Sunday, February 25, 2007

What defiles a person - Mark 7

When reading the gospels it is clear that Jesus ignored many of the commands, the laws, of the Hebrew Testament. One is defiled if they don’t wash their hands and, yet, for Jesus that isn’t important. The old categories of ritual purity and impurity, of abomination and purification, of offerings to become cleansed are thrown away. The one sacrifice is being made in the birth, life and death of the one who tells the Pharisees that it is more important to note what comes from within the heart than which ritual is performed.

The question to ask ourselves today is who are the Christians who are like the Pharisees and some of the scribes? Are we those people who concentrate on the defiled hands rather than the heart? I hear more and more TV shows where the pastor(s) seem to concentrate on how others ought to live rather than how the he and the people for whom he is pastor ought to live. If we Christians are not correcting our own problems, we cannot and should not speak to the world.

We are as Christians to be a light to the world, but that light shines more brightly when we speak to our own problems as well as to the problems of the world. We are the mantle and the light is from Christ. We need to polish that glass mantle so that the light of Christ can shine through us.

Saying the right things, e.g. I have a personal relationship with Christ, the Scriptures are inerrant, and more from all sides, is about honoring with our lips. But if our actions are a rejection of other people then we are not honoring with our hearts. If our actions are forcing others to believe (or mouth the words) even if what we believe is correct, then are dishonoring the one we claim to serve.

The harshest words in scripture are not for prostitutes and adulterers – those sexual sins, for tax collectors – betrayers of their country, or those ritually unclean. No, the harshest words are for the religious leaders of the day. And we who are religious leaders in our day should be careful that we are not like those Pharisees and scribes who knew the letter of the law but could not find the heart.

Mark 7:1-23

[1] Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, [2] they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. [3] (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; [4] 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.) [5] 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?" [6] 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; [7] in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.

“[8] You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition."

[9] Then he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! [10] For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.' [11] But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, 'Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban' (that is, an offering to God)--[12] then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, [13] thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this."

[14] Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: [15] there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile."

[17] When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. [18] He said to them, "Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, [19] since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) [20] And he said, "It is what comes out of a person that defiles. [21] For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, [22] adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.

[23] All these evil things come from within, and
they defile a person."

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