1532.) Mark 7

With great fondness I remember my mother tending to her little bed of lilies of the valley. The fragrance was so wonderful! I think of Christ in this chapter, spreading the fragrance of God as he teaches and heals.

With great fondness I remember my mother tending to her little bed of lilies of the valley. The fragrance was so wonderful! I think of Christ in this chapter, spreading the fragrance of God as he teaches and heals.

Mark 7 (New Living Translation)

Jesus Teaches about Inner Purity

1 One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. 2 They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating. 3 (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions. 4 Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles.)

Psalm 24:3-4 (English Standard Version)

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart.

5 So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”

For these ceremonial washings, special stone vessels of water were kept, because ordinary water might be unclean. To wash your hands in this special way, you started by taking at least enough of this water to fill one and one-half egg shells. Then, you poured the water over your hands, starting at the fingers and running down towards your wrist. Then you cleansed each palm by rubbing the fist of the other hand into it. Then you poured water over your hands again, this time from the wrist towards the fingers.

A really strict Jew would do this not only before the meal, but also between each course.

The rabbis were deadly serious about this. They said that bread eaten with unwashed hands was no better than excrement. One rabbi who once failed to perform the ritual washing was excommunicated. Another rabbi said that the sin of eating with unwashed hands was equal to that of lying with a harlot.  Another rabbi was imprisoned by the Romans, and he used his ration of water for ceremonial cleansing instead of drinking, nearly dying of thirst. He was regarded as a great hero for this sacrifice.

–David Guzik

6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 Their worship is a farce,
for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’

8 For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”

9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”

This is called legalism.  You can recognize it by these unfailing characteristics:  1)  They (whoever is promoting this particular brand of legalism) take an opinion and then say it is God’s command.  So they add their own rules to Scripture.  2) Then they reject certain of God’s commands and insert their own.  And so they subtract from Scripture.

14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”

17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. 18 “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

THE GOAL OF DIETARY LAWS

God set forth a set of dietary laws to distinguish the Israelites from their heathen neighbors.  Though certain of these laws held considerable health benefits, like not eating animals that carried diseases, this was not their main purpose.  Rather, their primary goal was to remind Israel not to mingle with its Gentile neighbors.  Their strict dietary laws prevented them from joining their neighbors’ idolatrous worship feasts and from partaking in the intimacy of their table fellowship.

Clearly, God was training his people by separating them from the cultures around them.  By declaring certain foods clean and other unclean, God was communicating the importance of striving for purity in all things, even those that seemed trivial.  Many of the dietary laws that sound so strange to us were intended to enable Israel to fulfill its destiny as God’s chosen people, to set them apart as distinctive among the nations of their world . . .

Paul tells us in Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the law.”  Of course as Christians, we believe that Jesus took upon himself the punishment we deserve for our inability to keep all of God’s commands.  As such, he brought the law to the end of its ability to separate us from God because of our sin.  And for that we rejoice.

Jesus was also the “end” of the law in another way.  For thousands of years, God’s policy had been to separate Israel from the influence of its pagan neighbors.  But Christ gave a new command that went in the opposite direction.  Now, instead of maintaining their distance from nonbelievers, his followers were to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).  No longer would the law keep Gentiles apart from God.

The instant Peter made his first visit to a Gentile house, the old policy of separation collided with the new policy of outreach.  According to Jewish law, Peter could not accept Cornelius’s hospitality because Gentiles were “unclean.”  But God released him from the ancient purity laws by giving him a vision in which unclean animals were declared “clean.”  With the guidance of the Spirit, the church later rules in Acts 15 that Gentile believers did not need to take on the covenant of the Torah given to the Jews on Mount Sinai.  The “dividing wall of hostility” that the ceremonial  and dietary laws put up in order to keep the Gentiles away was suddenly torn down (Ephesians 2:14).

20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

Galatians 5:22-24 (English Standard Version)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

The Faith of a Gentile Woman

“Christ and the Canaanite Woman” by Germain-Jean Drouais, 1784 (The Louvre, Paris)

“Christ and the Canaanite Woman” by Germain-Jean Drouais, 1784 (The Louvre, Paris)

24 Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre.

Here Jesus is acting on the new belief system he just outlined.  He goes to the Gentiles!  Matters of the old clean/unclean formula are no hindrance to his love and healing power.

He didn’t want anyone to know which house he was staying in, but he couldn’t keep it a secret. 25 Right away a woman who had heard about him came and fell at his feet. Her little girl was possessed by an evil spirit, 26 and she begged him to cast out the demon from her daughter.

Since she was a Gentile, born in Syrian Phoenicia, 27 Jesus told her, “First I should feed the children—my own family, the Jews. It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

28 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.”

29 “Good answer!” he said. “Now go home, for the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And when she arrived home, she found her little girl lying quietly in bed, and the demon was gone.

Prayer of Humble Access:

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

Jesus Heals a Deaf Man

31 Jesus left Tyre and went up to Sidon before going back to the Sea of Galilee and the region of the Ten Towns. 32 A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him, and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him.

33 Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. 34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened!” 35 Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly!

Mk7 J and deaf man

Isaiah 35:4-6 (English Standard Version)

Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert.

36 Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news. 37 They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.”

_________________________

Music:

This will take you back!  HERE is “He’s the Lily of the Valley.”

  1. I have found a friend in Jesus, He’s everything to me,
    He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;
    The Lily of the Valley, in Him alone I see
    All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.

    • Refrain:
      In sorrow He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay;

      He tells me every care on Him to roll.
      He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
      He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.
  2. He all my grief has taken, and all my sorrows borne;
    In temptation He’s my strong and mighty tow’r;
    I have all for Him forsaken, and all my idols torn
    From my heart and now He keeps me by His pow’r.
  3. He will never, never leave me, nor yet forsake me here,
    While I live by faith and do His blessed will;
    A wall of fire about me, I’ve nothing now to fear,
    From His manna He my hungry soul shall fill.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
lily of the valley.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/6a00e54ed2a1c38833011168a8a270970c-800wi.jpg
handwashing.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/handwashing.jpg
plus and minus signs.    http://paulmayers.blogs.com/my_weblog/images/2007/10/10/plus_or_minus_by_gin_able_strictly_.jpg
Drouais.    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b9/Jean-Germain_Drouais_-_The_Woman_of_Canaan_at_the_Feet_of_Christ_-_WGA06696.jpg
healing a deaf man.    https://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/images/gospel-library/magazine/friendlp.nfo:o:15f0.jpg
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