What better example than this to show how they invalidate the word of God by those traditions!

A good reminder for us in these passages is to learn that the religious things we do and the various holy days we observe can never make us clean before God. External things, even traditions, are all in vain when the heart is not right with God.

8 “See to it that there is no one who takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition, in accordance with the elementary principles of the world, [a]rather than in accordance with Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

16 “Therefore, no one is to [a]act as your judge in regard to food and drink, or in respect to a festival or a new moon, or a Sabbath [b]day— 17 things which are only a shadow of what is to come; but the [c]substance [d]belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).

Later we will see that things that defile us are not from the outside but come from within our hearts.

1 got questions.org
2 Exegetical guide to the Greek NT

THE NAME OF JESUS

These are the lyrics to a new song I wrote for playing on my ukulele. I wanted to share them with you.

                                               The name of Jesus 
                                         Lyrics by:  Larry Stump Jr.

How can I explain the Un- explainable?

How can I define the un-definable?

How can I describe the un- describable?

In a name. The name of Jesus!

How can I express the in -expressible?

How can I resist the irresistible?

How can I present the most presentable?

In a name. The name of Jesus

CHORUS

The name above every name

That forgave my life of shame

The name that bore my sin and pain

The name. The name of Jesus

How can I forget the unforgettable ?

How can I surmise the unsurmisable?

How can I access the most accessible?

In a name. The name of Jesus

How can I afford the unaffordable?

Why should I deserve the undeservable?

How can I foresee the unforeseeable?

In a name. The name of Jesus

Repeat chorus

THE PEOPLE RECOGNIZED HIM

Mark 6:53-56

BRIEF INTRO: Last time we ended our study after Jesus got into the boat, the boat the disciples (the men who were the first generation of gospel preachers and were to be the rulers over the 12 tribes of Israel -Matthew 19:28) were in as they battled strong winds. These men couldn’t understand who Jesus truly was, “their heart was hardened” (v. 52). These men had no excuse considering all they saw, heard, and experienced. But neither do we!

The other gospels show us that the disciples understood only by degrees. Therefore their statements (throughout their days of walking with Jesus) shouldn’t be interpreted as if they had a “post resurrection” understanding of Him. They always seem to come to the same point over and over again, each time at a deeper level of understanding. But always with a mixture of apprehension! They haven’t arrived yet, AND neither have we!

Jesus, who previously instructed the twelve to go to Bethsaida (v.45), now instructs them to cross over the sea again, this time going into the region of Gennesaret on the western shore of the sea (see photo for a better understanding of their travels back and forth).

53 “When they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored at the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him.”

FOCUS ONE: Jesus recognized

Immediately the people recognize Him. Why? Most likely, they had heard about the miracles He was performing from others. They listened to the news about the demons He cast out, the woman with the blood issue being healed by only touching Him, and I am sure they would have heard about thousands of people being fed till satisfied, even though there were only five loaves of bread and two fish! 

It seems probable, as well, that they would have been told that twelve scraggly looking men usually surrounded this outstanding preacher and miracle worker. So, upon seeing this group coming on shore, it was evident to them exactly who He was. This text has no hint of doubt or confusion about His identity. Instead, “the people immediately recognized Him” (v. 54).

55 “and ran about that entire country and began carrying here and there on their pallets those who were sick, [a]to wherever they heard He was. 56 And wherever He entered villages, or cities, or a countryside, they were laying the sick in the marketplaces and imploring (entreating) Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and all who touched it were being [b]healed.”

FOCUS TWO: Jesus pursued

These verses reveal that Jesus’ popularity was at an all-time high. People from that region began gathering their sick and lame and bringing them to wherever Jesus was. We can imagine that in many cases, that was no easy task. Getting their friends and loved ones to Him required some sacrifice and hardship along the way. But they did it. Why? They desired a miraculous intervention in the lives of their sick loved ones.

No matter where He went: villages, cities, or the countryside, there was a particular scene that would unfold. People from all over the place would bring their sick and lay them in the market places. These were the open spaces used for buying and selling and would afford much room for the sick people to be placed.

We are not told whether or not Jesus healed anybody in any other way than by them touching the fringe of His cloak. In our text, this was the main avenue of approach they used with Jesus (v. 56). They had heard about this man and were ready to take advantage of the situation. I wonder if the story of the woman with the blood issue influenced them (5:25)!

To “entreat” means that they kept begging again and again and again. We see this same Greek word (parakaloun) used in 5:10 regarding the demons asking not to be sent out of the country. In other words, they were persistent!

“As a good Jew, He wore the fringes and tassels commanded by God in Numbers 15:37-39 and Deuteronomy 22:12 (see picture). It was these that they sought to touch for healing.

I am taken back by how gracious Jesus was to these people. Rather than being angry for their constant neediness. Rather than being self-focused, He was others-focused. So unlike many of us. He saw them as sheep without a shepherd. Even though it seems that they were not interested in His teaching, we find that “as many as touched it were being cured” (v. 56). 

We know from other synoptic accounts that Jesus healed people in varied ways (speaking, touching, spitting on the ground, and then wiping it in the eyes of a man, etc.). But here, the scriptures say healing occurred only by touching the fringe of His cloak!

Now we know that it was not the “touching” that healed them. Nor was it the particular piece of clothing they touched. Christ healed no one except “by faith” (5:34; Luke 5:20; Luke 18:42). This context does not change that reality.

FOCUS THREE: Jesus’ compassion

Unlike Jesus, we often tend to do things expecting something in return. We do it when it works for us and if we feel someone is deserving of our help. NOT JESUS! From start to finish, he sought to do the Father’s will. Lack of sleep and food, no issue. No alone time, no matter. Constant cries for physical help but little if any desire for spiritual aid, not a deterrent to Him!

I know we are not Jesus, BUT we are to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1; 4:32; Luke 6:40). It is sad to think that many people are more concerned about their temporal significance, “more concerned about their bodies than their souls.”

Do you get upset when you feel people are taking advantage of you?

When you see a need, do you try to fill it?

Do you show proper appreciation and consideration for others when asking them favors?

These are a few things to consider as we seek to imitate Jesus in our walk of faith.

DOCTRINES OF THE FAITH

I want to encourage you to listen to our new podcast series on the doctrines of the faith, and ask you to share it with others, believers and nonbelievers as well.

“It is the Bible’s truth that sustains, strengthens, and guides us. This is why Paul speaks of it as he does. It is, he says, made up of “sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13). It is “sound teaching” (2 Tim. 4:3) and “sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1; 1:9). It is in accord with the “sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:3). This word, translated here as sound, is used also of physical health.

These references to “sound” teaching and doctrine, then, are a reminder to us that from such teaching the church’s strength arises. From it comes its health. It is what reverses spiritual ills and, sometimes, even deep paralysis. It is what makes churches whole. It is what lays the foundation for their vitality as well as their longevity.

This is why biblical doctrine is important. This is why it is essential” (Tim Challis).

I have begun this series with the doctrine (teaching) of sin as God has given it to us in His word. This teaching is one that seems absent from many pulpits today and is therefore a necessary teaching to begin with.

We need to know who and what we are in God’s view before we can make sense of our need for His forgiveness in the person of Jesus Christ.

A good and competent doctor will tell you the bad news of your condition first, so that you will understand how serious your situation is, and then be able to pursue the best treatment options available.

So too, we need to know God’s perspective on sin and our sinfulness so we can “look unto Him and live.” We need to know what will happen to us if we do not seek THE ONLY remedy available, Jesus Christ. AND we need to know that there is a cure for our disease of sin-the blood of Jesus!

Our podcast is on YouTube and Spotify as well as posted in my blog 7waysfromsunday.com every Wednesday around 10AM.

Near misses add up

In all of my years driving professionally the one safety training topic that still resonates in my mind is that of “near misses.’

OSHA defines near misses as episodes where no property was damaged and no personal injury occurred in spite of the fact that, given a slight shift of time or location, damage or injury would most likely have occurred. Near misses can also be referred to as close calls, near accidents, accident precursors, injury-free occurrences or potential collisions.

“Most people think of “near misses” as harrowing close calls that could have been a lot worse—when a firefighter escapes a burning building moments before it collapses, or when a tornado miraculously veers away from a town in its path. Events like these are rare narrow escapes that leave us shaken and looking for lessons.”

“But there’s another class of near misses, ones that are much more common and pernicious. These are the often unremarked small failures that permeate day-to-day business but cause no immediate harm. People are hardwired to misinterpret or ignore the warnings embedded in these failures, and so they often go unexamined or, perversely, are seen as signs that systems are resilient and things are going well.

Yet these seemingly innocuous events are often harbingers; if conditions shift slightly, or if luck does not intervene, a crisis erupts.”

Our lives are filled with “seemingly innocuous events” on another level as well. The radio program that comes on talking about a savior when we thought we set the channel for a comedy show. The new hire at work that enjoys talking about some guy named Jesus! The car accident that sends you to the hospital where the local chaplain visits and reads to you from the Bible.

I can go on but I think you get the point. These supposed innocuous events are harbingers on a spiritual level to those without Christ. They might possibly be the catalyst for bringing them, as they did us, to repentant faith in Jesus!

These things are near misses only in the sense of how close a person comes to the “light of the glorious gospel” and then moves on ignoring the truth it contains as if they have no significance. They go unexamined and are incorrectly seen as weird abnormalities.

Be careful, near misses add up and the inevitable consequences for ignoring them can prove fatal.

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 22:3)

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:5).

“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them” (Hosea 14:9).

Isn’t it time to pay attention to those near misses?