Faithlife Sermons

What Is The Definition of Clean? Mark 7:1-23

The Gospel According to Mark  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings

The Pharisees and some Scribes come all the way from Jerusalem to confront Jesus about His disciples not obeying the traditions of the Elders.

As we begin this morning, go ahead and turn in your copies of God’s Word to The Gospel According to Mark. This morning we will be in chapter 7:1-23. We will be reading verse 1-8 a little later.
Jesus has now entered the home stretch of His ministry. The passages from the past 2 weeks, The Feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on the Water, took place during the time of the Passover. The next time Jesus and His disciples celebrate the Passover, it will be the night of His betrayal and lead up to the Crucifixion, which is where Jesus will become the Ultimate Passover Lamb, the One Who’s shed blood takes away the sins of the world. How amazing it is to think that God, in His perfect plan, scheduled the death of Jesus, the Ultimate Passover Lamb, to coincide with the annual Passover celebration. A time the Nation of Israel set aside to celebrate and remember the night the the blood of the Passover Lamb was placed on the doorposts, in the shape of a cross, I might add. The blood of the Passover lamb was painted on the door posts, so that when the death angel went through the 4 corners of Egypt, he would passover the homes of those marked with the blood of the Passover lamb. Jesus became the final Passover Lamb!
Moving forward this morning, I am going to do something you will rarely ever see me do, I am going to defend the scribes and the Pharisees. Well, technically I’m not going to defend them, I am just going to provide an explanation of what led them to make a long list of rules and regulations that were set up to govern the way the Nation of Israel functioned. To do this, we need to go back about 470 years, back to the time of the 3 Old Testament Books we looked at last year. Anyone remember the OT Books we looked at last year? Ezra, Esther and Nehemiah.
As you may recall, these 3 Books were written right at the time the Nation of Judah was being released after 70 years in captivity. Does anyone remember what it was that led to their captivity? (Failure to know and obey the Commandments of God, in many areas, but particularly in regards to the Sabbath and the Sabbath rests from crops.) We found out, especially in the Book of Ezra, that Ezra was a scribe. He was a student of the Word of God and one of his jobs, in fact perhaps his most important job, was to carefully and perfectly teach and transcribe the Holy Scriptures so that they would be preserved.
When Ezra and Nehemiah, and other leaders returned to Jerusalem from the 70 year captivity, they determined that they would do everything in their power to see to it that the Nation would never again return to the ways that brought them into captivity. To begin with, for Ezra, there were several occasions that they just read the Holy Scripture out loud. As he read, the peoples eyes were opened to the fact that they were already starting to do the very things that led to their captivity. They began to weep out loud and mourn at their corporate sin. Moving past the days of Ezra, more scribes came onto the scene. They were so determined to never repeat those sins of the past, they began to add more and more rules and regulations that went well beyond the confines of the Law of God.
Picture it this way, a couple years ago you were finally able to buy that old country farm house several miles outside of town. Towards the end of an amazingly hot summer, your family inherits a good deal of money from a relative that passed away. It was so hot that summer, that you spent almost every day driving into town to spend time at the city pool, just to cool off! But with the money you inherited, you were able to install a beautiful in ground pool in your back yard. However, even though you live 5 miles outside of town, the county required you to “put a privacy fence” around the pool, adding another $5,000 to the cost of the pool. Seemed kinda crazy, since you don’t even have any neighbors, but you bit the bullet and built the fence. That is kinda what happened with the scribes and the Pharisees. God’s Law is perfect in every way, but the scribes and Pharisees decided it needed help, so the “built a fence around it”. Thinking that if they added their own rules and regulations on top of the Law of God, the people couldn’t violate the Law itself. The problem was that by the time of Jesus, they now held their “fence” in higher regard to the very Word of God.
Keep these thoughts in mind as we read this mornings passage. Please stand, in honor of the reading of God’s Word. Next Slide
Mark 7:1–8 ESV
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.”
May the Lord add His blessing to the reading of His Word, please be seated.
To begin with in this mornings passage we see that: Next Slide
Rather Than Commendations Jesus Receives Condemnation. Vs. 1-5; Mt. 15. 1-2
Let’s think back over just the last 2 chapters of Mark, just open your Bibles and read some of the headings of the major miracles Jesus had done. What are they?
Casting thousands of demons out of one man.
Raised a 12 year old dead girl back to life.
Healed a woman of a 12 year hemorrhage of blood.
Fed as many as 25,000 people with 5 small barley loafs and 2 fish.
Walked on the water, oh, and by the way, instantly calmed the storm when He got into the boat, which also instantly appeared on the other side of the sea!
And that’s just the last 2 chapters, not to mention the previous 4! Had there been any love for the things of God or His people, the Pharisees and scribes would have been coming to Jesus with Commendations for a job well done. Instead they hunt Him down, and by the way, the scribes had walked the 90 mile journey from Jerusalem, to give Jesus Condemnation.
Perhaps you may be thinking, why? Why do they bring condemnation instead of commendation? We find the answer in 1 word repeated 3 times between verse 3 and verse 5, in fact, if you don’t have any issues with marking in your Bible, I recommend you circle that word. It starts with the letter “T” (Tradition). Ever since the days of Ezra, the Nation of Israel has been steeped in their traditions. I have always loved musicals, and one of my favorite musicals is Fiddler on the Roof. When I think of Fiddler on the Roof, 3 songs almost instantly pop into my head. For those of you that love musicals, any idea of the 3 songs?
If I Were A Rich Man yubba dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum. All day long I’d biddy biddy bum. If I were a wealthy man.
Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make Me A Match
Yes, the Nation of Israel was steeped in tradition. And to be honest with you, there is nothing wrong with tradition, provided you don’t loose sight of why the traditions were established in the first place. But for the Nation of Israel, they had long ago lost sight of the purpose behind the traditions. Which was to keep their hearts right before God.
In the case of the Pharisees and scribes, their condemnation of Jesus came because His disciples didn’t was their hands according to the traditions of the elders. By the way, these “traditions of the elders” were not even in formal written form yet. That wouldn’t take place for another 200 years when the Mishna was written.
By the way, please note, they had no concern for hygiene when they criticized the disciples, their concern was for ritual cleaning, and keep in mind that the only ritual hand washing mentioned in the Law of Moses was that of the priests before offering the sacrifice. But the scribes and Pharisees decided to take the commands of God a step further. Certainly they knew better than the God of the universe on how to govern His creation.
Starting in verse 6, we see Jesus: Next Slide
Get To The Heart of the Matter. Vs. 6-8; Mt. 15:3
I guess in some ways, Jesus turned the tables on them, you could say that rather than Commending them for faithfully serving God the Father, Jesus condemned them for a self-serving, hypocritical religion. Look at what Jesus says to them starting in verse 6: “This people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” Then He adds inverse 7; “in vain do they worship Me, teaching ad doctrine the commandments of men.” Then He takes it even a step farther in verse 8 when he says; “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the teachings of men.”
Jesus, here is quoting from Isaiah 29. We will address this later, but I am guessing that at this point these men were thinking; “Now just wait a minute, everything we do we do for God!” Jesus interrupts their thoughts process with proof in verses 9-13 where we see their; Next Slide
Scripture-Twisting Tradition. Vs. 9-13; Mt. 15:3-6
Jesus takes them right to a clear command from the Law of Moses, to the 5th of the 10 Commandments from Exodus 20:12; “Honor your father and mother”. Then, for good measure He adds Exodus 21:17; “Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.”
Now, let me explain to you what is happening here. Things were different ion those days. There was no Social Security, no 401(k)’s, pension plans or IRA’s. As parents aged and moved out of the work force where they could earn a living, the adult children were obligated to care for their parents, in the same way parents cared for them as children. But these selfish religious leaders came up with a way of getting out of this. They came up with a system where they could “dedicate their wealth to God” and thus freed themselves up from taking care of the needs of their elderly parents. On the face this may appear to be a righteous way of doing things. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. You see, when they dedicated their wealth to God, it wasn’t like they would take their wealth to the temple and put it into the temple treasury. Instead, they pledged, or declared that they would eventually use their wealth for God. And that eventually could be after they were dead and gone. As long as they were alive, they could do what they wanted with their wealth.
Then, He comes down even harder on them when He say’s in verse 13; “thus making void the Word of God by your tradition”
After His stinging inditement on them, He then moves to: Next Slide
The True Defilement. Vs. 14-23; Mt. 15:10-20
It is all to common today for mankind to excuse bad behavior. We are quick to blame our sin on anything else other than ourselves. Our parents are to blame, if they would have just spanked me more, or spanked me less, or gone to more of my functions. If I I had a better environment to grow up in.... Excuse after excuse after excuse.
It seems like we frequently see parents, friends or other family interviewed after heinous acts of violence that will come out and defend their family member or friend by saying, “That wasn’t who they truly were!”
The scribes and Pharisees would have fit in well with that mindset. They, too, wanted to blame everyone but themselves. Their entire ritualistic cleansing system was set up to cleanse them from outside defilement.
Go back and look at verse 3 & 4. (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.
You know why they did these things? One of the reasons they washed their hands in this way is there was a belief that their was a demon who would rest on a person’s hands. Then, when a person who had that demon resting on their hands would eat, the demon would enter into their heart. I guess the demon must have been like the Wicked witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, because if an individual simply poured a little water over their hands, the demon disappeared! And, by the way, that is really about all they were doing, pouring water over their hands one way, then the other, then rubbing a little bit with a closed fist.
In verse 4, when it talks about coming from the marketplace. They had this whole ceremonial washing they had to do, just in case they had come into contact with a Samaritan, a Gentile, or an unclean Jew. Again, their fear was that they would be defiled if the same hands touched food after having been at the marketplace that touched someone they considered unclean.
Jesus makes it very clear that nothing from the outside defiles you, only what is on the inside. True defilement was a defilement of the heart. He gives a picture of inside defilement in verse 21-23; “21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
So, what is the point for us this morning? What truths can we take home as an application? To come up with the application, I want to address what was happening in Isaiah’s day when he wrote the verses Jesus quoted earlier. Isaiah was writing at the end of a time where there had been a revival of sorts. But the revival was more ritualistic than it was from the heart. The people would sin against God, then they would bring their sacrifices to God, but not with a repentant heart and a desire to change. All they wanted to do was “pay for their sin” so they could go back out and do the same sin again, then come back, pay for their sin........ There was not heart felt worship of God. At what point God declared that He hated their sacrifices, sacrifices He had at one time called for. But the reason He called for the sacrifices was so that they would understand that their sins had a cost to them. The blood sacrifices of the best of their animals was to be a vivid picture to them of the seriousness of their sin. They were now to the point where this vivid picture had faded into the background.
The lesson for us this morning is: Next Slide
There Must Be A Radical Change From The Inside Out. 2 Cor. 5:17
“There must be a new creation! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come”. “Behold!” says Christ, “I make all things new!” (cf. Revelation 21:5).
The gospel is consummately radical: a new birth, a new heart, a new creation, a resurrection! Apart from Christ, the world is desperately lost. It can only be redeemed by the shed blood of Jesus. There is no other way. We can polish the outside. We can educate ourselves. We can do ‘good’ things. But none of these things will really change us. We need Christ’s life.” (Mark-Volume One-Jesus Servant and Savior. R. Kent Hughes, pgs 169 & 170
The question we need to ask ourselves this morning is, am I doing what I do for God, out of a heart of love for Him, a desire to bring Him glory. Or am I doing it to check off a box on my religious check list? One gives proof of a transformed life, the other brings about condemnation.
Let’s pray.
Related Media
Related Sermons