Hi there, it’s Wednesday 10th April and today we’ll be looking at Mark 7:1-23. So far this week we’ve been hearing great stories of Jesus gathering crowds, performing miracles and ministering to the people that come to Him. This has been an exciting narrative, but we’ve not actually heard Jesus say much for Himself. Today that changes as the balance in my Bible of red text, the words of Jesus, and black text, everything else, swings firmly in favour of the red text!
I’ll read the whole passage at the end of this thought but for now, here are verses 6-8. For context, Jesus is talking to a group of Pharisees and teachers of the law.
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.”
Wow, there’s a challenge for us today! It’s important to remember that all of Jesus’ words have relevance to us today, but they were also all spoken at particular times to particular people. This passage is all about Jesus calling out the motivations that we have, good and bad. Now, Jesus brings challenge into our lives but He also always brings invitation too. Today Jesus asks us to come follow Him. He speaks His love over us. He affirms the things that each of us have done and will do today to honour Him.
You’re listening to this podcast for a start. Maybe you’ll spend some time in prayer. Maybe you’ll show love to someone for no other reason than to bless them. Maybe you’ll forgive someone, as Jesus taught us to do. Maybe you’ll go the extra mile at work, even though no one will see it, purely because you want your work to be an offering of worship to God. Jesus looks on us today and smiles.
But Jesus also looks at us today and loves us enough to call out the things that aren’t right. We all have times when the words of the passage apply to us. Where we honour God and others with our lips, outwardly we do the right thing, but our hearts are far from God. What we present front stage can be very different to what’s going on back stage, both in our hearts and in what we do and say in private.
This is a hard thing to wrestle with, as it can be relatively easy to change a behaviour but somehow much more personal to change how we think, how we look at others. It’s easy to think, come on Jesus, I’m doing the right things, I’ve been to every Church meeting this year. I’ve said something encouraging to someone as Dave asked me to on the podcast. I’m generally pretty kind and patient. But actions are never the point of the exercise with Jesus, the state of our heart is. Our willingness to surrender our whole lives to Him, to be moulded by Him, to worship Him each day not because we have to or because it makes us look good or fit in but because we choose to. Actions are merely the outward inevitable result of a changed heart.
God wants our hearts. He doesn’t want us to live like a house or kingdom that is divided, but one that has a single, beautiful aim. He wants us to choose each day to engage with Him, not to allow our faith to go through the motions and become stale. Where we honour Him with our hearts already, and there will be places, well done, the Lord smiles on you today. Where we are not, and there will be places, the Lord lavishes His grace on you today and offers a chance to change, a fresh start. At STC during Lent we’ve been using the Collect for Purity; let’s end with that now.
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
READING: Mark 7:1-23
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 from 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 evils come from inside and defile a person.’