Mark 7:1-23

04 Feb 2024

Mark 7:1-23

Passage Mark 7:1-23

Speaker Ben Tanner


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

7th chapter of mark.

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were unclean, that is, unwashed. The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash, and they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pictures and kettles. So the Pharisees and the teachers of the law asked Jesus, why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders, instead of eating their food with unclean hands? He replied, Israel was right when he prophesied about you.

Hypocrites. As it is written, these people honour 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.

And he said to them, you have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions. For Moses said, honour your father and your mother, and anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death. But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban. That is a gift devoted to God. Then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother.

Thus, you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that. Again, Jesus called the crowd to him and said, listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him unclean by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean.

After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. Are you so dull? He asked, don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him unclean? For it doesn't go into his heart, but into his stomach and then out of his body. In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.

He went on, what comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts. Sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All of these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.

Thank you so much, Jeffrey. Please do keep your passage open in front of you. It's on those service sheets. And shall we pray together? That's not an easy passage.

Let's approach the Lord in prayer. Father God, there are bits of your word that are easy for us to understand and hard for us to hear. There are bits of your word that seem to be both hard to understand and hard to hear. But, Father, I pray that what you promise in your word would be true today. That you, by your spirit, would take your word and apply it to our hearts.

Father, don't let me in any way allow the traditions of men to subjugate your word. May I preach what is here? And would you be glorified in us as we hear it? I pray. Amen.

One of the really great things of modern times is that we've kind of realised that you can look okay on the outside when inside you're anything but. That seems to be something that's kind of in our modern day psyche. We realise that that is something that actually is not just apparent, but is often very common. The passage today tells us that we can do that spiritually as well. We can look like everything is going great guns and have a heart that is very far away from God.

What does that look like? How do we avoid it? Let's find out. As we listen to Jesus. And we've got the situation where some of the Pharisees are coming up to Jesus and they're seeing that the disciples are eating food with unwashed hands.

Now, when we hear that, we immediately think like hygiene. Our minds go to, are you singing happy birthday twice as you're washing? Are you using the soap? Are you washing the back of your hands? Are you doing under your nails?

That's not actually what's going on here. They used to do a sort of ceremonial. A traditional sort of washing of the hands before they would eat. And they asked Jesus, why aren't your disciples doing what everyone else is doing in the washing of the hands? And Jesus reply is, well, it seems kind of harsh, doesn't it?

Verse six. Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, hypocrites. As it's written, these people honour me with their lips. But their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain.

Their teachings are merely human rules. Ouch. Ouch. Jesus, what's the problem here? Is it tradition?

Well, not all tradition is bad. We see Jesus and he seems to follow some traditions, doesn't he? He goes to Passover. He often says grace, essentially, before he eats. Those things would be sort of traditional things.

They're not bad things. In fact, we kind of need tradition, don't we imagine for a second if I said right at all saints, we are no longer going to have any traditions. And so the kids went out earlier on. Normally they come back at the end of the service, but what we're going to do is just each week we're going to do it differently. That would be crazy, wouldn't it?

You'd be thinking, where are my kids? Are they coming back now? Are they going to come back after the. Do I need to go somewhere? I don't know.

Traditions are really useful things for us. For many of us, actually, traditions are really important, that one thing follows on from another, that there is an orderedness to the way things work. Now, it's not tradition per se, that's the problem here, but it's what that tradition is doing to the word of God. You see, for the pharisees, this hand washing tradition was adding to the word of God and was offering something the word of God said it couldn't. What do I mean?

Well, in the Old Testament, the idea of washing is there and you sometimes see it, especially some of the priests, when they're doing certain sacrifices, they would need to wash before they did them. Often in ordination, they would need to wash. So the idea of washing is kind of there. And what happened was that in order to kind of protect some of those things, the teachers, the elders would look and they'd say, are there extra laws that we can put in, extra rules that we might be able to make that will help us protect some of these good things? And so washing, well, it's good for the priests, maybe actually we should do it for everybody.

And actually, if we're washing, then it would be good to do it regularly. Why don't we say you wash before you eat a meal? That's a good idea.

And then from that comes this idea that if you want to eat, you've got to have clean hands and you get clean hands by washing beforehand.

And what's happened? The word of God says one thing. These rules say more than that. In fact, they actually make it a fairly impossible situation to be. If you can't eat without being clean, ceremonially clean, that's a big problem, you see, because there are all sorts of things that made you unclean in the Old Testament, and so if you couldn't eat when you were ceremonially unclean, then if you had certain types of diseases, that would mean that you wouldn't be able to eat.

If you had leprosy, that's basically that you're then going to have to starve if you can't eat when you're unclean, if you're a woman, it will mean that you won't eat for two weeks out of a month.

If you're a gentile, it's pretty terrible news. See, if I've got to be ceremonially clean to eat, that's a problem. And it sets the bar way too high, it would seem. And so what happens? Well, the Pharisees, by their rules, they also then say that my rules can offer what the word of God can't.

You're unclean. What's the solution? You've got to be clean. How do you do that? Just wash your hands.

If you wash your hands in a ceremonial way, and also your plate and your cups and also the bench that you're sitting on, if you wash, that will make you clean. There you go, you're sorted. And Jesus listens to this and he's saying, look, there's a problem here. You're demanding what the word of God doesn't, and you're offering what the word of God says you can't offer. That's not how you get clean.

In the Old Testament, do you see how Jesus is beginning to say, look, the result of this is that you do lots of things that look religious. Lots of washing. You're looking great, you're doing great. Great God honouring washing. Look.

But actually your hearts are far, far away because you're not really listening to him. He says, look, you want another example of how the tradition of men nullifies the word of God in your life? It says verse nine. You've got a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions. For Moses said, honour your father and mother, and anyone who curses your father and mother is to be put to death.

In other words, for Moses, honouring your father and mother is pretty important, like not doing it. Cursing them means death. Serious. But you say, if anyone declares, what might have been used to help their father and mother is Corban. That's a word that basically means gift.

It's devoted to God. Then you no longer let them do anything for their father and mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition. He says, look, there's this tradition that you've got that you can say something. Something that you've got is a gift to God.

It's devoted to God. Wow, that looks impressive, doesn't it? I'm devoting all my savings to God. And then your mother and father are in need of something. And he says, the problem you've got is that if you're saying this is devoted to God, you're now not letting them do what God actually commands them to do, to honour their mother and father.

Because of this rule that you've imposed, that something that you said is Corbin cannot be given to others. Do you see how the rules of men mean that they can't follow the rules of God?

And that's a challenge to us, isn't it?

Because we are surrounded by all sorts of ways in which we hear the tradition of the elders or the rules of men around us. We're really very good at doing similar things than this. We look at them, we say, washing hands in a funny way, saying some funny sort of first century tax offshore avoidance thing to not help your parents out. That's weird. But we do it all the time with all sorts of other things, don't we?

All sorts of things that we might add to the word of God. Maybe you've got a tradition of doing your quiet time reading your Bible at a particular time every day. That's a really good thing to do. But on the day when you've got a hospital appointment or you move it out of the way because of something else that's come in, if at that moment we're feeling that somehow we are a bad christian, then we're looking to doing our quiet time to do what they were looking to the hand washing for. We're saying, actually, because I did my quiet time at that time, I'm all right.

Or because I didn't do my quiet time at that time, I'm not alright. You might do it with quiet times. You might do it with grace. Sometimes if you're around at somebody's house and you're having a meal and they don't say grace beforehand, it can be really easy to kind of think, oh, man, we haven't said grace. It feels kind of wrong.

Maybe we should say grace. This is bad. And actually possibly inside us, we kind of, maybe even look down slightly on the people. They haven't said grace. This is shocking.

And of course, what we're doing there, we're nullifying the word of God. We're there nullifying the. Do not judge, lest you too should be judged. Law of God. As we're looking down on somebody who's not doing what is a very good thing to say grace and right to say thank you to God, but not commanded.

Each time we can nullify the word of God through our traditions.

Maybe it's traditions that we hear. Maybe it's teaching that we hear. Part of the reason I say, please keep your Bible open is because the Bible is God's word. And I want you to be checking that what I'm saying is in line with what this is saying. I've heard teaching in the past, people taking a good thing, let's say a spiritual gift, speaking in tongues, amazing gift that God gives to some of his people.

And the danger is that what we do is we say, this is a wonderful gift and therefore everybody should have it. And so what I'm going to do is I'm going to teach that everybody should receive this gift of speaking in tongues. And if you've not received this particular gift, well, you're missing out. You're kind of halfway there. As a Christian, you sometimes hear, and yet the word of God quite clearly in a list in Corinthians is very clear that not all christians will speak in tongues.

And so there's a danger there that we say, I'm going to universalise something that isn't universalized in scripture, and I nullify the scripture with what I'm used to around me. Maybe we do it with that. Maybe we do it with what our understanding of love is. We come to the scriptures, we say, I know what love is, because everybody around me tells me what love is. So therefore, for God to be a loving God means that actually, as I come to bits of the scripture, I just need to.

I don't like that bit where it talks about him judging sin or being angry with sin. I don't like it that Jesus keeps talking about this place called hell. And so all I'm going to do is I'm going to ignore that bit. What am I doing? I'm taking the traditions of the people around me and I'm using it to nullify the word of God.

But why is that so dangerous? Well, not only does Jesus seem to have a fairly big problem with it, but he says, look, it doesn't get to the heart of the problem. You see, just like washing your hands doesn't make you clean. Doing your Bible time at the right time, or speaking in tongues or having a high view of love, or whatever it might be, doesn't sort you out. You see, the problem is not the outward stuff, the stuff that's visible to others.

The problem's far deeper. It says that nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it's what comes out of them that defiles them.

Talk about food, he says, are you so dull? Verse 18. Don't you see that nothing that enters a person from outside can defile them because it doesn't go into their heart but into their stomach and then out of the body. He says, look, any food that you eat goes in your mouth, goes out and goes around the u bend. That's not the issue.

That's just passing through. The issue is something that's going to stick around. The issue is the heart. Jesus says, the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. And what comes out of it, incidentally, in saying this, we're told Jesus makes all foods clean.

Pork sandwiches are back on the menu. For Jesus, it's great. But that's important because sometimes actually, we come to the scriptures and we go, how come we can eat shellfish, but we can't do? But a whole load of the other sort of moral law from the Old Testament still seems to apply to me. Aren't we just picking and choosing?

No, we're listening to what God says here. In his word here, it would seem that Jesus says the problem isn't shellfish, but selfishness. It's not lamb but lying. It's not pigs but pride. It's that that comes out of our hearts that's the problem.

And incidentally, here is where we need to pause again, because the tradition of the elders can come in here. You see a lot of our kind of western education. It goes back to a guy called Rousseau. And one of the big things that he argued was that people are basically good, and the problem is out there. It's the society around us.

If you could just get a child and put them on a desert island, it would be all right. And yet that seems to be the opposite of what Jesus is teaching. He says it's what comes out of us that's the problem. Think about it like this. If you think that we're all right, when was the last time you heard a parent tell their child, now, this is how you lie, son, or this is how you are a bit greedy.

This is what you should do in order to be. We don't do that. And yet children just come out with those things. Why? Because the heart of the human problem is the problem with the human heart.

For it's from within verse 21 that evil thoughts come, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.

And actually, even as I read that list, I wonder whether there's a danger in that. We do the tradition of the eldest thing. Again with that list. What do I mean? I mean, that some of us will read a list like that and we'll go, yes, Jesus, yes, absolutely.

Call them out. Call out those sexually immoral, call out those thieves, call out those murderers. Yes, we need to be teaching on this. We need more on this, because that's serious. And Jesus does say it's serious, but the danger is that we read a list like this and we pull out those first ones and we don't realise this is a list that includes deceit, envy, slander, arrogance.

See, the same list that calls out the sexually immoral theft person who's thieving, robber and a murderer. The same list that calls those out calls out a whole load of our more respectable sins.

See, this list says that out of my heart comes all sorts of things that make me defiled and unclean. If we imagine that into the back of our church building this morning, Vladimir Putin walked in and he sat down on a chair, and if he were still alive, Jeffrey Epstein comes and sits down here at the front and Donald Trump comes and sits down on the other side.

If there is a part of your heart or my heart that looks at them and says, without Jesus, I am any better off than them.

Stop nullifying the word of God through the tradition that you are in. Yes, we recognise that what they have done is evil. And yes, we recognise that earthly consequences might be bigger, but before God, they are defiled, and so am I. And so are you. Jesus says, the problem with the human heart is.

Sorry. The heart of the human problem is your heart and mine. And that's a big problem, because I can't just wash my hands to make it clean.

I can't just look outwardly like I'm doing a good job and my heart be right with God. No, my heart is defiled and so is yours. And I need something that's going to be a solution that is deeper than a skin deep solution. I need someone who is going to do to my heart what he did to the food. I need God himself to declare it clean.

To wash it clean. And that's exactly what the man who speaks here does. This is a hard passage, because it puts us all in a place of realising our brokenness before God. But it also, therefore offers us all the same solution, which is run to the one who's speaking this. Listen to him in his word, where he says that I can make you clean, I can wash you clean, and you will be whiter than snow.

As David says in the OlD TEStament, this is challenging, but the answer is not to run away. The answer is not to run out of here and pretend like everything is fine. And we are doing really religious Things. That is just doing the same as the Pharisees. The answer of this is to come out of here and run to Jesus Christ.

And throw ourselves before him and say, yes, I have sinned. Please forgive me.

A few years ago, there was a hebrew scholar called John Duncan, I think his name was, up in Edinburgh. And he was really convicted of his own sinfulness, of his own defiledness. And when it came to communion in his church, he was sitting there. And he thought, I cannot take the bread and the wine today. And so he just passed it past him.

He thought, I can't do it. He believed and trusted in Jesus, but he felt defiled. And then he saw a few spaces on from him, there was a lady who did the same. Who just passed it on past her. And as she did so, she burst into tears.

And John realised that he was in the same position as that lady. And so he went and he took the pattern of bread and the wine. And he went to the lady and he said, take it, lassie. It's meant for sinners. And she and he took communion that day.

Because they remembered, none of us are right before God. But Jesus alone can do to our hearts what he did to the food. He can declare us clean because of his death and resurrection on the cross.

Let me lead us in a prayer.

You have let go of the commands of God. And are holding on to human traditions.

Father, we are so quick to do that.

We are so quick to just go along with what we have heard. Not to test things.

Father, we're so quick to move into pretending things are okay, that we're busy doing things for you and not look at our hearts.

Father, we're sorry that so often the voices of the world around us are so loud in comparison to your word.

Help us to be those who bow the knee before you as you speak to us. In your word, Father, your word tells us things about our hearts that aren't easy or pleasant to hear. And yet, if we're honest, we know they're true.

Help us to run to you with that guilt. Rather than trying to hide it from you.

Father Jesus, with just a few words declared all foods clean.

Would you declare our hearts clean. As we confess our sin before you. And come to you for forgiveness.