Year B – Proper 17 – Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23


Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them.  (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.)  So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands/”  He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’  You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”  Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand:  there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”  For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come:  fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.


Summary — This passage recounts verbal interplay between Jesus and the Pharisees, as well as other people who were listening to His teachings.  When Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash before eating, the Pharisees got upset.  This leads to some of Jesus’ foundational teaching.  a)  Human tradition, when it does not coincide–or even goes beyond–what God has commanded, is not worship, b)  things outside the body–food and other items, as well as things that can be experienced with the senses, unless otherwise prohibited by God–do not make a person unclean, and c)  the things that defile a person come from within, from the heart.


Insight —  Imagine you got some new, white tennis shoes.  They were so white and bright that you didn’t want them ever to get dirty.  Then your parents told you that if you wanted to keep them clean you should avoid stepping in mud.  That’s good advice right?  But then instead of being careful with them, you always scuffled your feet when you walked and also played basketball on nice, clean, mudless courts.  What would you say, then, if your parents said to you, “Hey, why are your shoes dirty?”  Would you say, “I guess I wasn’t thinking about protecting them,” or would you say, “At least I didn’t walk in mud, just like you said!”?  Many times when we are told to do something, we focus too much on just that one thing, and not the big picture that’s really at the heart.  Or maybe we even make up a new rule that doesn’t quite fit with the first one, thinking we will be better people that way.  Jesus says though, that our hearts and souls and truly all of our strength should be set to loving God and obeying him.  But when we follow other rules that either we or other people made up, thinking that following them will make us look better to God, we really are not pleasing Him.  What we need to constantly ask God for is a clean heart that desires things that God desires, rather than things that humans came up with.


Child Catechism —  Where do the things that defile a person come from?  My heart.


Discussion —  What are some things that you or other people do that they think makes them a better Christian but is really not what God has commanded us?  If someone asked you, “Is money an evil thing?” or “Are Mcdonald’s cheeseburgers evil?” or “Is rock & roll music evil?” what would you say?  How would you use this passage to make your point?


Prayer —  Lord forgive us for adding rules of our own to your holy Law, thinking that we can in any way merit your favor.  Cause us to cling to and rest in your Son’s perfect work, that we may be fit to serve you better.  Amen

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