Feb 03, 2013
Mark 7:1-23

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In examining Jesus’ ministry you’ll discover 3 reactions to the truth:

Reaction #1: Repentance - sinners who responded to the truth.

Reaction #2: Resistance - sinners who resisted the truth.

Reaction #3: Rejection - religious leaders who rejected the truth.

Mark presents 2 examples of people who hardened their hearts towards Jesus....

1. The Disciples.... resisted the truth because they didn’t want to change.

2. The Religious.... rejected the truth because they didn’t recognize a need to change.

[Mark 7:1-2] “Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. 

This is the 2nd time we see an official delegation sent to investigate Jesus. 

1st occasion was in Mark 3 - if you recall their reaction was two fold:

1. They rejected His ministry, but could do nothing because of His popularity.

2. They tried to discredit His ministry saying His power came from Satan.

Since they had already made up their minds concerning Jesus, the nature and purpose behind this 2nd delegation is obvious.... they were there to stir up controversy.

It’s interesting that Jesus’ main opposition came from the religious leaders of His day. 

Q: Why did they oppose Him?

1. Jesus was changing lives in a way they didn’t approve of. 

Religious people care as much about methodology as they do about results.

2. They were jealous at the effectiveness of His ministry.

Envy is the consuming desire to have everyone as unsuccessful as you are.

4 Divisions to the Passage: 

1. The beef of the religious leaders.
2. Jesus’ response to their beef.
3. Jesus’ lesson to the multitude.
4. Jesus’ application to His disciples.
5. Discuss the trappings of Religious Moralism.

Examine the Beef of the Religious Leaders:

Mark is clear this delegation came “from Jerusalem” and “found fault” with Jesus and His disciples because they “ate bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands.

They found fault” - isn’t it sad that with so many incredible things happening in, through, and around the ministry of Jesus these religious leaders were more interested in finding fault.

Sin of Pettiness is when the church allows small differences over ministry methodology or non-essential theology to produce big disagreements. 

3 tragic results always follow: 

1. Leads to Ministry Ineffectiveness.... we loose sight of the real enemy.

2. Distracts from the Purpose of Ministry.... we loose sight of the real issues. 

3. Undermines Ministry Objectives.... we look stupid!

What was the main issue the Pharisees found fault concerning....

[Mark 7:3-5] “For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. 

And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” 

The Beef: Jesus’ disciples weren’t obeying the “traditions of the elders” concerning ritual washing, and Jesus apparently didn’t mind.

Explain the development of Jewish, religious tradition.

Because of the Jew’s continual disobedience concerning the Law of God, the people had been exiled by God from the land for 70 years as punishment. 

Once the people were allowed to return to the land, a new order of religious leader known as the Scribes rose to power with this singular mandate.... insure the people obeyed the Law and never repeat their past mistakes. 

To accomplish this task the Scribes began to interpret and apply the law in such a way that no one could even accidentally fall into transgression.

Though on the surface this seemed like a worthwhile endeavor, over time their application of God’s Law created a moral tradition the Law of God never demanded. 

This extra-scriptural moral code was referred to as the “Oral Traditions” or the “Traditions of the Elders” and would include the Torah, Midrash, and Mishnah.

By the 1st century, the Jew’s believed obeying the “oral law” was just as important as obeying the “written law.” They had elevated the traditions of the elders to the same level of importance as the Word of God.

Example: Ritual Washing

God’s Word: In Exodus 30:19-21 God had commanded the priests to wash in a certain way before they engaged in the ministry of the tabernacle. The purpose was for ceremonial purification and in many ways was symbolic.

Oral Traditions: In order to insure no one transgressed the Law - even by accident - the Scribes decided to take God’s command for the priest and mandate a similar principle for the people. 

Though God had never commanded the ceremonial washing be a practice for the people, the Scribes decided it was wise for everyone to obey the command anyway. 

They compiled 65 pages on how the people should wash their hands.

Understand.... The act of evaluating Jesus’ ministry was not wrong. The problem was instead the way they made their evaluation. 

Instead of evaluating Jesus based upon the commands of God’s Word, they were evaluating Him on the basis of their man-made traditions. 

Their beef was the simple fact Jesus didn’t care about their man-made traditions. 

Examine Jesus’ response to their beef.

[Mark 7:6-9] “He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written [Isaiah 29:13]: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men — the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” 

1. Jesus begins His response by defining who He was dealing with.... 

He calls them “hypocrites.” - Greek word “hypokritês” - “one who pretends, an actor.”

They assumed God was pleased with their moral zeal, without realizing their zeal had been misdirected. They based their moral standing on their traditions, not God’s Word.

Jesus was saying, “you think you are moral, but you’re only acting moral.” There is a significant difference between “acting a certain way” and “being a certain way.

Jesus then explains why He considered them “hypocrites.

You honor Me with your lips, but your heart is far from Me.” 

Because the religious leaders were so concerned with obeying traditions, they’d placed a greater emphasis on what a person did for God over a person’s heart before God. 

Jesus was saying, “you think you are moral, but you’re only acting moral." And what’s worse is that you’re basing your entire moral standing on the wrong thing.

2. Jesus explains how they had created this false morality.

“Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” 

They based their morality on their traditions rather than the Word of God.

“For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men — the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” 

Result: In focusing on how best to obey the Law through their traditions, they tragically lost sight on God’s purpose behind the Law! 

“The further we progress away from God’s Word and towards man-made traditions, the further we progress away from genuine Godliness and into a hypocritical form of self-righteous moralism.”

Their moral hierarchy was based upon traditions that emphasized a person’s actions, when God’s Law was always more concerned with a person’s heart. 

4. Jesus illustrates their moral hypocrisy.

[Mark 7:10-13] “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

God’s Word was clear that a person should “honor their father and mother.” 

Honer” - God was clearly speaking of a person’s heart towards their parents.

A child living under their parent’s authority was to honor by way of obedience.

Honoring was also viewed as caring for a parent in their old age. 

The Scribes had developed the idea of “Corban” meaning “dedicated to the temple.”

If my finances are dedicated to God, I can’t use them to care for my parents. 

The Problem: the Tradition of Corban superseded the Law of Moses.

Examine Jesus’ lesson to the multitude.

[Mark 7:14-16] “When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Defile” is the Greek word “koinoô” meaning “to make unclean.”

In context Jesus is addressing the nature of what makes a person unclean.

Explain why this was such a revolutionary statement.... 

“Although it may not seem so now, this passage, when it was first spoken, was well-nigh the most revolutionary passage in the New Testament.” (Barclay)

Jesus is saying that religious activities (such as keeping a Kosher diet) and religious traditions (such as ritual washings) have no bearing on righteousness.

All theology boils down to 2 fundamental ideas about the nature of man:
  • If what I do makes me who I am.... then changing behavior is key to righteousness.

  • If who I am dictates what I do.... then a new identity is key to righteousness.

If defilement manifests from the inside-out (Jesus said, “the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man”), then righteousness must manifest the same direction. This is why God is always more concerned with the heart of man.

Examine Jesus’ application to His disciples.

[Mark 7:17-23] “When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” 

And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

Notice a subtle distinction between the religious leaders and Jesus:

The religious leaders believed the best way to evaluate the heart (whether a person was righteous or defiled) was by examining the life (is that person living a righteous life).... 

They concluded the only way to transform a defiled heart into a righteous one was by living a righteous life according to God’s Word and their traditions. 

Morality working from the outside-in!

Jesus is telling the disciples the best way to evaluate the heart (whether a person was righteous or defiled) was by examining the life (is that person living a righteous life)....

Here’s the difference, Jesus makes it clear the only way to live a righteous life was by transforming a defiled heart into a righteous one. 

Morality working from the inside-out!

The difference is subtle, but the implications are radical.

The flaw to the religious leaders approach was obvious.... changing the activities of a person doesn’t mean the heart automatically changes. 

They were outwardly moral, but Jesus called them hypocrites.

Jesus’ approach is instead fail-proof and brilliant.... a heart transformed by God will always produce a life consecrated for God.

Change the heart and allow the change to work its way outward. 

Think of it this way.... Are moral works the cause of righteousness or the effects of righteousness?

The religious leaders viewed righteous living as the cause for a person’s righteous standing before God (outside-in: you’re righteous because you do righteous things).

Whereas Jesus viewed righteous living as the effect of a person’s righteousness (inside-out: you do righteous things because you are righteous). 

One is manufactured morality while the latter is manifested morality.

Discuss the trappings of Religious Moralism.

#1: Religious Moralism is a False Moralism.... 

The “traditions of the elders” are not as importance as the Word of God.

They were doing things for God, God had never asked of them.

They were comparing themselves with Jesus’ disciples.... not Jesus. 

Result.... the religious rejected the truth because they didn’t recognize a need to change.

#2: Religious Moralism fosters Spiritual Superiority.... 

Though there was nothing intrinsically wrong with these men holding themselves to a higher code of morality, Jesus had a sever issue with these religious leaders imposing a non-Biblical moral code upon the people. 

Obey your conscience, but don’t elevate these convictions to the same status of Scripture.

#3: Religious Moralism turns people away from God....