This sermon was based on Mark 7:1-23.
Traditions and Commandments
1Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2they 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, 4and 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.) 5And 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?” 6And 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.’
8You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
9And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11But 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)— 12then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
What Defiles a Person
14And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Appearances can be Deceiving
The people of God were trying to make God happy with rules. Rules don’t change a heart. Jesus is interested in their hearts and he can see a problem.
The result is that they miss what Jesus is doing. They see the rules to obey they aren’t seeing God – they have become about control not relationships.
Jesus is saying – You can obey traditional and rules all you want – but it doesn’t clean you.
The Heart Problem Leads to Hypocrisy
Hypocrites – Same word for “acting”. Following God isn’t a part to play. Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t become a brilliant detective by playing the part of Sherlock Holmes. You don’t become a follower of God by behaving like one.
Jesus is not saying that all traditions and externals are bad. He wants the focus to be on the relationship and the outward actions to be a result of that.
The Pharisees were not bad people as such, they actually wanted holiness, they wanted the people of God to be set apart. However they had lost site of the heart of things and were focused on the performance.
The Heart Problem Causes Damage to Others
The Pharisees were pointing out how others were breaking the laws. However they were bending the law and finding loopholes to benefit themselves and harm others around them.
- Their rules haven’t changed their hearts. Their performance/acting haven’t turned them into true followers.
- Jesus is accusing them very clearly – ‘you know how to clean your hands – your pots pans – your sofa so as to be ritually pure before God. But you are using trickery to exploit the vulnerable.’
What’s Inside Eventually Comes Out!
Jesus uses a parable to explain the issue he uses food as an example. Food laws were very important to the Israelites. For Jesus – what physically goes into your body doesn’t make you unclean – what comes out does.
The disciples didn’t understand so Jesus explains – What comes out of the heart reveals where we are.
Jesus gives a dark list and a broad list – it includes murder and foolishness. Honestly – look in our hearts – some of those things are in there.
Religious performance – wont change those things.
The Heart Problem – What’s the Cure?
Jesus gives us no answers but the question hangs in the air – what do we do?
Jesus looked at the hearts of those around him and saw brokenness. He looks at us and sees the same.
We are invited to join Jesus on his journey – to death – to resurrection – to new life – where God restores us – restores all of creation – restores your heart.