Mark 7: 1 – 23 That which defiles

Mark 7: 1 – 23 That which defiles

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 defiled, 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 market-place they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

So the Pharisees and 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 defiled hands?’

He replied, ‘Isaiah 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 merely human rules.”

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

And he continued, ‘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 mother,” and, “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God) – then you no longer let them do anything for their 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 person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.’

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 person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these things come from inside and defile a person.’

*       *       *

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law ask Jesus a question. It seems, at first, to be a straightforward question: “ ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?’ ”

Jesus, though, immediately attacks the questioners, calling them hypocrites, and quoting the prophet Isaiah to support his accusation. Instead of answering the question about ceremonial washing, Jesus points out that the Pharisees use human traditions to nullify the word of God. He picks out a forceful example: “For Moses said, “Honour your father and mother,” and, “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God) – then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother.”

This appears to be a rather abrupt change of subject. It almost looks as though Jesus is ducking the question about ceremonial washing. He isn’t, though, as he makes clear with his next words: “ ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.’ ”

Okay. Got that everybody?

Well, no. Certainly the disciples hadn’t understood. “After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable.”

Jesus gives them some forceful teaching. “ ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked.” Jesus has been teaching the disciples about the correct way to interpret parables for some time. They need to be doing it for themselves now – for they won’t have Jesus’ physical presence on earth for much longer.

“ ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these things come from inside and defile a person.’ ”

In his response to the Pharisees, Jesus had gone straight to the heart of purity laws. They were intended to remind God’s people that they must cast aside all thoughts and all actions that are sinful. Diligent washing of hands and utensils wasn’t the point; the point was that they remembered God, and remembered his nature – and sought to live in accordance with his will. Ceremonial purity has nothing to do with hygiene or ritual; it is to do with setting yourself aside for God’s service, by turning to him in repentance.

Prayer

Heavenly Father

I confess that I often choose my own wishes ahead of yours. Please forgive me, and help me to consecrate myself to your service.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

Published by pennygadd51

I write. I've written many pieces of flash fiction, dozens of short stories and two novels, with a third in progress.

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