If you have your Bibles let me invite you to open with me to the book of Mark chapter 6.
We will begin reading in verse 53 and then read through chapter 7 verse 13.
Verses 53-56 reminds the reader once again of Jesus’ popularity.
When he arrives to the other side of the sea… he is immediately recognized
People run to him no matter where he goes.
They run to him in the villages
in the cities
and in the countryside.
Everyone knows now, that Jesus is something special.
He is a healer.
Every where he goes, the effects of the fall are reversed in people’s lives.
Its as if the eternal kingdom of God is being experienced in the here and now by everyone who comes into contact with this Jesus.
But, not everyone is impressed.
In fact, some were infuriated.
Jesus was non-traditional.
He kept company with the worst of sinners.
His background was non-impressive.
He was not much to look at.
Yet he drew the crowds.
This was so infuriating to the religious status quo of the day…,
It was so frustrating, that some Jewish leaders even traveled in from the big city of Jerusalem to confront Jesus.
Its clear from this passage that the Pharisees and the Scribes are looking for something…
They are looking for something that they can use to discredit Jesus and his ministry.
In Mark chapter 7, they think they find something.
Why was this a big deal?
COVID was not a recognized reality back then.
Hand sanitizer was not a thing back then.
In fact germs weren’t really a known thing back then.
Verse 2 is only notable if you recognize the Jewish tradition behind it.
Mark recognizes that non Jewish readers in Rome would be reading his gospel so he adds an explanatory editorial note here in verse 3.
This is also to our benefit.
Verses 3-4 offer explanation.
Mark explains that Jews in that day held to what he called “the tradition of the elders”
And he says this “tradition of the elders” includes all kinds of rules about washing hands, cup, pots, vessels, and even dining couches so that they become ritually pure.
These traditions, however, are not laws that you can find anywhere in the Old Testament Scripture.
The Pharisees took the Old Testament Scripture and then they added and passed down their own oral tradition and then enforced it as authoritative for all of Israel.
The oral tradition was called the Mishnah.
It was a collection of man-made instructions which added to God’s law.
It was described as a “fence around God’s law”…, but it was a man-made fence.
It was a man-made fence, that they treated as if it were the authoritative words of God.
Jesus and his disciples, however, are caught ignoring the oral tradition that had been passed down.
So the Pharisees and the Scribes think they have caught Jesus in a morally questionable position.
Now this is where the meat of the message begins.
How is Jesus going to respond to these highly religious people accusing him and his disciples of sin?
Jesus’ response here is different then anything we have seen from Jesus thus far.
Jesus’ response here is sharp,
and it quite literally cuts to the heart of the issue.
We have seen Jesus respond to the worst of sinners with gentleness....,
....but here to the religious elite he responds sharply.
He speaks clearly, and he pulls no punches.
The Pharisees question Jesus about man-made tradition.
And Jesus responds with God inspired Scripture.
He quotes from the book of Isaiah, but not without first defining the heart condition that he is about to address.
He refers to the Pharisees with the words, “you hypocrites”
Listen to insight from one commentator on this word:
When Jesus refers to the Pharisees as “hypocrites,” he takes a term from the theater meaning to play a part on stage.
Especially in Greek theater, actors wore various masks according to the roles they impersonated.
The word “hypocrite,” accordingly, comes to mean someone who acts a role without sincerity, hence a pretender.
The Pharisees in the gospels represent one of the most problematic and spiritually dangerous positions possible… It is the heart condition of a hypocrisy….
It is living the Christian life as a pretender.
And when we read Jesus’ confrontation of the Pharisees as hypocrites, we should read closely not so that we can condemn them as insane for missing who Jesus was, but we should read closely so as to not find ourselves in their same spiritual state.
We are going to look at three characteristics of the Pharisees in this text, three characteristics that we should search our hearts for, and repent of.
Truth #1 The Pharisees Loved to Look Godly More Than they Loved God
Mark 7:6–7 (ESV)
‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me'
There are all kinds of non-godly motivations for doing godly-looking things.
The Pharisees gave lip service to God,
all the while their deepest motivations were not out of an affection for God.
They spoke about God
They spoke about God-honoring things.
They spoke in Godly ways.
But they spoke not out of a genuine love for God, but rather as an effort to convince others that they were godly.
And because their lip service was essentially a lie, their worship was vain.
In other words.
It was empty and worthless.
Their lip service to God was an attempt to secure other people’s affirmation and praise.
Now this sinful tendency manifests itself in several ways.
Let us not look to the Pharisees as if their heart disposition is unique to human existence.
This passage is in your Bible to warn you that this is one of the prominent ways that sin manifest itself.
This tendency shows up in the young hotshot preacher, who starts to care more about how he is perceived, more than whether the word of the Lord is heard.
But it also shows up in your temptation to hide all of your struggles from anyone else in order to preserve some sort of image of yourself that you would like pertrayed, rather than to actually be sanctified into the image that God has prepared.
This tendency shows up in the person who is always confessing sin in order to draw attention to themselves....
AND it also shows up in the person who absolutely never confesses sin because of how it might make them look.
In both cases, a love for looking Godly trumps love for God.
In both cases, we make ourselves out to be pretenders so that our our reputation may be in tact.
Truth #1 The Pharisees Loved to Look Godly More Than they Loved God
but that’s not all that we see in this text.
Truth #2 The Pharisees Valued Their Own Word More Than God’s Word
The Pharisees had a very high estimation of the value of their oral tradition, but they had too low of an estimation of the value of the Scripture’s that God inspired.
The Pharisees took what was the Word of God and they turned it into something it was never intended to be.
Rather than a word to submit to and be humbled by....
they turned it into a word that bolstered their own pride…
they turned it into a word they would Lord over others.
They used the Scriptures like a tool in their hand to wield in ways that seemed suitable and advantageous to them, rather than an authoritative word from God that they were to submit to.
They added to God’s word and twisted God’s word and ignored God’s word.