Mark 7:1–13 1 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“ ‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Everyone makes their own rules for certain situations. A point comes, and each one of us crosses it at one time or another, when we think that the rules and regulations we have set up make us somehow better than others.
This text, as it is written by Mark, gets us upset at these self-righteous Pharisees and inquiring scribes from Jerusalem. We look at the overview of their washings, and we hear their accusations, and we are so glad that we aren’t like them. Who would want to be aligned with that pompous, self-righteous religious establishment?
In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees devoted their attention to three areas: dietary rules, Sabbath laws, and circumcision. God in the Old Testament had given His people instructions about those things, and the Pharisees added to them. But still, the Pharisees wouldn’t have said that the main theme of the Old Testament was to follow rules. They would not have insisted that God’s promise resulted in these dietary rules, Sabbath laws, and circumcision. God’s promise was to send the blessing promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through Israel. The creed of Israel was still Dt. 6:4–5 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might….”
The Pharisees focused on dietary rules, Sabbath laws, and circumcision to create visible signs which distinguished themselves and those Jews who followed them from people who did not follow those rules and instructions. They were the super-pious. They were the “in-crowd” with God.
People are still labeled today. You see a Volkswagen van plastered with bumper-stickers and people with long hair riding in it—you know that you have found hippies. You see a man in the grocery store dressed in a suit and tie buying an apple and sandwich from the deli—you know that you have found a businessman. You see someone get off a motorcycle with leather chaps, a bandana, a long beard, and tattoos all over his neck—you know to walk on the other side of the street.
We label others. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing especially if we allow ourselves to realize that our labels might be wrong.
So the Pharisees created all these rules and regulations about washings. The Pharisees took the dietary laws of from Exodus and Leviticus that were meant for the priests, and they made all sorts of extra rules which people could follow to prove that they were obeying the guidelines that God had given.
These washings proved who was in and who was out. These customs marked and labeled them.
It is interesting to see how Jesus speaks about the distinctions they made both in this text and next week’s text which will continue Jesus’ teaching resulting from this confrontation.
Mark 6 closed by saying, Mk. 6:54–56 54 And when [Jesus and the disciples] got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized [Jesus] 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
Jesus is frantically bringing the rule and reign of God (Mk. 1:14-15). He is doing exactly what the Old Testament lesson (and many other OT texts too) said would happen: “the deaf hear, the eyes of the blind see, and the meek obtain fresh joy in the Lord; and the poor among mankind exalt in the Holy One of Israel” (Is. 29:18-19).
Jesus is doing these signs and miracles, and the scribes and Pharisees are concerned that the disciples are eating with hands that have not been ritually cleansed. Because that’s important.
Jesus says, “You know, Isaiah did a great job describing You about 700 years ago. You are a bunch of hypocrites. You honor God with your lips and your heart is far, far from God.”
Then Jesus cites a specific example. God had commanded, “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” There was a man-made rule which allowed you to take your property which you could use to help your parents, but instead of helping your parents, you devoted that property to God but you could still use it. You were able to use religion and devotion to God to get out of obeying a commandment that God had given.
Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy. Look at how hypocritical those silly scribes and Pharisees were. Aren’t you glad that you aren’t like them? Aren’t you glad that you have faith and know what God really wants?
You are just as guilty of hypocrisy as they were.
There is a self-righteous Pharisee in every one of you that doesn’t want to die. You want to be seen as the super-religious and super-pious. You find all sorts of ways to distinguish yourselves from other not-so-great believers.
You fill your iPod with sermons and Christian music. You wear your Jesus t-shirts. You get up earlier in the morning than all your friends to do your devotions. You repost every, “I-love-Jesus-but-only-1-out-of-10-people-will-repost-this” picture that you see on Facebook. “You don’t smoke, and you don’t chew, and you don’t go with girls who do.”
You notice that others have a faith that isn’t as mature as yours, and you remember with a chuckle when you used to be like them; but now you have grown up. Now you have your faith-life together.
You don’t get overly concerned about issues like doctrine; you just “love Jesus.” Jesus even speaks about doctrines being bad here right? “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
You do all of those things, and you still look for ways to distinguish your faith from the faith of others. You search for ways to find a sense of superiority over others. I know all those things are true about you because, they are true about me and Scripture teaches that they are true about every sinful human being.
You and I want to make ourselves right with God. You and I have a messiah complex. We need to quit it! Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you could be in God’s clique.
We get so caught up in making ourselves look righteous and pious that we lose all joy in life.
The commandments of men—our commandments and traditions—become as doctrine to us. They lead to frustration and despair and, finally, death.
But there is doctrine which gives life. God’s doctrine, the pure doctrine of Scripture teaches this:
Only one member of the human race was perfectly righteous, and He was the most inclusive, tolerant member of the human race. This perfectly righteous human ate and walked and associated with the lowest of the low, sinners, prostitutes, thieves, and murderers. The most pleasing human in God’s sight became a servant of all (Php. 2:5-8). He suffered, died, and rose again for you and your sins. He is now seated at the right hand of God the Father with all rule and authority. He uses that authority to truly forgive sins, not by making you do your penance and meeting Him half-way by some work. He forgives your sins and they are gone forever.
You and I, we have our messiah complex. We want to make ourselves right with God. The only human Who was ever free of a messiah complex was the Messiah Himself—your Savior, Jesus Christ.
And Jesus still lets His disciples eat with defiled hands. His undefiled hands were pierced so that you could become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). He endured a death by torture so that all your pious actions become small potatoes. He died an immoral death so that you could be freed from being bound to morality.
He, not you, makes you right in His sight, not so that you can be looked at as some banner of virtue, but so that when you are reviled because of the good deeds that He gives you to do, you turn the other cheek and press on being content with God’s blessing. Amen.
May the peace of God guard your mind, body, and soul in Christ Jesus. Amen.