Legalism: Mark 7:1-23
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday June 28, 2020

If you will, let you eyes wander back to chapter 6 and verse 56.

Mark 6:56 (ESV)
56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

This is a re-cap of all that was going on – the word, “now” in chapter 7, notes a change of focus. Mark like a true utilitarian is moving quickly, and want’s us to now refocus on something new.

Knowing Why.

Christian – we’re to know, why.

Why does God give us 66 books of His word?

So we’d read them?
So we’d know them?
So we’d hold them close?
So we’d turn to them?

Yet so often, we prefer spoon fed tradition, over God.

And so Mark – in utilitarian fashion has introduced us to Jesus, shown us who He is, allowed us to follow Him on ministry – and now gives the next 23 verses to study of a singular interaction with Pharisees – Christian, if we’re to know “why” we should ask that here, why is Mark so interested in this interaction.

Lets study that very question.

Mark 7:1–23 (ESV)
Traditions and Commandments
1 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem,

This story is captured in Matthew’s gospel too, in Matthew 15:1 the group of people who’ve come up here are from Jerusalem. Mark is going to really follow the line of argumentation of the scribes from Jerusalem.

Matthew 15:1 (ESV)
Traditions and Commandments
1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,

Pharisees generally are a sect of judaism who were known for their adherence to the law. Known for a legal following of the law that were involved in ceremonial worship, almsgiving, public praying etc. These are particular Pharisees from Jerusalem likely sent to follow Jesus’ ministry – perhaps having been in the backdrop for some of the ministry that Mark summarized in 6:56 that we looked back to.

Why send a group of super-Pharisees to follow Jesus…

Turn back to Mark 3 and look at

Mark 3:1–6 (ESV)
1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.
2 And they watched Jesus,[a] to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.
3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.”
4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent.
5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Perhaps as we’ve gotten caught up in the messianic stories, as we’ve followed Jesus and His ministry, as we’ve looked at His times of prayer, of His compassion, considered Him traveling from town to town teaching scripture – we’d forgotten there was a certain violence against Him.

Perhaps we’ve forgotten that tension didn’t disappear when Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father – that there is still a certain tension today, on that is directed against the Church.

Mark will give the next 22 verses over to opening up that tension.

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?”

Largely, the concept of ritual hand washing came in Exodus 17-21 regarding the priests entering the temple. Between the tent of meeting and the alter, there was water for washing. The Pharisaic tradition of hand washing extended beyond temple, beyond handling holy objects and into handling food – then before meals; some communities like Qumran requiring baptizing hands before eating – Matthew in covering this in Matthew 15:1-20 assumes the reader understands the Jewish tradition where as Mark writes more to the gentile and describes what in the world is happening.

Matthew 15:1-20 (ESV)
Traditions and Commandments
1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,
2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.”
3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?
4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’
5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,”
6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.
7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
8 “‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
What Defiles a Person
10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand:
11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”
13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.
14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.”
16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding?
17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?
18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.
19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

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.’

Hypocrites – drawing on the idea of an actor wearing a mask. A term found only in the gospels, hypocrites. Sometimes in a store, under my mask I feel so much further from people – I’m smiling at them, but I realize they don’t know that – our feeling are obscured. In the same way, Jesus demonstrated that their hand washing was outward replace “honors me with their lips” with “honors me by washing hands” and the next becomes true – …but their heart is far from me.

We have a question we’re asking – and we’re getting to the heart of it. Do you remember it? “why is Mark so interested in this interaction”.

Ask yourself this – how transportable is this scene? How applicable is this today. If Mark’s aim is to have us see clearly Jesus as Messiah, to know God’s gospel, to repent and be saved – why does he devote 23 verses of a utility, often lite on details gospel, to a story not even recorded by John?

This people honors me by praying before meals, by not calling poop by the wrong word, only the right words, by reading their Bible every day… but their heart is far from me.

They’re hypocrites, but are we – do we do religious Christian things, say religious christian words, bur our hearts are far from Him? Or we worshippers of God, or just followers of tradition(s)? Mark introduces us to Jesus, His power, His Grace and His mercy – and then hit’s us over the head with mask-wearing hypocrisy.

Lensky says the following about Jesus selected quotation from Isaiah here:

“The two great marks of fully developed hypocrites are presented in Jehovah’s characterization: honor that is mere pretense (with the lips, not with the heart); teachings that are likewise empty pretense (presented as divine when they are put forward only by men). The two always go together, for the moment the heart keeps far from God it leaves also his Word. The very first requirement of his Word which is fundamental for all true worship of God is genuine sincerity toward him and his Word.” Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961. Print.

This scene gets so much attention because of Jesus’ next words:

8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

This is a crushing accusation from Jesus to the Pharisees. True, but crushing. Angering I’m sure, hurtful – I bet, amplifying the tension, absolutely!
Jesus wen’t for life giving truth, not placating to a people who were far from God to make them feel good, this did NOT make them feel good, rather this drew to the surface a lack of God in their lives, preferring tradition of men. It’s still very much alive today – and the internal wars within us is why we need texts like these. We need to be challenged to know, am I following after God, or am I caught up in tradition.

Jesus continues:

9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!
10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’
11 But 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)—
12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother,
13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

why is Mark so interested in this interaction”.

Because the Pharisee is a legalist – and the legalist takes tradition (which alone isn’t bad per se) and makes it as authoritative as scripture. Even one more here – Jesus finds a particular belief they have, likely around a teaching about alms giving before providing for family, and He shows this teaching and tradition to be over and above scripture, teaching from Moses in Mark’s gentile focused writing, or Matthews more jewish focused, a command from God. The idea of Corban is a Hebrew term that means “a gift dedicated to God” – they’d declare that in alignment with Numbers 30:2 swearing a pledge you shall not break your word in declaring their giving to be Corban; allows them to side step Exodus 20:12Deuteronomy 5:16Exodus 21:17Leviticus 20:9 and so on – clever, but not right.

Numbers 30:2 (ESV)
2 If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.

Exodus 20:12 (ESV)
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Deuteronomy 5:16 (ESV)
16 “‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Exodus 21:17 (ESV)
17 “Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.

Leviticus 20:9 (ESV)
9 For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.

Why is Mark so interested in this – because Jesus takes a Scripture plus nothing stance against a Scripture plus tradition, stance.

What do we need for truth – scripture.

2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV)
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

This encounter is lastingly important – why, because no person comes to the Bible with a mind of white empty page, we all have preconceptions, believes, thoughts, ideas, and closely held “truths”.

A phrase that’s popular today is “your truth” permeates and even describes much of our world today – in his book, “the Intolerance of Tolerance” D.A. Carson states “Intolerance is no longer a refusal to allow contrary opinions to say their piece in public, but must be understood to be any questioning or contradicting the view that all opinions are equal in value, that all world-views have equal worth, that all stances are equally valid. To question such postmodern axioms is by definition intolerant.”

Jesus continues –

What Defiles a Person
14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand:

He called to the people. Jesus took some time with these Pharisees special forces unit soldiers, sent from Jerusalem to trap Him and out school him in the scriptures; He has made His point, now He is back to what He was/is about, reaching out to lost people seeking for truth. Jesus speaks His truth, which is The truth, the way, and the light.

He starts “hear me” or “listen guys” – He has a loving pastoral care for these people who may have been led astray by the Pharisaical teaching(s).

15 There 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.”

The intentions of the heart are the defiling factor, not actions. Actions are only acted on from the heart. So what you put IN the body isn’t the cause of sin, the cause of sin is the motives of the heart – heart motives are what’s so important.

17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable.
18 And 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,
19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.
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.”

Jesus – by that definition was brashly intolerant here – yet Mark focuses so heavily here, in answer to our question, “why is Mark so interested in this interaction” because we need this. We need to be taught to test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and to hold fast what is true.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 (ESV)
21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.

All our tradition, all our believes.

Warren Wiersbe said, “we must constantly beware lest tradition take the place of truth. It does us good to examine our church traditions in the light of God’s Word and to be courageous enough to make changes”.

Are we – are we courageous enough to make changes when we find a lacking alignment with God’s own word?

There are so many interesting theological debates, so many interesting political things, so many interesting and worthy of thinking through ideologies – but remember this; in our day our struggles are less with which religious system has the right God and the right path to Him, and more about is there a God, do we need a God, or can we find a right way ourselves.

Popular thought, your truth, and ideological leaders (greta van whateverhername is, et al.) would say “here is the problem with the world, and we can fix it and right this ship” scripture shows the problem is our narwal bend towards sin; and only salvation in Christ the messiah can mend us, and all will be righted in eternity future.

The legalist thinks highly of his or her self before God, the Christian things highly of his or her Christ before God.

1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV)
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Church – lets challenge our own thoughts and ideas before scripture, lets not be drawn in to the arguments in the world on how to find naturalistic fixes for sin’s sickness – lets draw closer to the eternal cure; and be worshipers in truth.

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